Q. How can a product be labelled “cholesterol free” if it’s high in fat?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Thursday, 07 March 2013.
Tagged: cholesterol, fat, healthy eating, healthy heart, oil

Q.  How can a product be labelled “cholesterol free” if it’s high in fat?

A. Fat and cholesterol are two separate components of food. Only animal foods such as prawns, eggs, meat (especially organ meats such as liver, kidney and brains) and milk contain cholesterol, while plant-based foods do not.

Cholesterol-free claims regulated

Australian food regulations limit a claim saying 'Cholesterol-free' or 'No cholesterol' to only those foods that have negligible cholesterol AND are also low in fat (ie less than 3 per cent fat) or low in saturated fat (ie less than 20 per cent saturated fats). Remember, it's generally the saturated fat that needs to be limited, not the cholesterol.

Margarines, salad dressings, mayonnaise and oils – which are high in fat – can be free of cholesterol, if they're based on a suitable vegetable oil such as canola, olive or sunflower. However, be wary of No cholesterol claims on foods like potato crisps, snack foods, biscuits, fries and fried foods.

Check the type of oil that's used. If the label simply lists VEGETABLE OIL, it's most likely to be palm oil, which is cheap, saturated and not a good choice.

If it names the type of oil eg "Cooked in sunflower oil" then you know what type of oil you're getting.

Example

  • Rice bran oil claims "No cholesterol" on its label. It is allowed to claim this as it has negligible cholesterol AND it has only 19 per cent saturated fat.
  • Potato crisps can't claim this. They have no cholesterol but are cooked in palm oil which has 50 per cent saturated fat.
Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.