Cholesterol and Fats


Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance that occurs naturally in your body and is made by your liver. Your body uses cholesterol for various functions, including protecting nerves, making tissues, and producing hormones. You take in extra cholesterol from the food you eat.

High levels of cholesterol in your blood can raise your risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. This is because the higher the level of cholesterol in your blood, the more likely you are to develop plaque in your bloodstream. Plaque occurs when the cholesterol in your blood sticks to the walls of your arteries, blood vessels that carry blood from your heart throughout your body.

As plaque builds up, it can narrow your arteries and eventually block bloodflow. If an artery that supplies blood to your heart itself is blocked, you can have a heart attack. If an artery that supplies blood to your brain is blocked, you can have a stroke.

Men ages 35 and over and women ages 45 and over should have their cholesterol checked annually. You may need to have it tested more often if you have other risk factors. You are more likely to have high cholesterol if it runs in your family, if you are overweight, or if you have a high-fat diet.

If you do have high cholesterol, you may be able to lower it by exercising, eating more fruits and vegetables, and possibly taking medication. Smokers should stop smoking. If you are overweight, losing as little as 5 to 10 pounds can help. You should avoid eating saturated and trans fats and limit your overall cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams daily. Also steer clear of high-cholesterol foods such as eggs, fatty meats, and high-fat dairy products.

Additional Facts

1. LDL and HDL are specific types of cholesterol that are important to measure. LDL, delivers cholesterol to your body, while HDL removes cholesterol from your bloodstream. Too much LDL is bad for your body, whereas a high level of HDL is good.

2. A total cholesterol level of less than 200 is best, 200 to 239 is considered borderline high, and 240 or higher indicates an increased risk of heart disease.


Along with carbohydrates and proteins, fats are one of the three primary types of foods. An important source of energy, fats also help your body absorb vitamins and are essential for growth, development, and good health. Fats are especially important for infants and children.

There are three major types of fats: saturated fats, trans fats, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Saturated fats are sometimes referred to as the solid fats in your diet. This is because this kind of fat sometimes forms a solid layer of fat at the top of food. Saturated fats are found in cheese, meats, whole milk and cream, butter, ice cream, and palm and coconut oils.

Diets that are high in saturated fats have been linked to coronary heart disease. Saturated fats also affect your cholesterol levels. No more than 10 percent of your daily calories should be from saturated fats.

Trans fat is found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and foods made with partially hydrogenated oils. Partially hydrogenated oils are created through the process of hydrogenation, in which liquid oils are converted to solid fats. The trans fat in partially hydrogenated oils raise your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and decrease your HDL (“good”) cholesterol, both of which increase your risk of heart disease.

Fortunately, some companies have altered how they manufacture foods to decrease the amounts of trans fat in their products. Check the labels of the processed foods you buy to see whether they contain trans fat. It’s recommended that you reduce the amount of trans fat in your diet as much as possible.

Most of the fat you eat should be polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. These are the good fats. Unsaturated fats are found in avocados, flaxseeds, nuts, herring, salmon, trout, and the following oils: canola, corn, olive, safflower and high-oleic safflower, soybean, sunflower, and vegetable.

Additional Facts

1. Fats make food tasty and help you feel full.
2. Eating too much fat of any kind will cause you to gain weight.

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