No matter how many medical studies we read, there are some terms that just confuse us. Take cholesterol, for instance — you often hear about foods that are high in cholesterol and you know it's a bad thing when doctors tell you your cholesterol levels are high, but what exactly is it? And do high cholesterol foods really increase cholesterol levels in your blood?
Cholesterol is an essential fat for our bodies, explains Kiran Bains registered dietitian and owner of Edo Vivo. "Our bodies make about 85 per cent of it, and about 15 to 20 per cent of the rest comes from the foods we eat."
The two types of cholesterol are: LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). LDL is the cholesterol associated with causing heart attacks and strokes, while HDL helps remove LDL built up in arteries. Triglycerides, on the other hand, make up one-fifth of your total cholesterol blood levels and can be elevated in those who are overweight, physically inactive, smoke and eat a diet high in carbohydrates.
As a general rule of thumb, Bains says eating two to three tablespoons of unsaturated fat per day is part of a healthy diet, which contributes to good cholesterol levels. Bains says you should also aim to limit the amount of trans and saturated fats you are consuming, as these foods are high in LDLs.
In the slideshow below, Bains shares a short list of foods that fall into the good and bad categories of fats. Some of these foods can help lower cholesterol levels in your blood, while others will only make matters worse.
Update: An earlier publication of this article incorrectly listed triglycerides as a type of cholesterol. While triglycerides are closely associated with cholesterol, they are not a type of it.