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Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance used by the body to make cells, vitamins, and hormones. There are two main types of cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as “bad” or “lousy” cholesterol, carries cholesterol to the body’s cells and blood vessels, where it can build up and form plaque;
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as “good” or “healthy” cholesterol, moves cholesterol away from the arteries, back to the liver to be excreted from the body.

Triglycerides are also a form of fat that is found in the blood. The body makes triglycerides from sugar and alcohol.  The amount of cholesterol and tryglycerides in the blood is an indicator of risk of heart disease and stroke. High cholesterol and triglyceride levels can cause plaque to build up in the arterial walls, leading to narrowing of the arteries (a condition known as atherosclerosis). This makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood throughout the body.

In Canada the generally agreed on levels for cholesterols and triglycerides, are as follows: LDL (lousy) cholesterol be less than 2.0 mmol per litre and the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (healthy) cholesterol be less than 4.0. The target for triglycerides is less than 1.7 mmol per litre.

Lowering Blood Fats

Various studies show that approximately 40% of Canadian adults have high cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol from the diet only has an effect on some peoples’ blood cholesterol levels. The liver produces about 80% of the cholesterol in the blood, while dietary cholesterol contributes about 20%. Cholesterol in food comes from dairy products, meats, and eggs.

Foods that raise your blood cholesterol the most are foods high in saturated fat and trans fat. The best way to control blood cholesterol is to follow Canada’s Food Guide to ensure that you eat a healthy diet that is lower in fat, including saturated and trans fat and has lots of variety.

Saturated fats are found in animal based products, including meat and dairy products, as well as tropical fats, such as coconut and palm oil. Trans fats are found in hard margarine and some packaged foods, such as cookies and crackers. Most health professionals agree as little saturated and trans fats as possible is consumed. Make sure to read the labels on the packaged foods.

To help control your triglyceride levels, it is best to choose carbohydrates high in fibre including whole grains such as whole wheat bread, rice and pasta and to enjoy alcohol in moderation. It is recommended that alcohol consumption be limited to 14 drinks per week for men and 9 drinks per week for women. In other words no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 for women.

Besides diet, smoking, carrying extra weight and exercise all make a difference to the amount of fat circulating in the blood.

Eggs and Cholesterol

When it comes to cholesterol, eggs have a bad rap.  One large egg contains nearly 200 mg of cholesterol, but eggs are also packed with nutrients. A large egg contains about 70 calories and 6 grams of protein, along with 5 grams of fat, of which 3.5 grams are ‘good fats’. There is no trans fat in eggs. All of an egg’s cholesterol is found in the yolk. However, since the yolk also contains most of the egg’s vitamins and minerals and half of its protein, you’ll miss out by simply eating the egg white.

Already pre-packed, eggs are great for making a quick, nutritious snack or meal on-the-go. They are also versatile. Whether used to make elaborate meals or simply eaten on their own, eggs can be cooked to suit even the pickiest eaters.

So, how many eggs can you eat a week? Depending on who you talk to the number changes!  Some experts say one a day is OK, others say no more than 4 eggs a week.Bottom line: If you have specific health needs, make sure to talk to a Registered Dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator about your cholesterol and fat intake as well as other dietary needs.