Cholesterol and Fat in Your Diet
What you eat makes a difference for your heart. Monitoring your intake of cholesterol and fat is important to controlling your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found only in animal products. Not only
do people eat cholesterol in foods, but the body makes it as well. Cholesterol is
used to make hormones and cell membranes. It is recommended that your daily consumption
of cholesterol not exceed 300 mg per day. Sources of dietary cholesterol include:
Fat is one of the three main sources of energy in your diet. It also serves as a source for vitamins, cell structure, and hormone production and is an easy way for your body to store extra calories. Fat transports vitamins A, D, E, and K, into and around your body.
You should try to keep your total fat intake to less than 30% of your total calorie intake a day. Fat is measured in grams (gms) and is listed on food labels. Use the following chart below to determine approximately how many grams of fat per day you should have in your diet.
Sources of fat include:
Watching your total fat intake is a place to start. But more importantly you should
monitor the type of fat you choose. Fats come in two main types: saturated fat and unsaturated fat.
Saturated fat is mainly from animal sources. It is solid at room temperature. The exceptions to this rule are the tropical oils: palm kernel oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. Saturated fats are a concern because they tend to raise cholesterol levels in your body so you should limit your daily intake. Examples: butter, lard, cheese, cream, whole milk, partially hydrogenated oils/margarines, and fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb.
Unsaturated fat is mainly from vegetable/plant sources. It is soft or liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are healthier choices as they do not raise cholesterol levels as much as saturated fats do. Unsaturated fats prevent clogged arteries that block the flow of blood to the heart and brain. Examples: liquid/squeezable margarines, canola, olive, corn, safflower, peanut, and sunflower oils.
You can limit your daily fat intake by monitoring the way in which you prepare foods.
-Bake, broil, grill and steam foods instead of frying.
-Use fruit juice or broth to pan fry with instead of oil.
-Limit the use of home-made gravies from meat drippings.
-Use vegetable oil sprays/non-stick sprays to treat pans instead of oil.
-Chill soups and stews first and then skim off the fat and reheat.
-Trim all visible fat from meats before cooking.
Learn to add flavor to food without using fats.
-Use herb blends and vinegars to season.
-Add chopped onions, garlic, and peppers.
-Marinate meats to add flavor with wines, salsas, or lemon juice.
-Baste meats with cooking juices instead of gravy or cream sauces.
-Modify your recipes to use less fat.
Replace half the fat in baked goods with applesauce or prune puree.
-Use nonfat yogurt or fat free sour cream in dips and salad dressings.
-Use 2 egg whites for each egg.
-Substitute 1% or skim milk for whole milk or cream.
-Replace regular cheeses with low-fat or fat free cheeses.
Learn to make smart choices for your health when eating away from home.
-Ask how foods are prepared.
-Limit sauces and gravies; ask for them on the side.
-Select grilled and baked meats.
-Limit fried food choices.
-Select steamed vegetables without butter or cheese sauce.
-Try ordering a la carte items instead of a large entrée.
-Ask for small, luncheon, or senior portions of higher fat items so you can enjoy them without going over your fat goals.
Foods that may help lower your cholesterol: Some foods such as fatty fish, walnuts, almonds, oatmeal, and oat bran, and foods fortified with plant sterols or stanols can help control your cholesterol.
Mayo Clinic. (2011). High cholesterol. Retrieved from
Medicine Plus. (2011). Cholesterol. Retrieved from
National cholesterol education program live healthier, live longer. (2003). Retrieved from
Sizer, F., & Whitney, E. (2000). Nutrition: Concepts and controversies (8th ed). USA: Wadsworth Publishing.
Web Medicine. (2011). An apple a day keeps cholesterol at bay? Retrieved from
Developed in 2003 by Julie Smith, MS, RD, LD, CDE at The University of Toledo for the Caring~Web©
Revised: 2010, 2012