Cholesterol, a waxy substance that’s manufactured by humans and other animals, plays an important role in your health. Your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to build healthy cells, create hormones, manufacture vitamin D and excrete bile acids to digest your food, but it can produce cholesterol on its own. In fact, a diet rich in cholesterol can negatively affect your body's blood cholesterol levels, especially if you're sensitive to dietary cholesterol. Deer is relatively low in cholesterol, but it contains saturated fat that can negatively affect your blood cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol’s waxy consistency prevents it from dissolving in your blood, so it rides around your body on carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, are called the “bad” cholesterol, while high-density lipoproteins, or HDL, are considered the “good” cholesterol. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends keeping your total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL, your LDL cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL and your HDL cholesterol at 60 mg/dL or higher.
LDL cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis, a condition that causes hard plaques to form along the inner walls of your arteries. When LDL levels are too high, the atherosclerosis can eventually restrict the flow of blood to your heart, a disorder known as coronary heart disease. HDL cholesterol fights the effects of LDL by carrying excess cholesterol to the liver so it can be excreted from your body. Many medical experts believe HDL can even pull LDL from arterial plaques, according to the American Heart Association.
Over-consuming deer meat can cause you to over-consume cholesterol. The TLC diet advises eating less than 200 milligrams a day of cholesterol, keeping your daily fat intake between 25 and 35 percent of your total calorie requirements, limiting saturated fats to less than 7 percent and selecting healthier polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats for your remaining fat intake.
Deer meat contains cholesterol and saturated fats, two of the main nutrients that increase LDL and total cholesterol levels. A 3-ounce slice of deer meat contains 67 milligrams of cholesterol, while other cuts of venison may be higher in cholesterol. A shoulder roast, for example, has 96 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3-ounce serving -- almost half your daily limit, if you suffer from high cholesterol. On the other hand, deer meat is lower in saturated fat than some other red meats, which means it's better for controlling your blood cholesterol levels. A 3-portion of venison has less than a gram of saturated fat, compared to 3.7 grams of saturated fat in a 3-ounce piece of lean, broiled tenderloin beef steak.
If you want to enjoy an occasional serving of deer meat, choose lean cuts and use heart-healthy cooking methods such as broiling or grilling. Instead of eating a large cut of meat, use venison as part of a casserole loaded with heart-healthy vegetables or whole grains. Remember that a 3-oz. serving is about the size of a deck of cards. Restaurant meals typically include two to four times that amount of meat, so plan on sharing the entrée.
- American Heart Association: About Cholesterol
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) Executive Summary
- American Heart Association: LDL and HDL Cholesterol: What's Bad and What's Good?
- Colorado State University: Dietary Fats and Cholesterol
- HeathAliciousNess: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool
- Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.