What is Cholesterol?
There are many foods with a label stating the food inside is low in cholesterol, but what exactly is cholesterol and why is it a good thing for food to be low in cholesterol? Cholesterol is a type of fat found in blood, and quite often too much fat is not good for the body.
The liver makes cholesterol from the body naturally, but cholesterol can also come from the foods a person eats including meat, fish, cheese, eggs, butter, and whole or low-fat milk. And everyone needs some fat in their body, but just not a lot of it.
The cholesterol in the body helps the brain, skin, and other organs to grow and function properly, but too much cholesterol can be a problem especially for people whose bodies may already make too much cholesterol naturally.
Cholesterol is found in the blood and can get into the walls of blood vessels, stay there, and causes the vessels to become narrow leading to clogs. The clogs keep the blood moving through the bloodstream like it is supposed to do. It can get worse over time as well.
When the cholesterol levels increase and get worse, it can cause damage to important body parts including the heart, which can lead to a heart attack; or the brain, which can lead to a stroke. People of all ages can have too much cholesterol in their blood, and doctors can find out through blood tests what a person's cholesterol level is, high, low, or normal.
There are two main types of cholesterol usually seen as LDL or HDL. Most cholesterol is LDL or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and is more likely to clog blood vessels because it carries the cholesterol away from the liver into the bloodstream, where it can stick to the blood vessels.
On the other hand, HDL or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol carries the cholesterol back to the liver where it is broken down.
One way to remember the difference between the two is the L can stand for lousy and the H can stand for healthy. HDL is healthy cholesterol and LDL is unhealthy cholesterol and both levels can be determined through a blood test from a doctor.
In addition to the foods that have cholesterol, there are many foods that have no cholesterol which includes fruits, vegetables, and grains like oatmeal. It is important to eat plenty of foods without cholesterol and limit the foods that have high cholesterol levels. This includes eating less fried foods and choosing low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Besides eating the right foods without cholesterol, it is important not to eat foods with a high amount of saturated fats and trans fats because they can raise the cholesterol levels in the blood. The two types of fats can be found in most high-cholesterol foods such as margarine, store-bought cakes, cookies, crackers, snack cakes, and other junk foods.
Finally, plenty of exercise will help control the amount of cholesterol in the blood and keep the heart and blood vessels healthy.
In summary, there are two kinds of cholesterol, LDL, which is unhealthy and HDL, which is healthy cholesterol. There are mainly two things that can be done to keep cholesterol levels healthy: not eating foods that are high in saturated or trans fats and getting plenty of exercise. In some families, high cholesterol may be hereditary, meaning it can be passed on by one of the parents. In this case, it is extra important to eat right and to exercise regularly. It is also important not to smoke and to remain at a healthy weight.
To link to this What is Cholesterol? page, copy the following code to your site: