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How Much Cheese Is Too Much?

I was talking to my grandmother the other day and she asked me what I was making for dinner. When I said, "homemade mac and cheese," she said, "You shouldn't eat cheese. It'll clog your arteries." While she's right that the cholesterol in cheese can be harmful to your heart, that doesn't mean you necessarily have to give it up entirely.

Eating foods high in cholesterol and saturated fats, mainly dairy products, meat, and eggs, can raise the total level of cholesterol in your body, which can lead to heart problems and stroke. When it comes to cholesterol, you want to shoot for:

Total cholesterol level HDL level (good cholesterol) LDL level (bad cholesterol)
Less than 200 mg/dL 60 mg/dL or higher Less than 100 mg/dL

So what does this mean when it comes to your diet (and your cheese consumption)? I'll tell you if you

No matter what, after you hit 20 years old, you should get your cholesterol checked every five years. If your total cholesterol is over 200 mg/dL, your HDL level is less than 40 mg/dL, you have other risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke (such as high blood pressure), or you're a man over 45 or a woman over 50, your doctor will probably recommend you get it tested more often.

If you get your cholesterol checked, and everything seems healthy, then it's OK to consume about 300 mg of cholesterol a day. If your levels aren't looking too good, then my gram is right — you'll want to cut back on the cheese, meat, eggs, and other dairy products and consume less than 200mg of cholesterol a day. Look for low fat dairy products and lean cuts of meat.

Fit's Tips: Another great way to improve your cholesterol, is to get at least 30g of fiber a day, limit your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day, and be sure to exercise regularly.


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