Low cholesterol or Low fat – which is more important when selecting food?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • You would think if you have high cholesterol what you need to do is reduce the amount of cholesterol in your diet and that will take care of the problem. However, that is not the case.


    You do need to limit the amount of cholesterol you consume, but the types of fat you consume have a greater impact on blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol.


    Different types of fat include - saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. Saturated and trans fats may have a negative impact on blood cholesterol levels.


    Trans fats


    Trans fats are produced during a process called hydrogenation used to increase shelf life and flavor stability. Hydrogenation is basically a process where hydrogen is added to a vegetable oil.

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    Ideally trans fats in your diet should be zero. Avoid trans fats as much as possible. Some trans fat sources include fried foods, baked goods (doughnuts, cookie, cakes), and margarine.


    Trans fat increases LDL cholesterol, which may increase your risk for heart disease.


    Saturated fats


    Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature. Saturated fat in your diet has a direct impact on blood cholesterol levels.


    Saturated fat can be found in plant and animal sources.


    Plant sources - palm and palm kernel oil, coconut oils, and cocoa butter
    Animal sources - egg yolk, dairy products, organ meats, fish, and poultry


    How much do you need?


    Here are the American Heart Association recommendations for fat and cholesterol intake.


    • Dietary cholesterol should be limited to 300 mg/dl or less. For those at increased risk for heart disease, limit dietary cholesterol to 200 mg/day or less.
    • Saturated fat intake should equal 7 percent of less of your total daily calories.
    • Trans fat intake should be less than 1 percent of your total daily calories.
    • Total fat intake should be calculated individually, but if you are overweight limit dietary fat to 30 percent or less of your total daily calories.

    What this means is if you consume 2000 calories daily, fat intake should be no more than 600 calories or 67 grams of fat.

    The triglyceride twist


    Also, it's very important to know your entire lipid panel results, not just the total cholesterol. While saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol can impact cholesterol levels other factors have an influence on triglycerides. You must know your numbers!


    Be sure to sign up for the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps provided by Health Central dietitian Lisa Nelson at http://lowercholesterolwithlisa.com.


Published On: October 29, 2010