When we’re younger we generally don’t tend to obsess over the foods that we consume as we think we’re immortal and indestructible. You don’t see many teenagers/young adults being offered a pizza and fries after a night of partying and turning them down, opting for a healthy and balanced meal instead. As we grow older however, general aches, pains, and causes for concern begin to rear their ugly heads and we finally begin to realise that maybe we should watch what we eat and perhaps eat a little more sensibly. Unfortunately, many of the foods that we do enjoy and that we do crave, are very bad for us, which is largely due to their natural cholesterol content. You’ve probably heard doctors and health experts talking about cholesterol and how dangerous cholesterol can be for us, but what exactly is cholesterol, and which foods contain the highest quantities of it? Let’s take a more in-depth look, shall we?
What is cholesterol?
First off, there are actually two different types of cholesterol, with one form being good and healthy for us (HDL Cholesterol) and the other being harmful and dangerous for us (LDL Cholesterol). Here we’ll be focusing on the dangerous and harmful LDL cholesterol by taking a quick look at what it is, how it harms our health, and which foods contain the most of it. Cholesterol is actually essential for the healthy functioning of cells within our bodies, it is a lipid (fat) which comes partially from our diets, and partially from our very own livers. However, the cholesterol is unable to dissolve or be broken down into our bloodstreams, so special proteins have to be used to transport it to the cells where it is required. LDL cholesterol stands for Low Density Lipoprotein cholesterol and the protein carriers which transport the cholesterol around our bodies are known as lipoproteins. These proteins transport the cholesterol around the body in our bloodstreams, via the blood vessels and arteries. However, this is where LDL cholesterol becomes dangerous. As the cholesterol is thick and waxy-like in structure, as it passes through the blood vessels and arteries, it coats them with a layer of a fatty deposit. As time goes by, these deposits begin to build up and become thicker and thicker, basically blocking the blood vessels and arteries, which can then lead to some very serious health complications indeed. Some of the dangers associated with high LDL cholesterol levels include:
• Blocked arteries and blood vessels
• Poor circulation
• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Renal damage and failure
• Liver damage and failure
• Heart attacks
• Cardiovascular disease
• An increased risk of certain forms of cancer
• Inflammation of the arteries
• Blood clots
Now that we know a little about LDL cholesterol, and the dangers associated with it, here are some foods packed full of LDL cholesterol, that we should ideally be avoiding, or only consuming every now and then on special occasions.
French fries in their raw form are absolutely fine as they’re basically very finely sliced potatoes. It’s the initial cooking process that makes French fries so unhealthy and one of the worst culprits for when it comes to high cholesterol levels. French fries are sliced very finely and are then submerged and deep fried in fats and/or oils, often hydrogenated vegetable oils. These hydrogenated vegetables oils are packed full of cholesterol and trans fats, making them a very unhealthy form of fat. Some French fries are fried in pork or beef fat, and even then, that’s not much better. Due to the fact that they’re so finely sliced, French fries have an increased surface area which means that they absorb far more of the fat and oil as they’re deep fried, so the more they absorb, the more you ingest as you consume the fries. This fat and cholesterol almost immediately makes its way into your blood stream and will begin coating the walls of your blood vessels and arteries almost instantaneously. To make matters worse, French fries from restaurants and fast food outlets are also coated in loads of salt, which increases blood pressure. If making French fries at home, finely slice them to your liking, sprinkle them lightly with a little olive oil or coconut oil which are far healthier, and then over bake them instead.
Mac and cheese
Considered the ultimate comfort food, especially during the winter, whilst tasting nice, Macaroni and cheese is one of the worst foods ever when it comes to LDL cholesterol. Other than the macaroni pasta, which alone is not too bad, the main ingredients in Mac and cheese are: butter, milk, cream, white flour, white bread crumbs, crispy bacon, and of course, several different types of cheese. Guess what? Yep, all of those ingredients are unfortunately full of trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol and so if you do insist on eating Mac and cheese, make sure it is only every once in a while.
This one’s a bit of a tricky one as for years eggs, or rather egg yolks, were considered one of the worst offenders when it comes to cholesterol content. Whilst egg yolks do indeed contain cholesterol, studies revealed that the majority of the cholesterol they contained was actually the healthy HDL cholesterol, which can actually lower harmful LDL cholesterol. Even so, LDL cholesterol is still present which is why you should be wary of consuming too many whole eggs. One or two per day is fine, but if you opt for any more, separate the yolks and simply go for the egg whites instead. The fats contained in egg yolks are considered healthy and beneficial, in moderation, so don’t go crazy with the yolks on a daily basis and if you do eat eggs, stay well clear of caged battery hen’s eggs.
If you enjoy the finer things in life then unfortunately lobster may have to be off the menu, or at least reserved only for special occasions, especially if you already have any existing heart conditions. Whilst many forms of seafood are very good for us, lobster is very rich in cholesterol with three ounces of lobster meat containing over 60 mgs of cholesterol. Add to that the fact that lobster is often served dipped in melted butter and you should only reserve it for only the most special of occasions, which is fortunate really as the price of lobster these days is extortionate!