The “good” cholesterol you’re talking about is actually a high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and the “bad” cholesterol is a low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Big words for small molecules. These lipoproteins are made in the liver and packaged differently, which results in different densities. Both of them are lipids packaged with proteins to transport fat around the body.
The HDLs are normally regarded as healthier because they have a protective effect on blood cholesterol levels, while LDLs have a clogging effect because they’re puffier.
The reasoning behind this is that HDLs and LDLs have different responsibilities. HDLs bring fat from body tissues to the liver, while LDLs circulate through the body and distribute fat to cells that need energy.
So what does that mean in your diet? The thing that most people don’t known is that only foods from animal sources can have cholesterol. Mostly, that means eggs, milk products, and meat. But just because a food is high in cholesterol doesn’t mean it will raise blood cholesterol levels.
Actually, dietary cholesterol doesn’t play too big of a factor in blood cholesterol. It’s all about the saturated fats. These are found in most milk products like cream and butter, and in un-trimmed meats. Here’s looking at you, prime rib.
Therefore, if you’ve been warned by your doc to lower blood cholesterol levels, it’s more effective to cut out saturated fats than cholesterol. So, I’m giving eggs their reputation back: they are a cheap source of protein and vitamins. Plus, they’re accepted by some vegetarian diets. Viva la omelet!
Another good way to lower cholesterol is by eating plant sterols. Just because it sounds like steroids doesn’t mean you’re going to bulk up and grow facial hair. They’re plant oils, like olive oil, vegetable oil and canola oil. There’s plenty more variety (with different ratios of Omega-3 and Omega-6’s), but those three are cheapest and most readily available at Fred Meyer’s or Carrs.
On that subject, plant oils are the “healthy fats” that are quite the buzz in the media lately. They’re like Will Smith in the 90’s—and his kids now—getting all the fame, and for good reason. But more on that next week.