Cholesterol is a type of fat that is part of all animal cells. It has a role in many metabolic processes in the body, including the production of hormones, bile, and vitamin D. However, there is no need to eat foods high in cholesterol, the body can make its own cholesterol.
Diets that are energy-dense, rich in monounsaturated fat, fiber, minerals such as a-tocopherol, magnesium and copper, and phytonutrients increase beneficial cholesterol. Proper fat composition and fiber consumption contribute to its hypocholesterolemic benefit. This type of diet benefits other modifiable cardiovascular and diabetes risks such as body weight, glucose homeostasis, inflammation and oxidative stress, thanks to its unique nutrient composition. Studies support that a proper diet beneficially affects the risk of chronic degenerative disease beyond lowering cholesterol.
Cholesterol Is Vital
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and is also made by most cells in the body. It is carried in the blood by tiny ‘couriers’ called lipoproteins. We need blood cholesterol for the following purposes:
- Creating the structure of cell membranes
- Making hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and adrenal hormones
- Helping your metabolism work efficiently
- helping your body produce vitamin D
- Producing bile acids, which help the body digest fat and absorb important nutrients
Is High Cholesterol A Good Thing?
If you have higher levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) — “good” cholesterol — it may offer some protection from heart disease.
HDL cholesterol helps get rid of bad cholesterol in the body and prevents it from accumulating in the linings of your arteries. Cholesterol buildup can lead to serious health events such as a heart attack or stroke.
Having low HDL cholesterol doesn’t seem to directly cause problems. However, it is an important feature that should be considered when describing individuals who may have an unhealthy lifestyle in general.
The Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol
If cholesterol is so necessary, why is it sometimes described as “bad” and sometimes “good”? We mentioned that your liver packages cholesterol into so-called lipoproteins, which are combinations of lipids (fats) and proteins. Lipoproteins transport cholesterol, other lipids such as triglycerides, fat-soluble vitamins and other substances through the bloodstream to cells that need them.
Low-density lipoproteins, sometimes called “bad cholesterol,” get their bad reputation from the fact that their high levels are associated with increasing your risk of heart disease. LDL contains more cholesterol than protein, making it lighter. LDL circulates in the bloodstream and carries cholesterol to cells that need it. When oxidized, LDL can promote inflammation and force lipids to build up on the walls of blood vessels in the heart and the rest of the body to form plaques. These plaques can thicken and limit or completely block blood and nutrients to the affected tissue or organs.
HDL – or high-density lipoproteins – are also commonly referred to as “good cholesterol.” HDL is heavier than LDL because it contains more protein and less cholesterol. HDL gets its reputation from taking cholesterol from cells and bringing it to the liver. Having higher HDL levels can also help lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
High Cholesterol Foods To Avoid
Foods that likely raise LDL cholesterol contain saturated fat and trans-fat.
Highly saturated foods are animal products such as: high-fat cuts of beef, lamb, pork, butter, cream, ice cream, whole milk, cheese, egg yolks, and foods that are made with these products.
Foods high in trans-fat are: fried foods, commercially baked goods (donuts, cookies, crackers), processed foods, and margarines. Try to find trans-fat free margarines, or use olive or canola oil instead of butter or margarine when you are cooking.
Low Cholesterol Food Options
The American Heart Association recommends a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts to lower cholesterol. AHA also says to limit red meat and sugary foods and beverages.
Safe Blood Cholesterol Levels
Health authorities recommend that cholesterol levels should be no higher than 5.5 mmol per litre if there are no other risk factors present. If there are other cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking and high blood pressure or pre-existing cardiovascular (heart) disease, then the aim for the LDL levels would be less than 2 mmol/l.
You don’t need to eat foods that contain cholesterol. Your body can produce all the cholesterol it needs. High-cholesterol foods are often foods that are also high in saturated fats. These foods should be limited in a healthy diet.
Here are some tips for taking advantages of cholesterol:
Regular Physical Activity
30 minutes of physical activity, the kind that gets your heart rate up five times a week, can improve your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL and triglycerides. This could be walking, running, swimming, cycling, skating or any activity that suits your taste.
One of the best reasons to quit smoking; Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol. Low HDL in smokers makes blood vessels more vulnerable to damage. This can make smokers more likely to develop heart disease.
Quitting now can increase your good cholesterol, reduce your LDL and triglycerides, as well as provide a host of health-friendly benefits.
Choose Healthy Foods
The American Heart Association Source recommends a diet that contains a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and lean proteins such as soy, poultry, and fish. Your diet should be low in salt, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, and red meat.
Choosing healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil and avocados, can help improve your HDL cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids also contribute to heart health.
Drink In Moderation
Currently, the American Heart AssociationTrusted Source does not recommend drinking alcohol for heart health due to the risks related to high alcohol intake. However, moderate alcohol intake — one drink or fewer per day for women and two drinks or fewer a day for men — may raise HDL cholesterol to a small degree.
Keep Up With Your Regular Doctor Check-Ups
Talk to your doctor about the potential to supplement your cholesterol treatment with niacin, fibrates or omega-3 fatty acids by sharing your daily diet and lifestyle habits.