Cholesterol, What is it?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can stick to the walls of your arteries. This is called plaque. Plaque can narrow your arteries or even block them.

High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of heart disease. Your cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older. There are usually no signs or symptoms that you have high blood cholesterol, but it can be detected with a blood test. You are likely to have high cholesterol if members of your family have it, if you are overweight or if you eat a lot of fatty foods.

Types of Cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol: "good" and "bad." It's important to understand the difference, and to know the levels of "good" and "bad" cholesterol in your blood. Too much of one type — or not enough of another — can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

Cholesterol comes from two sources: your body and food. Your liver and other cells in your body make about 75 percent of blood cholesterol. The other 25 percent comes from the foods you eat. Cholesterol is only found in animal products.

A cholesterol screening measures your level of HDL and LDL. HDL is the "good" cholesterol which helps keep the LDL (bad) cholesterol from getting lodged into your artery walls. A healthy level of HDL may also protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women) have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease

How to lower your Cholesterol levels

So you have high cholesterol, now what? You can lower your cholesterol by exercising more and eating more fruits and vegetables. You also may need to take medicine to lower your cholesterol. Most people would immediately start cutting down on foods that have high cholesterol content (eggs, liver, whole milk, butter cream, certain shell fish – shrimp etc). Restricting cholesterol intake alone is not enough to lower blood cholesterol levels. Apart from increasing you physical activity, below are some suggestions of foods to eat less of and foods to more often in order to lower and/or maintain cholesterol levels.



Eat most often

Eat in moderation

Eat minimal amounts

Meat & meat alternatives

Fish, soya

Lean red meat, skinless poultry, lean bacon, game

Fatty cuts of meat, processed meat, sausages, organ meat, shellfish, beef biltong

Dairy products & eggs

Skim or fat free milk, fat free yoghurt, fat free or low fat cottage cheese, fat free cream cheese, egg whites

Low fat milk, low fat yoghurt, low fat cheese, sorbet.

Full cream milk, full cream yoghurt, condensed milk, cream substitutes, cream cheese, high fat cheese, ice cream and egg yolks.

Fruit and vegetables

Fresh, frozen, or tinned vegetables or dried fruit, fruit tinned in natural juices.

Glazed fruit and fruit in syrup

Vegetables prepared in butter or cream sauces.


Pasta, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole-wheat, brown and rye bread, oats, fiber breakfast cereals, beans and lentils.

White bread, muffins, refined breakfast cereals.

Pies, pastries, cakes, tarts, croissants, doughnuts, high fat biscuits, buttered or commercial popcorn.

Fats and oils


Unsaturated oils e.g. sunflower/canola/maize/soya/olive, soft margarine, low oil mayonnaise and salad dressing, olives, avocado, peanut butter.

Palm oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconuts, butter, margarine, mayonnaise



Coffee, sugar, pretzels.

French fries, crisps, chocolate sweets, cream soups, alcohol.