Cholesterol is a naturally occurring fat-like and waxy substance made by the liver and required by the body for the proper function of cells, nerves and hormones.
Cholesterol is in every cell in your body. We need cholesterol to support the creation of Vitamin D; our brain needs it to create neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine; our skin needs it; our digestive system needs it to produce bile-salts that break down carbs, fat and protein so it can absorb important nutrients. It makes hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and adrenal hormones, and it also builds the structure of our cell membranes while other organs need it to do their jobs.
However, there is no need to eat foods high in cholesterol. The body is very good at making its own cholesterol – you don’t need to help it along. So, eating too much fat and high cholesterol food is not a good idea.
Cholesterol floats around in our blood and can enter the endothelial cells. This can cause the blood vessels to get stiffer, narrower, or clog up. If the clogging gets worse over many years, it can cause an interference with our cardiovascular system that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol can start to build up from childhood if we live an un-healthy lifestyle. Blood tests can show us our cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol comes in two key transport systems:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – carries most of the cholesterol that is delivered to cells. It is called the ‘bad’ or ‘lousy’ cholesterol because when its level in the bloodstream is high, it can clog up your arteries.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – is called the ‘good’ or ‘high quality’ cholesterol, because it helps remove excess cholesterol out of the cells, including cells in the arteries.
Foods that contain cholesterol
The cholesterol in your diet comes mainly from animal products that are rich in fat such as fatty meats, processed meat, dairy foods and eggs but also from chips, all deep-fried food, bakery goods and processed food. All foods from animals contain cholesterol.
Foods from plants do not contain any cholesterol.
Food that supports to lower Cholesterol naturally are:
- Vegetables are one of the top nutrient-dense foods, meaning they are high in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre to support heart health, yet low in calories. Not surprisingly, studies have found that eating more vegetables is linked to lower LDL cholesterol levels in both men and women.
- Seeds: nutritious seed varieties like flaxseeds and chia seeds have been shown to support both total and LDL cholesterol levels to keep your heart healthy.
- Turmeric: thanks to the presence of a powerful compound called curcumin, turmeric has been shown to reduce levels of total as well as LDL cholesterol in the blood.
- Garlic: well-known for its wealth of health-promoting properties, research shows that garlic could even benefit cholesterol levels as well. According to one review of studies, consuming garlic regularly for at least two months can lower cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Okra: this popular plant is high in fibre, potassium and antioxidants and can help promote better heart health. One animal study showed that okra extract was able to effectively decrease cholesterol and blood sugar levels in obese mice.
- Beans and Legumes: adding legumes to your diet can have a big impact on heart health. Studies show that a diet rich in legumes such as lentils, beans and peas is linked to lower levels of cholesterol in the blood.
- Sweet Potatoes: this tasty tuber contains several health-promoting proteins and compounds that have been shown to decrease cholesterol in animal models.
- Persimmon: incorporating a few servings of this nutritious fruit into your daily diet could have a major impact on heart health. One study found that consuming fibre extracted from persimmon fruit was effective at lowering cholesterol levels in adults.
- Gluten-Free Whole Grains: whole grains have been associated with lower levels of cholesterol and improved heart health. But because gluten can be highly inflammatory, it’s best to go for gluten-free whole grains instead, such as buckwheat, quinoa and millet.
Food that are associated with increasing Cholesterol and therefore should be avoided are:
- Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates: added sugar and refined carbs from ultra-processed foods can throw off your cholesterol ratio by decreasing good cholesterol levels in the blood.
- Alcohol: even in its smallest amount, alcohol is a poison for our body and drinking it can have detrimental effects on cholesterol levels. Reduce alcohol consumption as much as possible – none being the optimum to help optimize heart health.
- Caffeine beverages like coffee, sodas or energy drinks may cause an increase in cholesterol levels for some people. Limit coffee, black tea and green tea and use herbal teas instead to keep cholesterol in check.
- Trans Fats and any oxidated food: frequently found in processed foods, deep fried food and pre-packaged baked goods, trans fats can increase LDL cholesterol, decrease HDL cholesterol and boost the risk of coronary heart disease. It is best to cut these unhealthy fats completely out of your diet.
Not only when it comes to cholesterol, but for overall health and well-being, physical activity should be an essential part of our daily life. There are two types of exercise to be considered:
1. Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise or cardio(vascular) exercise is known to strengthen lungs, heart and immune system. It is associated with weight loss or keeping you slim and also supportive in lowering cholesterol levels if needed. Walking, Hydrotherapy, Aqua-Aerobics and other gentle aerobic exercise are ideal to include in our ‘daily activities of life (DAOL)’ a few times a week.
2. Resistance Training
Resistance training is a form of exercise that supports your muscles to build up strength, and endurance while training the muscles to contract when needed and relax when not required. Besides decreasing body tensions, it can have beneficial effects on heart health and cholesterol. Whole body exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, chin-ups, ab-roller and others can add huge health benefits when done regularly and therefore should also be included into your DAOL at least twice a week.
The combination of a healthy diet, regular exercise, deeply restful sleep as well as other healthy habits/routines has shown to maximise the health benefits including cholesterol-lowering effects. Looking at all the facts about Cholesterol it seems that it is beneficial in many ways, but it becomes a problem when combined with Inflammation in the body which generally is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.
As always, be sure to consult a medical health practitioner if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications, to find the best support for you.
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