Centsable Health: Understanding cholesterol's impact on the body - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Centsable Health: Understanding cholesterol's impact on the body & in food


How much do you know about your cholesterol? September is Cholesterol Education Month so it's a perfect opportunity for you to get yours checked.

Whitney Packebush, a registered dietitian with Fareway Foods, shared these food options to help keep your cholesterol in check.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can build up on artery walls if your body has too much. Cholesterol creates flexibility in cell membranes, helps with hormone production and produces bile in the liver which helps digest fat and fat soluble vitamins. It's also important in Vitamin D production.

HDL, known as "good" cholesterol, returns cholesterol back to the liver so it can be recycled. LDL or "bad" cholesterol, builds up on artery walls.

Cholesterol is produced in the liver. Research is contradictory on whether cholesterol in food affects cholesterol in your body. Until research proves otherwise, it is best to limit total cholesterol to less than 300 mg each day.

However, saturated fat and trans fat can increase your cholesterol levels more than cholesterol from food.

High cholesterol has no signs. In fact, 1 in 6 Americans has high cholesterol. High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, which are the first and third leading causes of death in the United States. It's recommended to get to cholesterol checked by your health care provider every 5 years.

Normal Levels:

Total cholesterol - Less than 200 mg/dL

LDL ("bad" cholesterol) - Less than 100 mg/dL

HDL ("good" cholesterol) - 60mg/dL or higher

Triglycerides - Less than 150 mg/dL

Factors that affect cholesterol levels that you cannot change: heredity, age and sex.

Things you can control: diet, weight and physical activity.

Here are some tips to improve your cholesterol and heart health through smart food choices.


Know your fats: saturated, unsaturated and trans.

Increase your fiber intake. Fiber helps rid cholesterol from your body. It can also aid in weight management.

Plant sterols and stanols occur naturally in many plants. They help block the absorption of cholesterol from the digestive tract, which can help lower LDL without affecting HDL. Sources include certain margarines and fortified foods like orange juice. However, these products are not calorie free, and you may need to cut calories elsewhere to stay within your needs and healthy weight range.

Breads/cereal/grains - 6 or more servings, depending on calorie needs. Choose more complex carbohydrates, like whole wheat and whole grains.

Vegetables/beans/peas - 3-5 servings

Fruits - 2 -4 servings

Dairy - 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free

Eggs - 2 or fewer yolks per week, including those used in baked goods

Meat/poultry/fish - 5 ounces

Fats/oils - depends on calorie levels

Saturated fat - Decrease to less than 7% of calories - 8-10% LDL reduction

Dietary cholesterol - Decrease to less than 200 mg/day - 3-5% LDL reduction

Weight - Lose 10 pounds if overweight - 5-8% LDL reduction

Soluble fiber - Add 5-10 grams per day - 3-5% LDL reduction

Plant sterols/stanols - Add 2 grams/day - 5-15% LDL reduction

That totals about 20-30% LDL reduction which compares well with many cholesterol-lowering drugs. 

Exercise:  Easier to control your weight, manage stress and increase energy. At least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity everyday is recommended. 

Healthy weight: Even a small weight loss can improve your health if you are overweight. Remember, there are no quick fixes. It takes 15 minutes for your brain to realize that you have eaten, so slow down. Use smaller plates, become physically active, don't skip meals, drink plenty of water and lower your overall calorie intake.

If you'd like more information or have a question about this topic click here.

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