Meat Science and Nutrition

Cholesterol Content in Meat

What is cholesterol and why do cooks and meat processors need to know more about it? Cholesterol is essential for the structure and function of every cell in the body. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body and similarly in the meat of animals. The body makes all of the cholesterol it needs to function normally, but additional cholesterol enters the body through the consumption of animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy.

There are two types of cholesterol found in the body. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is commonly called “good” cholesterol, as opposed to low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol). LDL and HDL travel in the bloodstream, carrying cholesterol to wherever it needs to go within the body. HDL carries cholesterol back to the liver, where the body can process and remove it, while LDL leaves small traces of cholesterol on the walls of arteries as it travels.

Too much cholesterol, high levels of LDL in particular, may cause atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque (which is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances found in the blood) is deposited in artery walls, blocking the blood flow to vital organs, which can result in high blood pressure or stroke.

Cholesterol levels are measured by the concentration of HDL and LDL in the blood. A blood test will identify the amount of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides (the most common type of fat found in the body) present in the blood. A total cholesterol value is calculated by adding the amount of HDL, LDL, and 20% of the triglycerides together. This is represented in either micromoles per litre (mmol/L) or milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). In Canada, physicians use mmol/L, while in the United States, mg/dL is more common.

A total cholesterol level of 5.2 mmol/L (200 mg/dL) or below is recommended for an adult, with a level of 4.65 mmol/L (180 mg/dL) considered optimal. People with higher than recommended cholesterol levels are usually advised to be on a low cholesterol diet; therefore, we need to know more about which foods have less cholesterol so that we can cater to everyone’s dietary needs.

Table 5 lists some high-, moderate-, and low-cholesterol foods that are commonly used in restaurant kitchens and meat operations.

Table 5 – High-, medium-, and low-cholesterol foods
High-Cholesterol Foods mg per 100 grams
Butter 250
Clarified butter 256
Cream cheese 110
Whole eggs 372
Egg yolks 1,085
Heavy whipping cream 137
Light whipping cream 111
Yellow cheese 108
Lamb kidney 337
Pork liver 301
Lobster 200
Oyster 206
Shrimp 125
Roe 479
Crab meat (Alaskan King) 127
Fish oil, menhaden 521




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Meat Cutting and Processing for Food Service Copyright © 2015 by The BC Cook Articulation Committee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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