Seafood and Cholesterol - Cholesterol Facts

There are three numbers that make up your total cholesterol number: LDL, HDL and triglycerides. The HDL number represents the “good cholesterol.” This type keeps vessel walls smooth so that plaques don’t stick and decrease the size of the blood vessels.

The LDL number represents “bad cholesterol.” The walls of vessels become affected by sticky plaques made up of a type of cholesterol that can adhere to the inside of the vessels.

High triglyceride levels can increase the adherence of plaques. They are fats in the blood that are okay in smaller levels but in large quantities they can make lumens of vessels smaller. This can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Seafood Misconception

Seafood such as lobster, shrimp, fish and crab are savory and sweet. Many people avoid them, though, because they think that they will raise their cholesterol levels. Here is a happy answer. You can eat seafood without significantly raising your cholesterol levels.

In fact, seafood contains cholesterol but a kind that will benefit you. ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is found in fish and other seafood. The body uses omega-3 fatty acids to increase cardiovascular health, reduce strokes, and help with nervous system development.

Here is how each type of seafood can help your body.

  • Shrimp – Won’t raise cholesterol levels. If your levels are normal, they will stay that way.
  • Crabs, clams – Work to lower LDL levels in the blood.
  • Mussels, oysters – Lower LDL and also raise HDL levels to increase good cholesterol.
  • Fish – Increases HDL levels

Moderation

Just like with other foods, eating in moderation is better than overeating. Eating two or three servings of seafood a week can provide you will the amount of cholesterol that the body needs. The recommended level is about 300mg per day.

Be careful, though. The cholesterol profile of seafood can be changed for the bad when other foods like sauces and butter are introduced. This increases the amount of omega-6 fatty acids which are known to help increase LDL cholesterol stores. Try healthy ways to prepare your seafood for more of the omega-3 fatty acid benefit.