Although fish contains small amounts of cholesterol, it is low in saturated fat and can be eaten by anyone watching their cholesterol levels. The beneficial omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish may also help prevent cardiovascular disease associated with high cholesterol.
Some people may wonder if they can eat certain foods, such as fish that contain cholesterol, if a doctor advises them on a diet to lower their cholesterol levels.
This article answers some questions about cholesterol and diet and advises on the types of fish to eat. Also, it gives nutrient profiles of some fish and ideas on how to include them in meals.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that the body needs to make hormones and vitamins and build healthy cells. However, having too much of the wrong kind of cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The two types of cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which doctors consider “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is beneficial (“good”) cholesterol. . Lipoproteins transport cholesterol throughout the body via the bloodstream. As a result, LDL cholesterol can build up in blood vessels, oxidize, and form dangerous plaques in arteries. The lipoproteins that form HDL cholesterol bring the cholesterol back to the liver, which processes it and prevents it from building up in the arteries.
How does diet affect cholesterol?
Diet is one of the factors that can affect cholesterol levels. Other factors are genetics, medications and level of physical activity. However, current data do not show that dietary cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Instead, people should try to understand their saturated fat intake. Excessive consumption of foods high in saturated fat or trans fat increases LDL cholesterol levels. A whole diet high in fiber and vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease and manage cholesterol levels. The diet should favor fish and poultry while limiting red meat and fatty dairy products.
If you remove the skin from poultry, cut the visible fat from the meat, and grill meat and fish rather than frying them, you can also reduce your saturated fat intake.
Does fish contain cholesterol?
Both fatty and lean fish are low in saturated fat, making them a healthy part of the diet. This means that people trying to lower their cholesterol levels don’t need to avoid any particular type of fish. Fish and seafood also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Can people who watch their cholesterol eat fish?
People looking to lower their cholesterol or improve their cholesterol profile can eat fish without fear of adverse effects. Eat more fish and seafood to reduce cholesterol levels, and recommends eating at least 50g of fish per week. To limit saturated fat intake, you can use a cooking method other than oil frying, such as baking, poaching or grilling.
Which fish to choose?
One can choose lean fish such as sea bass or cod, or fatty fish rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Mercury content is another consideration when choosing which fish to eat, as it may be higher in some fish and seafood than in others.
Here are some of the best low-mercury fish choices:
Fish Meal Ideas
Fish is a source of good fats and protein and contains no carbohydrates or fiber. Also, fish with bones are high in calcium, and all fish contain beneficial vitamins like selenium and vitamin B12.
Here are some examples of healthy fish, their nutritional profile and ideas for preparing or cooking them.
Nutrition profile per 100 grams (g)
Saturated fat: 2.4g
Cholesterol: 63 milligrams (mg)
Some healthy ways to cook salmon include poaching, grilling, and baking in foil. To keep saturated fat to a minimum, avoid using butter and prefer olive oil and flavorings such as citrus, garlic and soy sauce. For extra flavor, try adding fresh herbs like parsley, basil or cilantro.
Nutritional profile per 100 g
Saturated fat: 1.65g
To keep saturated fat to a minimum, try grilling trout or poaching it in a skillet with aromatic vegetables and broth. You can also use trout in salads, fish pies or en papillote (cooked in parchment paper) with fresh herbs.
Nutrition profile per 100g (canned in oil)
Saturated fat: 1.53g
Choose fresh canned sardines in oil or tomato sauce for a lower fat option. For a quick lunch, top whole grain toast with sardines in tomato sauce and serve with a green salad.
If using fresh sardines, marinate them for 30 minutes in minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and paprika, then grill or bake them. Once cooked, serve them with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.
Nutrition profile per 100g (canned in oil)
Saturated fat: 2.2g
A can of anchovies is a versatile ingredient to add to pizzas, salads and sauces, giving them a meaty, umami flavor. Try adding anchovies to wholemeal bread with sliced tomatoes and basil for a sandwich.
Omega-3 fatty acids [Fact sheet]. (2021).
Soliman, GA (2018). Dietary cholesterol and the lack of evidence in cardiovascular disease.