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May 26, 2020

What is cholesterol? 

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance. It is an essential part of every cell in our bodies and is also important for making a number of hormones. Some cholesterol comes from the diet, but the majority is made in the liver and is carried in the blood by two proteins – low-density lipoprotein(LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Raised levels of LDL-cholesterol is considered to be undesirable because high levels are associated with a greater risk of heart disease. HDL-cholesterol is desirable as it helps to remove the build up of fatty substances in the arteries and so it appears to have a protective effect.

Your blood cholesterol level is not so much influenced by the amount of cholesterol in your diet, rather by the amount and type of fat in your diet. Fats and oils in our food are made up of smaller units called fatty acids. These can be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. It is important to realize that all fats and oils found in food contain a mixture of these three different types. Replacing saturated with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet can lower LDL blood cholesterol (the undesirable type).

Sources of saturates include:

  • Fats and oils e.g. butter, hard margarine, some blended cooking oil
  • Some meat and its products e.g. pies, sausages. Lard and suet
  • Full cream milk and full fat dairy products
  • Coconut and palm oil and baked goods made with them
  • Monounsaturates are found in virtually all fats and oils, but olives, olive oil and rapeseed oil are the richest sources

Good sources of polyunsaturates are:

  • Oil-rich fish e.g. herring, mackerel, pilchards, sardines
  • Pure vegetable oils e.g. sunflower, soya
  • Nuts and seeds

Remember, Belize Medical Associates does do cholesterol testing, so come on over.