Cholesterol

Hi there!

When I wrote about egg nutrition, I promised I would talk a little more about cholesterol.

So here I am, keeping my promise.

What is cholesterol?

This is actually not the easiest question to answer. As a nutrient, dietary cholesterol is a special type of fat found only in animal foods. Unlike other fats, cholesterol cannot be broken down to provide calories.

Cholesterol

Why is cholesterol good for you?

  • Needed for the synthesis of bile acids, hormones, and vitamin D

Did you know: all body cells are capable of making enough cholesterol to meet their needs so we don’t actually need to eat cholesterol.

What are some cholesterol rich foods?

Organ meats and egg yolks are the richest sources of cholesterol but it is also found in other animal foods. Here are a few examples

Food Milligrams (mg)
1 egg yolk 187
3.5 oz beef liver 389
3.5 oz shrimp 194
3.5 oz beef sirloin 89
3.5 oz chicken liver 631

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.

Is the cholesterol in foods HDL or LDL cholesterol?

Neither.

When you eat foods with cholesterol, the dietary cholesterol gets absorbed and carried through the blood in a little package called a chylomicron. Eventually the chylomicron carries the dietary cholesterol to the liver and some of it gets repackaged with varying amounts of fatty acids, proteins and other compounds. Packages that contain only a small amount of fatty acids are called HDL. Packages that contain more fatty acids are called VLDL and eventually become LDL.

A high intake of dietary saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids causes more VLDL to be made, resulting in higher LDL cholesterol.

Dietary cholesterol has been shown to raise blood LDL cholesterol in some people, but the potential negative effects of dietary cholesterol are relatively small compared to those of saturated and trans fatty acids.

What you need to know: Dietary cholesterol is less of a concern than saturated and trans fats. Generally speaking, if you watch your saturated fat intake, your cholesterol intake will be low as well since if a food is high in one, it tends to be high in the other. 

Independent of other dietary factors, evidence suggests that one egg per day does not result in increased blood cholesterol, nor does it increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy people. 

Do you ever avoid foods because they are high in cholesterol?

Selenium

Hi there!

It’s time for me to talk about another nutrient that I think you need to know about.

It’s called selenium. Isn’t that a pretty name?

Selenium

What is selenium?

Selenium is a trace mineral that has powerful antioxidant properties and may play a role in fighting cancer.

Why is selenium good for you?

  • Component of antioxidant enzymes
  • Helps with immune system functioning
  • Activates thyroid hormones

What are some selenium rich foods?

In general, the best sources of selenium are seafood, meats, cereals, and grains. However, the selenium content of food varies significantly based on the soil content where the plant was grown or the animal raised.

So with that in mind, let’s look at some food sources of selenium.

Food Micrograms (μg)
1 ounce Brazil nuts 543
4 ounces tuna (cooked) 53
4 ounces shrimp 43
1 cup crimini mushrooms 23
4 ounces turkey 36
RDA* for adults 55
UL** for adults 400

*RDA is the amount of a nutrient that meets the needs of most people of a specified age and sex. This is a good amount to aim for.
**UL is the maximum daily intake level that is unlikely to cause negative health effects for most people of a specified age and sex. Keep your intake below this level.

What’s your favorite way to get selenium?

Vitamin K

Hi there!

It’s time for me to talk about another nutrient that I think you need to know about.

What do you know about vitamin K?

No, I don’t mean the drug that is also know as ketamine.

No, I don’t mean potassium, which has the symbol K.

I’m talking about the actual vitamin.

Vitamin K

What is vitamin K?

Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for normal blood clotting. Vitamin K is actually a family of compounds that include phylloquinones (Vitamin K1) found in plants, and menaquinones (vitamin K2) found in fish oils and meats.

Fun fact: A Danish researcher named Vitamin K after Koagulation, the Danish spelling for coagulation.

Why is vitamin K good for you?

  • Needed for the synthesis of blood clotting factors by the liver
  • Helps with the synthesis of bone proteins

Did you know: A very common misconception is that people who are taking warfarin (Coumadin) should avoid leafy green vegetables. This is not true, however, they should maintain a consistent intake of vitamin K foods. This is something you can and should discuss with your dietitian.

What are some vitamin K rich foods?

Leafy green vegetables and other green vegetables are the best sources of vitamin K. Vegetable oils such as soy and canola, are also good sources of this fat soluble vitamin.

Fun fact: About 10% of the vitamin K absorbed each day comes from bacteria in our gut that synthesizes vitamin K.

So with that in mind, let’s look at some food sources of vitamin K.

Food Micrograms (mg)
1 cup kale (cooked) 1062
1 cup spinach (cooked) 888
1 cup collard greens (cooked) 772
1 cup broccoli (cooked) 220
1 cup blueberries 29
AI* for women 90
AI* for men 120

*AI is based on estimates of intakes that appear to maintain a defined nutritional state for most people of a specified age and sex. It is the daily target intake.

What’s your favorite way to get vitamin K?

Calcium

Hi there!

I have a question for you.

What nutrient do you think of when you think dairy?

Calcium

Do you think calcium?

That’s what I figured.

Since we’re talking about dairy all month, I thought it would be a good time to talk about calcium. Here we go!

What is calcium?

Calcium is an essential mineral for normal bone and tooth development but it has many other functions as well. When you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body pulls it from your bones to use for other purposes. This can lead to osteoporosis, a disease characterized by porous, brittle bones.

Fun fact: Calcium is also what makes up coral, seashells, eggshells, and antlers.

Why is calcium good for you?

  • Helps with bone health and tooth structure
  • Helps with blood clotting
  • Aids in nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and enzyme regulation
  • Helps to prevent osteoporosis
  • May protect against the development colon cancer
  • May help to decrease blood pressure

Did you know: muscle spasms in your hands or feet can be a sign that you don’t have enough calcium in your bloodstream.

What are some calcium rich foods?

When we think calcium, we think dairy so obviously milk and milk products are good sources of calcium. Other good sources include canned fish with bones, leafy vegetables, tofu, and fortified orange juice.

The amount of calcium the body absorbs varies depending on the food along with other factors. Foods containing lactose, other sugars, and protein help with calcium absorption. Calcium absorption is reduced when eaten with foods containing phytic acid (in nuts, grains, and beans), oxalic acid (in many vegetables), phosphorus (in meats, seafood, nuts, dairy, and beans), and polyphenols (in vegetables and fruits).

For example:

  • Only about 5% of calcium in spinach can be absorbed.
  • About 30% of calcium in dairy products can be absorbed.
  • About 60-70% of calcium in Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale can be absorbed.

Even though only about 30% of the calcium in dairy is absorbed, dairy foods provide a greater total amount of calcium than many foods containing better absorbed calcium.

So with that in mind, let’s look at some food sources of calcium.

Food Milligrams (mg)
1 cup yogurt 372
3 ounces sardines 324
1.5 ounces cheddar cheese 306
1 cup skim milk 199
1 cup kale 101
1 cup broccoli 43
RDA* for women up to 50 years and men up to 70 years 1000
RDA for older adults 1200
UL** for adults up to 50 years 2500
UL for older adults 2000

*RDA is the amount of a nutrient that meets the needs of most people of a specified age and sex.
**UL is the maximum daily intake level that is unlikely to cause negative health effects for most people of a specified age and sex.

Don’t go overboard – Too much calcium can lead to kidney stones and other problems in susceptible people.

What’s your favorite way to get calcium?

Manganese

Hi there!

I mentioned that rice is an excellent source of manganese. Manganese is a nutrient that you don’t hear a lot about but I thought I’d tell you a bit about it, just in case you were curious.

Manganese

What is manganese?

Manganese is a trace mineral that is essential for the human body.

Why is manganese good for you?

  • It’s a component of enzymes involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fat
  • Functions as an antioxidant preventing free radical damage to cells and DNA

What are some manganese rich foods?

Fun fact: In order to prevent deficiency, the body does a better job at absorbing manganese when intakes are low.

Manganese is found in nuts, tea, legumes, leafy green vegetables, and whole-grain cereals. Here are some examples:

Food milligrams (mg)
1/2 cup pineapple 2.79
1 ounce pine nuts 2.49
1 cup cooked chickpeas 1.93
1 ounce hazelnuts 1.75
1 cup cooked spinach 1.68
AI* for adults females 1.8
AI for adults males 2.3
UL** for adults 11

*AI is based on estimates of intakes that appear to maintain a defined nutritional state for most people of a specified age and sex. It is the daily target intake.
**UL is the maximum daily intake level that is unlikely to cause negative health effects for most people of a specified age and sex. It’s like a nutrient speed limit.

What’s your favorite manganese food?
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