Calculating the allowable daily amount of cholesterol per day that you should have is not quite like ordering a set dosage of a vitamin or medication. It’s more like a maximum amount, over which there are inherent dangers to your health. Cholesterol levels are influenced, positively and negatively, by the foods you eat, and you can’t just eat a bunch of cholesterol, not like ingesting salt, sugar or fat. The idea is to ingest enough foodstuffs that will influence your lipid profile positively to keep your body functioning in good order, while ensuring you are not taking in too much of the food that will raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol level.
Your liver, assuming it is healthy, is capable of manufacturing enough cholesterol for your body’s needs without any dietary input. But it’s hard to avoid ingesting some amount of cholesterol. Cholesterol is only found in animal products, including meat, eggs, poultry, fish and dairy products, so strict vegans might not consume much in their eating regimens.
To be sure, your body needs some cholesterol. It’s essential to the building and maintenance of cells. However, an excess of it can grow in your blood vessels, narrowing arteries and causing clots; the result may be heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol also assists in the synthesizing of vitamin D, a very important aid in overall good health and thwarting depression; it also synthesizes hormones (estrogen and testosterone) and bile acids. It’s a hard-working and integral part of your body’s smooth operation. You need to pay attention to how much cholesterol enters your body to ensure that cholesterol does the job it’s meant to and doesn’t cause trouble beyond that.
Research has told us that raising your HDL cholesterol level is not enough; you must also lower the LDL level. The world-famous Mayo Clinic suggests simple means of ensuring the cholesterol you do ingest is less likely to do damage. If you do eat meat, limit it to once or twice a week, and choose lower fat or very lean meats, and keep the portion to a maximum of 6 ounces. Increase substantially the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat. Limit egg consumption (eggs are in a lot of baked goods, so beware!) and preferably only eat the whites, not the yolks. A few minor dietary adjustments can make all the difference.
To ensure the odds of not taking in too much cholesterol, don’t eat foods containing a total of more than 200 to 300 mg of cholesterol per day. If you’re an at-risk candidate, perhaps already displaying danger factors for high cholesterol, then keep it down to 200 mg. If you smoke cigarettes, have high blood pressure, have existing heart problems or a family history of heart disease, then ensure you ingest mo more than 200 mg of cholesterol per day from your diet. In either case, it’s generally a good practice to ensure that the foods you eat are low in LDL cholesterol, because most of these are the healthy ones. Obviously, having some common sense is always good while choosing your diet.
Because cholesterol is a lipid, it cannot dissolve in the water portion of your blood, so once it’s there, it can’t simply be washed away. Doctors sometimes call LDL cholesterol “sticky”; that paints a clear picture of how it can form in your blood vessels. To help in preventing cholesterol from “sticking”, restrict cholesterol intake to an absolute maximum of 300 mg per day, the less the better.