Does Fish Contain Cholesterol?
First, the answer is yes, all fish contain cholesterol. But don’t let that scare you away. Different types of seafood contain different amounts of cholesterol, and many contain fats that can help control cholesterol levels.
But before we talk about which fish has which fat, let’s talk about cholesterol.
What the research says about fish oil
The research on fish oil is mixed. Fish oil supplements have been shown to have the following benefits.
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Lower triglyceride levels in the blood
- Improve brain health
- Diabetes treatment
Several studies, such as one reported in the 2011 Confidence Source Review, found a reduced risk of heart disease in people taking fish oil supplements. Other studies, such as a 2013 clinical trial of 12,000 people with cardiovascular risk factors, found no such evidence.
Fish oil also lowers triglycerides, but there’s not enough evidence that it reduces the risk of a heart attack.
When it comes to lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol, the evidence simply isn’t there. In fact, according to a 2013 literature review, fish oil may actually increase LDL levels in some people.
Cholesterol is a lipid produced in the liver and found in all cells. It processes vitamin D, breaks down food, and helps produce hormones.
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol.” High LDL cholesterol can build up in your blood vessels, blocking blood flow and causing blood clots. You don’t want that. This can lead to serious problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.
However, HDL cholesterol is high because HDL cholesterol helps carry LDL cholesterol out of the arteries.
The National Institutes of Health previously recommended the following healthy cholesterol levels.
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- LDL (“bad”) cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
- High-density lipoprotein (“good”) cholesterol: 60 mg/dL or higher
The United States updated these guidelines in 2013, eliminating the LDL cholesterol metric due to insufficient evidence. The EU still uses the LDL indicator.
Diet and cholesterol levels
What you eat can affect your cholesterol levels as much as your physical activity, genetics, and weight. All cholesterol-containing foods increase blood cholesterol, but the major contributors to your diet are saturated fats and trans fats. These fats raise your LDL and lower your HDL. The American Heart Association recommends eating less than 7% of your calories as saturated fats and less than 1% as trans fats.
On the other hand, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered “healthy” fats. They increase your total fat grams but do not cause an increase in LDL cholesterol levels.
Can I eat fish if I control my cholesterol?
If changing your diet is part of an overall plan to lower LDL cholesterol, fish is a good choice. While all fish contain cholesterol, many are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential dietary fats that help maintain healthy cholesterol levels by lowering triglyceride levels. They also help raise HDL levels.
Your body can’t make omega-3 essential fatty acids, so you have to get them from the foods you eat. Omega-3s are important for a variety of body and brain functions and are thought to affect mood and pain. Salmon, trout, tuna, nuts and flaxseed are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Most fish are also low in saturated fat and trans fat, and many contain no trans fat at all.
With that said, you may be concerned about the 161 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3-ounce serving of shrimp. If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may advise you to avoid shrimp. If that’s the case, follow your doctor’s advice. However, keep in mind that studies have shown that the increased HDL levels from shrimp consumption may outweigh the risk of increased LDL levels. To learn more, read this article on shrimp, cholesterol, and heart health.
How does eating fish compare?
Here are the fish to consider in your diet. Each serving is 3 ounces, and all statistics from reliable sources assume a low-fat preparation, such as grilled or broiled. Frying fish will definitely increase fat and cholesterol. When frying fish, use an oil that is low in saturated fat, such as avocado oil.
They recommend consuming 3.5 ounces of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, preferably salmon, herring, or trout.
There is concern that pregnant women are eating fish with too much mercury. According to the National Resources Defense Council, pregnant women should limit themselves to three 6-ounce servings of tuna and six servings of cod per month.
Can salmon fight high cholesterol?
Eating healthy unsaturated fats, such as those found in salmon, has been shown to improve cholesterol levels. In fact, fish is a healthy, high-protein alternative to red meat, which is high in saturated fat. Salmon is a great alternative to red meat because it is a very nutritious food that can help improve healthy cholesterol levels. Plus, it’s delicious!
A 3-ounce cooked Atlantic salmon fillet contains an average of 23 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat, most of which is healthy unsaturated fat. It is also rich in vitamin D, B-12, and B-6, and is a good source of magnesium, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium.
Salmon is an excellent choice for heart health and cholesterol levels. Unlike red meat, salmon is a good source of healthy unsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol. It is also a rich source of protein and nutrients. So the next time you want to grill a steak or order a ribeye, try a salmon filet.
While all fish contains cholesterol, you can still consume it as part of a heart-healthy diet. Interestingly, there is some evidence that a diet based on safe sources of herbs that do not include fish may be beneficial in managing the risk of chronic disease. To learn more about foods, including fish, that can help you manage your health and cholesterol, talk to your doctor. They can advise you or refer you to a registered dietitian who can develop a diet plan specifically for you.