Quiz yourself on your knowledge of cholesterol by answering “true” or “false” to the following statements.
T/F: When trying to lower cholesterol the first thing you should do is add soy to your diet.
False. The data suggest that soy protein has only a small effect, if any, on lipid levels. The real benefit may be related to the use of soy as a substitute for high-saturated-fat foods. Some research shows that people can lower their cholesterol by eating a diet rich in soy protein, fiber, plant sterols and nuts, such as almonds.
T/F: Palm oil is mostly saturated fat.
True. While most plant-based oils are rich in unsaturated fats that may help lower LDL cholesterol, foods from plants that contain saturated fat include coconut, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils), and cocoa butter. Palm oil is primarily a saturated fat and although you may have heard that it does not negatively affect cholesterol levels, the research isn’t conclusive.
T/F: Pears are a good source of soluble fiber.
True. One medium pear contains 2 grams of soluble fiber and 4 grams of total fiber. Incorporating soluble fiber into your diet can help reduce your LDL levels. Shoot to consume more than the suggested minimum of 5 to 10 grams per day by incorporating other soluble-fiber-rich foods into your daily menu. Try beans, Brussels sprouts, bananas, citrus fruits and oatmeal.
T/F: Packaged baked goods do not contain trans fats.
False. Often packaged baked goods contain manmade trans fat, which occurs when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil in a process called hydrogenation. Manmade trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, but are more harmful to your lipid levels than saturated fats. The FDA requires that manmade trans fat be listed on the nutrition label unless the total fat in a food is less than 0.5 gram per serving and no claims are made about fat, fatty acids or cholesterol content. This is why you might still spot partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredients list even if a serving is listed as containing 0 g trans fat. Choose packaged baked goods and other processed foods made with nonhydrogenated oil, such as soybean, corn or olive oil. Also, many fast foods contain high levels of trans fats. Eating one doughnut at breakfast (3.2 g of trans fats) and a large order of French fries at lunch (6.8 g) adds 10 g of trans fats to your daily total.
T/F: Potato chips contain cholesterol.
False. Dietary cholesterol comes only from animal foods. Potato chips, along with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, have no cholesterol. However, be sure to check the nutrition facts label on the potato chip bag for saturated fat, which causes your body to produce more cholesterol. Potato chips are also high in calories. Lastly, check the serving size and do the math: if you eat 2 servings’ worth, you’ll need to double the calories and saturated fat.