High cholesterol presents a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that over 70 million Americans had high LDL or "bad cholesterol" levels. Over two-thirds of those individuals did not have their cholesterol under control. Diet plays a significant role in cholesterol, and some foods such as bread can offer healthy and unhealthy choices, depending upon the type and the ingredients.
The primary benefits of bread and cholesterol are associated with its fiber content. A slice of white bread contains 66 calories and 0.6 g of dietary fiber. Whole wheat bread, on the other hand, contains the same number of calories yet 0.9 g of fiber. Both types of bread are low in saturated fat, containing less than 1 g each. However, bread varies widely in its overall nutritional value when you take into account other ingredients found in different types of bread and the toppings you enjoy on your bread.
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Hold the Butter
What you put on your bread can affect your cholesterol intake and risk for high cholesterol. Butter and olive oil have the same amount of calories. However, the type of fat varies, affecting the overall health value of bread on cholesterol. Butter is a saturated fat. The American Heart Association strongly urges you to limit your consumption of saturated fats due to its effects on cholesterol. Rather, you should top your bread with a healthier alternative such as almond butter, which is a polyunsaturated fat and may improve your cholesterol.
Trans Fats and Cholesterol
When buying bread, you should study the label carefully for the presence of trans fats, a common ingredient in commercially-made products. Like saturated fats, trans fats can increase your LDL cholesterol. The risk of trans fats and saturated fats lies in its role in the development of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. A diet high in these fats cause a narrowing of the blood vessels due to plaque formation. If a portion of plaque should break free, it can clog blood vessels, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Whole Grains and Cholesterol
Your choice of bread can improve your cholesterol. Whole grains such as whole wheat bran and oatmeal can help your body eliminate excess cholesterol in the bloodstream. Fiber can be soluble or insoluble, depending upon the source. Soluble forms such as oats showed a greater effect on lowering LDL cholesterol as well as improving blood pressure and insulin response, explains a 2010 study by Pennsylvania State University. To best manage your cholesterol, you should stick with breads made with whole grains for optimal health benefits.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Leading Causes of Death
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory
- American Heart Association; Know Your Fats; May 6, 2011
- National Institutes of Health; High Blood Cholesterol: What You Need To Know; June 2005
- "Current Atherosclerosis Reports"; Effects of Whole Grains on Coronary Heart Disease Risk; K. Harris and P. Kris-Etherton; November 2010
- Mayo Clinic; Dietary fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet; November 19, 2009