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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Saturated Fats and Cholesterol

A common conversation that I have with my patients is how they've altered their diet once they have learned that they have elevated cholesterol.  Most will tell me that they've cut back on beef, but are eating more fish and chicken, and unfortunately, their cholesterol levels have not improved.

All animal foods contain cholesterol, because like us humans, their livers produce cholesterol.  In fact, beef and chicken and fish all have just as much cholesterol in them, so by switching to fish and chicken, dietary cholesterol consumption will not decrease.

More importantly, though, is saturated fat, which raises our bodies' cholesterol levels.  Interestingly, animal foods tend to be higher in saturated fat than plant foods.  These values are taken from the USDA National Nutrient Database:

Small Hamburger               3.56 grams saturated fat
Lean beef (1/8" fat trim)    1.38 grams
Large egg                          1.63 grams
Salmon, 3 oz                      1.63 grams
Roasted chicken breast       1.76 grams

However, here are the quantities of saturated fat for several vegetarian sources of protein:

Kidney beans, 1 cup            0.13 grams
Tofu, 1/4 pound                 0.69 grams
Veggie burger                     0.11 grams

Animal products tend to be high in both saturated fat and cholesterol.  So, if you have elevated cholesterol, it is especially important to limit your consumption of animal products.


herself75 said...

I never knew that about beef/chicken/fish! makes sense. The saturated fat thing doesn't surprise me though. Of course I think anything that doesn't come in a box bag or can is healthy... but I guess that is why you're the MD and I'm the PE!

The Girl said...

I wish more people knew about this - it is awful to see people who think they are being healthier replacing one animal product with another, equally bad, animal product.

O Primitivo said...

Lowest mortality observed when total cholesterol (t-C) is 200-240 mg/dl, low t-C linked to more infectious and parasitic diseases and also low t-C maybe associated with higher CHD (could atherosclerosis be an infectious disease?) -

VeganHeartDoc said...

O Primitivo -- I have no idea where you get that data from. Low LDL cholesterol can be due to malnutrition since the body synthesizes less cholesterol in starvation states, but low LDL definitely does not cause parasitic infections.

Further, the infection and atherosclerosis hypothesis has been evaluated scientifically, but has never panned out.

Dustin Rudolph said...

Thanks for telling the truth about the so called "healthier, leaner" meats. I fully agree and am glad to see a cardiologist sharing this publicly with others to help improve their lives.

I just came upon your blog today and will be a frequent follower :)

A fellow plant-based healthcare practitioner,
Dustin Rudolph, Pharm.D.