Prohibited foods for cholesterol

Colesterol y sus alimentos prohibidosLos alimentos prohibidos para el colesterol - Ambar Lab

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Fortunately, there is an increasing awareness of health care, especially the control of cholesterol in the body. The campaigns that have been carried out and the increase in general information about the damage that this substance can cause in our organism have led most people to learn in a general way which foods can be consumed to reduce it or, on the contrary, which foods are forbidden for cholesterol.

We may know from general culture that high cholesterol is bad, especially as we get older. However, it is also necessary to understand exactly what this substance is and how it can be harmful to health. Therefore, today we will see how we can get high cholesterol and which foods should be banned from our diet if it occurs.


What is cholesterol?

The first thing to explain is that cholesterol, in itself, is not ‘bad’, but that we need it in order to live. It is a component of the cell membrane and the element needed for hormones, bile acids and vitamin D to be manufactured. Most of this substance is generated in the liver and intestine, organs where it is synthesized at the cellular level, but it can also be obtained from animal foods.

Cholesterol does not dissolve in water, so it runs through our blood completely free. In order for it to move through the veins, it needs a transporter to allow it to move to the different organs and cells that need it. This is where lipoproteins come in, which, according to density and function, can exist in 5 different forms:

  • Chylomicrons. They are absorbed in the intestine and transport fats from food to the liver and tissues..
  • VLDL (very low density) lipoproteins.
  • LDL (low density) lipoproteins.
  • IDL (intermediate density) lipoproteins.
  • HDL (high density) lipoproteins.


It is within these lipoprotein types that we find the popular ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL). The latter are the ones that transport cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the organs and tissues. The problem is that they are able to penetrate the tissue of the inner walls of the arteries. It is at this point that the ‘bad part’ appears: by remaining inside the tissue, it oxidizes and generates an inflammatory reaction that promotes the growth of the atheroma plaques, causing atherosclerosis.

As time goes by, the atheroma plaques will cause the arteries to gradually become narrower and narrower, reaching the point of being able to cause a myocardial infarction if the arteries affectedcon las cardíacas.

HDL lipoproteins (‘the good cholesterol’) are the ones that remove cholesterol intracellularly and take it back to the liver so that it can be properly eliminated through feces or bile acids. It could be said that they are responsible for ‘cleaning’ the veins so that atherosclerosis is not generated and atheroma plaques do not grow within the tissue.


Normal cholesterol levels

Normal’ blood cholesterol levels depend on many factors, such as age, sex, weight and medical history. It is recommended that, from the age of 20 years onwards, it is recommended to start controlling their levels every 5 years with tests that measure the amount of this substance in the blood. Below is a table with the average blood cholesterol values according to sex and age:


Cholesterol type Under 19 years of age Men over 20 years old Women over 20 years old
Total cholesterol Less than 170 mg/dl 125–200 mg/dl 125–200 mg/dl
No-HDL Less than 120 mg/dl Less than 130 mg/dl Less than 130 mg/dl
LDL Less than 100 mg/dl Less than 100 mg/dl Less than 100 mg/dl
HDL More than 45 mg/dl At least 40 mg/dl At least 50 mg/dl


Total cholesterol measures the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, including LDL and HDL. A healthy total cholesterol level should always be below 200 mg/dl.

LDL (the ‘bad’) cholesterol values are the most important to take into account, since their. lipoproteins are the ones that can cause obstruction in the arteries. Their levels should be less than 100 mg/dl. As long as they do not exceed 100/130, you do not need to be especially careful, unless you have heart disease or any risk factor. It is considered high when it is between 130-159 mg/dl; elevated if it is between 160-189 mg/dl and very high if it exceeds 190 mg/dl.

HDL cholesterol works in the opposite way: it is recommended to have them a little higher, as they are responsible for counteracting the effects of ‘bad’ cholesterol. The perfect level of this lipoprotein is at least 60 mg/dl. If it is below 40 mg/dl, it increases the risk of heart disease.


Prohibited foods for cholesterol

There are many myths about cholesterol and the foods that cannot be consumed if we have high cholesterol. New research is also emerging that disproves claims about foods previously thought to be unhealthy. It is normal to reach the point of not knowing what to consume and what not to consume.

There has been a change in recent years in the way of understanding cholesterol in the body: it is not specifically foods that should be avoided, but everything depends on the type of food, diet and lifestyle we lead. That’s where we have to make changes. It does not mean that there are forbidden foods for cholesterol (if the patient has no other health problems), but rather that it is better to substitute one type of food for another in order to have a positive effect on the levels of this substance.


Prohibited foods for cholesterol - Ambar Lab


Therefore, there are some foods that, depending on your state of health, should be avoided or reduced:

Refined carbohydrates. Also called ‘simple’, these carbohydrates have a high glycemic index, very dangerous for diabetics, which lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels and increases LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. We can find them mainly in processed sugars and refined cereals, so these would be the foods to avoid. For example, soft drinks can be reduced or eliminated and refined cereals can be replaced by whole grains.

Animal fats. We have already mentioned that we obtain part of our cholesterol from foods of animal origin. Processed meats (fatty sausages, red meat from fatty areas, etc.) or fatty dairy products (butter, cream…) contain ‘bad’ cholesterol, so it is more than advisable to substitute these foods if possible, for example by changing whole milk for skimmed milk. All these foods contain saturated fats that can increase total cholesterol values.

Trans fats. They are contained in foods to which hydrogen molecules have been introduced. They can be found in cookies, cakes and industrial pastries, ready-to-eat foods…

Alcohol. Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption will not only benefit our cholesterol, but our body in general.

It is not only important to control what you eat, but how you cook it. If a person has high cholesterol, we always recommend using cooking methods that require little or no fat, such as broiling, boiling, steaming or grilling. If frying or stewing is indispensable, it is best to choose vegetable oils, such as olive oil.


What foods help reduce cholesterol?

In addition to knowing which foods are forbidden for cholesterol, it is also necessary to know those that can help us reduce it:

Omega-3. Eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can help heart health, such as lowering blood pressure. Most of them are fish blue(salmon, mackerel, herring) or nuts (walnuts) or seeds (flaxseed).

Soluble fiber. It can reduce blood cholesterol absorption and you can easily find it in oats, beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.

Whey protein. It can be found in dairy products and, used as a supplement, it helps to reduce LDL and total cholesterol, as well as blood pressure.


Other lifestyle habits

Being aware of the foods that can help us raise or lower our cholesterol levels is fundamental to be conscious of what we eat and what kind of diet we are following. However, we can do a little more to avoid elevated levels by making small changes in our lifestyle:

Exercise. Moderate physical activity can help increase HDL lipoproteins, the ‘good’ cholesterol. You can ask your doctor if your physical condition allows you to do at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week or some intense aerobic activity for 20 minutes 3 times a week. If you are looking for motivation to do sports, you can sign up for a class where there are more people or find a partner to do the activity with. You can also look for times when you can walk or bike instead of using public transportation.

Quitting smoking. Eliminating tobacco from your habits has the same effect as alcohol. You will see changes not only in your cholesterol, but in your body as a whole:

  • Twenty minutes after not smoking, blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced peak.
  • Within 3 months of quitting smoking, blood circulation and lung function begin to improve.
  • After 1 year without smoking, the risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.

Taking cholesterol levels into account in any diet can help us to control it and feel better in our body. If you have doubts about your levels, you can take a test at Ambar Lab. We perform clinical reference analysis and offer more than 3,000 laboratory tests. You can contact us if you have any questions or do not find the test you are looking for in our catalog.. We are here to help you.

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