Lots of people are on medication like statins to reduce cholesterol these days but do you know what cholesterol is, and what does it do?
Cholesterol is a type of blood fat. We produce 75-80% ourselves, it’s an essential molecule in our body. It may be surprising that only a small percentage comes from our diet, because people used to think it came from foods high in cholesterol like eggs.
If you have higher inflammation the body produces more cholesterol.
What does cholesterol do?
Cholesterol helps us
- manufacture steroid (sex) hormones like testosterone or oestrogen
- helps us make vitamin D,
- maintain healthy cell membranes,
- repairs blood vessels,
- manufacture bile salts (which help us digest fats), and
- absorb and transport fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).
So it’s pretty important!
We were once told not to eat more than two eggs a week, but eating cholesterol doesn’t really raise our own cholesterol levels. You can eat around 6-8 eggs a week without any impact on your levels.
Why is high cholesterol bad?
The problem is that high cholesterol can cause heart disease. If there are a lot of fats in the blood, it can become sticky and ‘clog up’ your arteries.
Fatty deposits in the arteries form a plaque that can slow blood flow. When there is reduced blood flow the heart has to work extra hard, as well as less oxygen getting to our tissues.
Sugar and carbs drive high cholesterol
Actually the main driver of your high cholesterol could be a diet of simple carbohydrates (e.g. white bread & pasta), high trans fats (margarine, crisps, burgers, etc) and low fibre (not enough vegetables, whole grains or pulses).
When we eat a lot of sugar our liver makes more fats leading to higher fats in the blood.
We hear about good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol but the truth is both types have a use within your body.
It’s only when the LDL becomes oxidised that it negatively affects our heart health. Fat is pretty unstable, and molecules become oxidised through general wear and tear and daily living, including contact with toxins.
The more you are exposed to high LDL the higher your risk of heart disease will be.
We get more LDL from eating a diet high in saturated fats like animal products. Oxidation of LDL, and therefore damage to your arteries is much more likely if your diet is low in antioxidants and fresh vegetables.
Foods to support healthy cholesterol levels
The more we can lower our LDL exposure the more we reduce our disk of heart disease.
To keep your cholesterol in check look to:
- ⛔ Avoid simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, refined flour products)
- ⛔ Stop smoking
- ⛔ Reduce saturated fats – high fat dairy such as butter, and red meat
- ✅ Add fibre (vegetables, whole grains, pulses) to your diet
- ✅ Include heart healthy fats (fish, avocado, nuts etc), Omega 3 fats may decrease triglycerides and LDL (fats in the blood).
- ⛔ Avoid alcohol (due to sugars and negative impact on cardiovascular system and liver)
- ✅ Keep your liver healthy with green leafy veg, lots of water, reducing toxins
Do you need some support with managing your diet? Talk to me about how your health conditions may be supported by a change in diet. I can offer a 15 min phone call before you book anything to see if you want to work with me.
Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I specialise in all things ‘digestive health’ and I help people with their IBS symptoms.
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