When it comes to cholesterol and triglycerides, there are some major similarities and some major differences. It’s very important for you to know what these are and how they affect your health.
How Cholesterol and Triglycerides are Alike
- Both are blood fats or “lipids”.
- Both are tested on the lipid panel.
- Neither can dissolve in blood…
- So, both have to be carried through your blood by as a lipoprotein.
- Both can usually be controlled with diet and lifestyle.
- Both can be gotten through your diet.
- Plus, your body can make them if needed.
- The levels of both are managed by the liver.
- Both are needed for you to live.
- Both are indicators of future and present heart disease.
This last similarity, being indicators of heart disease, is the most important here. However, as you read through this article, you will discover that high triglycerides can cause more than heart disease. Between cholesterol and triglycerides, your triglyceride level affects your health in more ways.
How Cholesterol and Triglycerides are Different
Different Types of Fat
Those both are classified as a blood lipid, cholesterol is not really a fat in the blood. It’s actually a different type of fat-like substance called a sterol and it is made up of the good, or HDL cholesterol, and the bad, or LDL cholesterol. The HDL and the LDL cholesterol form the total cholesterol.
Different Roles to Play in the Body
Cholesterol is necessary in your body for the production of the steroid hormones, such as the testosterone in men and the estrogen for women. It is also needed for digesting fat and processing Vitamin D.
Your body uses cholesterol as part of your cells to help them function in cold temperatures, somewhat like insulation.
As far as including cholesterol in your diet– your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. There is no need to eat anything with cholesterol. The only source of cholesterol is animal products. Dietary guidelines for the amount of cholesterol you can consume is less than 300 mg.
The functions of triglycerides in the body are multiple. Perhaps the most important function is that they provide the essential fatty acids our body needs to function.
Triglycerides also supply the fatty acids needed for producing energy and storing energy. The main place energy is stored is in our body fat. This fat does triple duty– storing energy, insulating our body and protecting our internal organs from injury.
Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels & Disease
You can have a high cholesterol level and a normal triglyceride level and be at risk for heart disease and strokes. You can have a normal cholesterol level and a high triglyceride level and be at risk for not only heart disease, but strokes and diabetes. And, both levels can be high, meaning you are at a high risk for heart disease, strokes, and diabetes.
The point is, both levels don’t necessarily have to be high to put you at risk for health problems.
Eating to Increase or Decrease Your Blood Lipids
Foods that increase your blood fats:
- Animal products
- Foods high in saturated fatty acids, again, mainly animal products
- Trans-fats (foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils)
- Refined carbs and concentrated sweets (increase your triglycerides)
Foods that help to decrease your blood fats:
- Omega-3 foods, such as fish, flaxseed, canola and soybean oil
- Foods with soluble fiber, such as oats, legumes and citrus fruit
- Fruits, vegetables and whole grains
Terms You Should Know
- Hyperlipidemia = high level of blood lipids (cholesterol and triglcyerides)
- Hypertriglyceridemia = high triglycerides
- Hypercholesterolemia = high cholesterol