Cholesterol is needed by our bodies for our cells, nerves and brain. It is also important in forming hormones and enzymes. We make all the cholesterol we need in our livers. We get cholesterol from the foods we eat, too. Since every animal has a liver, when we eat foods made from animal products (fish, eggs,chicken, milk, beef or cheese) we eat cholesterol. If we make too much cholesterol or eat too many foods that contain cholesterol or saturated fat, the level of cholesterol in the blood increases. The higher our blood cholesterol, the higher our chances of developing heart disease. Eating less fat, less saturated fat, and less cholesterol will all help lower blood cholesterol.

Cutting the amount of cholesterol we eat may only have a small effect on blood cholesterol. To cut down on cholesterol, we can eat more plant foods as sources of protein instead of meat. Eat legumes like black beans, lentils, black-eyed peas and kidney beans instead of meat and poultry.

To find more about fat and saturated fats, read the "Fat" and "Saturated fats" files.

To find out how much cholesterol you need, "Ask the Nutritionist".

To test what you know about cholesterol, take the Quiz on Cholesterol.

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