nutrition cholesterolFor years, leading professionals in the food industry have deemed cholesterol as a nutrient of concern due to studies linking it to negative health effects.

Many editions of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have urged the population to limit the intake of cholesterol in an effort to reduce the risk of heart disease, congested arteries, and heart attacks. Although many studies have demonstrated a link between these health issues and high blood cholesterol levels, the nutrient is now less of a focus in the eighth edition of the guidelines.
Cholesterol is a non-essential nutrient found throughout the cells of our bodies. It is a key component in cell structure and the production of enzymes for digestion as well as hormones and vitamin D. While the functions executed with the help of cholesterol are numerous, the human body is capable of producing this nutrient, classifying it as a non-essential nutrient. Dietary cholesterol is found in animal products. Dairy, poultry, meat, seafood and egg yolks all contain dietary cholesterol. For many years it was believed that dietary cholesterol consumed in large quantities was linked to heart disease, however, more recent research notes that other factors, such as genetics, have a larger role in heart disease development. Due to this discovery, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans panel has revised the position on dietary cholesterol consumption.
Due to the high prevalence of heart-related issues in the U.S., past editions of the Dietary Guidelines have included recommendations for limiting the consumption of cholesterol. The 2010 guidelines recommend limiting dietary cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day. This limit no longer exists in the current version of the guidelines due to the fact that the average intake per day falls near 270 milligrams. The Institute of Medicine recommends keeping dietary cholesterol intake as low as possible, making it a nutrient to focus on if a food service establishment is looking to provide healthier options for diners.
Despite Americans’ low average cholesterol intake, the nutrient should remain on the health radar. Since it is found in animal products, other nutrients of concern can be found in higher levels in these foods as well. Saturated fats, naturally occurring trans fat and sodium are often found in higher levels in animal products compared with plant-based foods. These nutrients are all recommended to be consumed at lower levels, which inadvertently suggests lower cholesterol intake.
With the elimination of the previous recommendation to limit cholesterol intake, eggs are no longer the enemy. Previously, it was believed that harmful health effects would result from consuming eggs due to their high levels, one large egg exceeds 180 milligrams of cholesterol; however a more recent body of evidence has shown several factors to be influential in the development of heart disease, not just dietary consumption. Eggs contain many other beneficial nutrients and no longer have to be viewed as an enemy. Adding eggs to menu items can expand the nutrient content and flavor profile of many dishes.
In order to provide restaurant menu items that feature lower levels, look to add more plant-based recipes. Fruits, vegetables, grains, oils, nuts and seeds do not contain dietary cholesterol and can be offered as replacements for animal products. To identify the greatest contributions of cholesterol in your menu items, it is best to complete the menu nutritional analysis and seek the guidance of an expert to help with edits to recipes that are exceptionally high. Although editing a recipe can be challenging, the outcome will show your customers you invest in their wellbeing and support healthy eating endeavors.

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