Your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to work properly, but not too much. If there is too much cholesterol in your blood it can build up on the sides of your arteries, narrowing them and increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. The type of fat that you eat is important as some types of fats are more likely to raise your cholesterol levels while other types of fat will help to lower it.
Saturated fat and cholesterol
Your body uses saturated fat to make cholesterol therefore eating too much saturated fat will raise your cholesterol. Too much cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke, so if you have high blood pressure it is very important to keep your cholesterol levels low. Saturated fat is usually found in animal products for example red meats, pork, butter, ghee and cheese. It’s also found in many baked goods such as pastries, cakes and biscuits and in the plant-based oils coconut oil and palm oil.
Is all cholesterol bad?
Not all cholesterol in the blood is bad. Cholesterol is carried by the blood in two main forms: LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein).
- LDL is the main carrier of harmful cholesterol to your arteries – where it can build up and cause narrowing.
- HDL picks up excess cholesterol in the arteries and takes it away.
So the ideal situation is to have a low LDL level and a high HDL level.
Eat your way to lower cholesterol
One of the best ways to keep your cholesterol levels in check is to enjoy a balanced diet. This means eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, with starchy wholegrain foods and low levels of saturated fat.
Try to eat fish at least 2-3 times a week. White fish is low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals. Oily fish is rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids which may help reduce blood pressure, reduce the tendency of blood to clot, regulate the rhythm of your heart beat and reduce triglyceride levels. Always choose lean meats, poultry (without the skin), and lower-fat dairy foods instead of the fatty meats and full-fat dairy products. When cooking, remove any visible fat from meat and skim off the fat from sauces, gravy and casseroles.
Avoid saturated fats found in butter, ghee, lard, full-fat dairy foods and animal products. Replace them with products high in monounsaturated fat such as rapeseed and olive oil, or high in polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower and corn oil. Oats, beans, nuts and soya are also good choices.