Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all body cells. The body makes all the cholesterol it needs. In other words, you do not need to add any in your diet. Dietary cholesterol comes from the foods we eat. It is only found in foods from animals, such as meat, dairy products, eggs and animal fats. Too much cholesterol can cause serious health problems.
There are two main types of cholesterol. The “bad cholesterol” or LDL, may create serious health problems if your body has persistent high levels of LDL or total cholesterol. The “good cholesterol” is HDL. The HDL levels may be low in sedentary or obese patients and may also “run in the family.” Low HDL levels may be partially improved if you exercise, avoid smoking, lose weight and eat a healthier diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in simple carbohydrates.
Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels more than anything else in your diet. They include all fats from meat and skinned poultry, palm-kernel oil, coconut oil and fats from dairy products. The fat content in your diet should be less than 20-30% of the total caloric intake. On the other hand, helpful fats include peanut oil, olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil and fish, such as tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel.
Another common form of fat in the body is triglycerides. They may contribute to heart disease if your body has excessively high levels. Losing weight, a low-fat diet, fish oil and flaxseeds help reduce excessive levels of triglycerides. Rarely do children require medication and you should consult with a lipid specialist such as a pediatric cardiologist.
Your doctor may refer you to Dr. Villafañe, especially if the total cholesterol levels are over 200 and the LDL levels are over 160 in spite of life style changes and a healthier diet.
What should I eat? Five or more servings per day of fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans, peas), whole-grains (wheat bread), lean meats (avoid red meat) and poultry (chicken) without the skin. In addition, you should limit milk products and use fat-free or low-fat milk. Your diet should include at least two servings per week of baked or grilled fish. Cooking should be done with canola, corn, olive, safflower or soybean oils. You should also avoid transfats and use liquid instead of solid margarine.
What should I limit in my diet? Fatty or red meat that is not trimmed, whole milk and ice cream, excessive amounts of butter, egg yolks or cheese, organ meats such as kidney, brain or liver, saturated oils such as coconut or palm oil and fried food.