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What's the Diff: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat

What's the Diff: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat

This whole business with saturated fat and cholesterol is totally confusing, so let me try and clear things up.


Blood cholesterol refers to your cholesterol level - you know - the numbers you get from your doctor when you get your cholesterol checked. Your total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL -- HDL (good) cholesterol level should be 40mg/dL or greater and LDL (bad) cholesterol should be 130 mg/dL or less.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance made by the liver and it's used by the body to make hormones, vitamin D, and other materials. It is essential to your body to function normally, and your body makes enough.

You can also get cholesterol from the food you eat, called dietary cholesterol. It's only found in animal products such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy. It is especially high in egg yolks and organ meats such as liver, brains and kidneys.

If you get too much dietary cholesterol (over 300mg a day) the extra cholesterol will accumulate in the walls of the blood vessels, making your LDL (bad) blood cholesterol levels rise. Over time, your arteries will become narrower, which can cut off the blood supply to your heart (causing a heart attack), or your brain (causing a stroke).

Saturated Fat is not essential to your body. It is found mainly in animal products such as meat, poultry, and dairy. All of these foods also contain dietary cholesterol. Palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil also contain saturated fats. Unfortunately, a lot of processed foods like cookies and crackers contain these oils. Saturated fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels more than dietary cholesterol itself, so they're the ones to watch out for. The RDI of saturated fat is 20g or less.

Fit's Tips: The amount of cholesterol found in foods is not as important as the amount of saturated fat. So check labels - on the box it may say "No Cholesterol," but if you check the nutritional info, it may still contain saturated fat from those hidden oils. Aren't companies so trustworthy?

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