By Karen Longo – Nutritionist and Nutrition Consultant, Korin
Cholesterol is a set of fatty particles that perform several functions in the organism, such as the production of certain hormones. Therefore, we need it, but it needs to be produced in a balanced way to maintain the normal levels.
There are two types of cholesterol: HDL, which is considered the “good cholesterol”, and LDL, also called “bad cholesterol”. Each group contributes to the reduction or increase of cholesterol levels.
If the cholesterol levels are unbalanced, it becomes a vascular risk factor and can increase the incidence of stroke, sudden death and coronary heart diseases. Cardiovascular diseases are the main causes of death in Brazil. And their development is associated with various risk factors, including obesity, increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking, which can be controlled by a healthy diet and regular exercise.
In addition to these factors, the heredity can determine high cholesterol levels even in individuals with healthy habits. For this reason, besides engaging in regular physical activity and eating a well-balanced diet it is important to regularly check fat levels in the blood and adjust the diet and lifestyle to support the balance of these levels.
Foods that can help balance cholesterol levels
Some foods contain fats in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) that support the synthesis of HDL, the protective part of cholesterol.
The reason is that HDL plays antioxidant and protective effects that prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques that cause the vascular diseases mentioned above.
In addition to the practice of physical exercise, which helps elevating HDL levels, some foods containing monounsaturated fatty acids can also help.
Examples of foods high in MUFAs include:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Oilseeds: walnuts, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts
On the other hand, food sources of omega-3 do not interfere directly with the cholesterol levels seen in the blood test. However, due to its anti-inflammatory effects they play a protective role in the oxidation of LDL molecules existing in the body, avoiding the formation of atherosclerotic plaques that cause vascular problems.
Examples of foods high in omega-3 include:
- Fish: trout, sardines
- Linseed and chia seeds
- Some non-conventional edible plants (NCEPs): purslane and moringa
Do eggs increase cholesterol levels?
As many other animal-based foods that contain cholesterol in their composition, for many years eggs have been considered a source of cholesterol and, therefore, a villain of health.
But with the advance of physiological, biochemical and molecular studies, the formation of fatty plaques associated with vascular diseases was shown to occur due to arterial inflammatory processes caused by a low antioxidant protection and excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, as well as the presence of xenobiotic inflammatory compounds.
Therefore, before eating any animal-based products containing cholesterol such as eggs, meat and chicken skin it is crucial to check the origin of the animals, farming system, medications, feeds, etc. As the residues of toxic substances accumulate in the fatty parts of the food (eggs, meat, chicken skin, milk), increasing the inflammatory potential and, consequently, the risk of formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
The consumption of eggs or fatty parts of other animal-based foods produced in sustainable farming systems free of xenobiotics and using natural feed ingredients is safe and can prevent the increase of cholesterol levels.