Facts and Food Sources of Cholesterol


Cholesterol is the most abundant sterol, a second class of lipids. Pure cholesterol is an odorless, white, waxy, powdery substance. Cholesterol is found only in foods of animal origin which includes egg yolks, meat, poultry, milk and milk products and fish. It is present in foods of plant origin.

Our body needs cholesterol to function normally. It is part of every cell membrane and is present in every cell in your body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles, skin, liver, and skeleton. The body uses cholesterol to make bile acids allowing digesting fat, maintaining cell membranes, making hormones and making vitamin D. Absorption of cholesterol from food ranges from about 40% to 65%. Most people absorb between 40 and 60 percent of ingested cholesterol. Such variability, which is probably due in part to genes, may contribute to the individual differences that occur in plasma cholesterol response to dietary cholesterol.

About two-thirds of the cholesterol circulating through body is made by body cells; the remaining one-third is consumed in the diet.  Each day, our cells produce approximately 875 milligrams of cholesterol. Of the 875 milligrams of cholesterol made by the body, about 400 milligrams are used to make new bile acids to replenish those lost in the feces, and about 50 milligrams are used to make hormones. In addition to the entire cholesterol cells make, we consume about 180 to 325 milligrams of cholesterol per day from animal-derived food products, with men consuming the higher amount compared to women.

All tissues are capable of synthesizing enough cholesterol to meet their metabolic and structural needs. Consequently, there is no evidence for a biological requirement for dietary cholesterol. Much evidence indicates a positive linear trend between cholesterol intake and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentration, and therefore an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). A Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) was not set for cholesterol because any incremental increase in cholesterol intake increases CHD risk. It is recommended that people should maintain their dietary intake of cholesterol as low as possible and consume a diet that is nutritionally adequate in all required nutrients.

Food Sources

Food name Weight (g) Cholesterol (mg)
Veal brain 85 2635
Lamb brain 85 2175
Pork brain 85 2169
Egg 85 1714
Goose egg 144 1227
Turkey egg 79 737
Chicken 145 647
Turkey 863 604
Lamb liver 85 426
Scrambled egg 96 409
Shrimp 128 323
Kielbasa 370 270
Squid 85 221
Lobster 145 212
Cuttlefish 85 190
Red (sockeye) salmon 108 167
Dove 140 162
Shrimp 85 161
Spinach 136 160
Eggnog 254 150


Benefits of Cholesterol in Diet

  1. Cholesterol is crucial for balanced hormones and to deal with regular stress. These hormones also prevent the chances heart disease and cancer.
  2. Cholesterol is required to make sex hormones including androgen, estrogen, testosterone, DHEA and progesterone.
  3. It is required to use Vitamin D properly which is critical for all body systems including bones, proper growth, nerves, mineral metabolism, insulin production, muscle tone, fertility and strong immunity.
  4. Cholesterol is demanded by liver to make bile salts. Bile is needed for digestive process and dietary fats absorption.
  5. Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant in the body and prevents free radical damage to tissues.
  6. It is critically needed for proper functioning of brain.
  7. Cholesterol is must for babies and children for proper development and growth of the nervous system, brain and immune function.
  8. It is required for proper functioning of intestines and to maintain integrity of intestinal wall. Diet with low cholesterol results leaky gut syndrome as well as other digestive problems.
  9. Cholesterol is demanded for repairing damaged cells. The levels of cholesterol rise naturally as people and are beneficial for elderly people.

Causes of High Cholesterol

  • An unhealthy diet
  • Diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Family history of stroke or heart disease
  • Smoking

Prevent high cholesterol

People wanting to lower cholesterol levels should make four major lifestyle decisions such as

  • Heart-healthy diet
  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Drink in moderation

Recommended cholesterol level to be

Generally, total cholesterol levels should be:

For healthy adults: 5 mmol/L or less

For those at high risk: 4 mmol/L or less

Generally, LDL levels should be:

For healthy adults: 3 mmol/L or less

For those at high risk: 2 mmol/L or less

Why is excess cholesterol in the body harmful?

Presence of too much cholesterol in the body causes buildup of plaque in artery walls. This makes heart difficult to circulate blood through arteries due to buildup of plaque and also causes blood clots that could result in heart attack and stroke.

Dietary tips to avoid cholesterol

  • Consume fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods.
  • Prefer low or reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and other dairy products.
  • Eat lean meat.
  • Limit intake of fatty meats such as sausages and salami and choose leaner sandwich meats such as or cooked lean chicken or turkey breast.
  • Consume fresh or canned fish at least twice a week.
  • Replace butter or dairy blends with polyunsaturated margarines.
  • Include foods with high soluble fiber and healthy fats such as nuts, seeds and legumes.
  • Limit intake of cheese and ice cream (upto twice a week).







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