Cholesterol & Phytosterols
I was raised omnivorous, but I chose veganism in 2007. While I fluctuated between vegetarianism and veganism over the next years, I've been consistently following a vegan lifestyle to the best of my abilities for the last three years.
At the grocery store, I take my time to read food labels. Unless I'm already familiar with certain items or brands, I always check ingredients to see if a product is vegan or not. Yet, there's a tip that always saves me time, and I want to share it with you!
Check first if the item has cholesterol:
If it has, stop browsing through the ingredients. That product is not vegan.
If it doesn't, keep reading the label. No cholesterol doesn't mean the product is vegan as there could be other ingredients of animal origin.
According to MedlinePlus, cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all human body cells. The body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest foods.
Since cholesterol is biosynthesized by all animal cells, it is also found in foods from animal sources. Major dietary sources of cholesterol include:
The human body produces all the cholesterol it needs (bile cholesterol), so we don't need the additional dietary cholesterol input.
The USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible. This is also because most foods rich in cholesterol are high in saturated fat, which may increase cardiovascular disease risk.
Instead of cholesterol, some plant oils and foods—such as avocado, flax seeds, and peanuts—contain phytosterols. This type of fat helps reduce the absorption of both dietary and bile cholesterol.
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