The minute you say the word cholesterol what comes into your head? In truth we all start thinking the worst possible things, it causes “heart attacks,” “its unhealthy,” “it makes you fat.” But is this the whole truth or just the case of a bad publicist?
So lets start at the beginning. Looking at the facts. Cholesterol is in fact an integral part in helping our bodies in the process building and repairing cells. As simply stated in Kids Health (1) “Cholesterol, a waxy substance produced by the liver and found in certain foods, is needed to make vitamin D and some hormones, build cell walls, and create bile salts that help you digest fat.” The liver does produce the vast majority of Cholesterol, however the rest of our bodies produces a small amount.
Now good cholesterol will help maintain hormone levels to their optimum. For instance, as stated in Todays Dietitian (2) “Cortisol, a glucocorticoid (steroid hormone), is produced from cholesterol.” Now as we know cortisol is important to our human nutrition, playing an important role. Making sure amounts of carbohydrate, fat, or protein are selected at the right among and type to meet energy demands the body has placed upon it. When cortisol is elevated, effects such as weight gain and obesity, Blood sugar rises and diabetes and immune function problems can occur. So cholesterol again is vital to this hormone and function, highlighting its importance. Others such as testosterone, which are responsible for muscle building and libido, are also included in this.
As we discussed previous cholesterol (not unlike ourselves!) has two sides. A bad side and a good side.
HDL and LDL. Now if we start with LDL. Cholesterol travels round our bodies via our blood streams. It gets together with protein particles and they form something called lipoproteins. Now this can be high in density or in LDL’s case Low in density.
Due to their low density the LDL have weak membranes. From time to time these break off. Which cause blood to clot. As it sounds this isn’t great news, increasing the risks of heart attacks and strokes. Now these cardio vascular diseases are usually commonly attributed to cholesterol and that’s most of the press it gets.
LDL Levels can be affected by eating certain foods. These foods are high in refined sugars and man-made (processed) carbs. Which unfortunately for us are found in nearly all of our favourite fast and junk foods! They cause inflammation within the body. This results in LDL being more likely to clot in your blood. So giving these foods a side step is essential for ‘good’ cholesterol. So wave goodbye to burger and chips! Well at least only have them now and again.
So now for the good news! HDL – as discussed earlier, when the cholesterol bonds in the blood with protein particles, it holds more protein. Making HDL denser. HDL also employs a cleaning service within our bloodstreams. HDL catches stray LDL that has broken away and removes it from the arteries. Kicking it straight to the liver where it is either exited or re used by the body.
Now cholesterol is somewhat genetic, but there are things we can do to improve it. Eating a healthy diet with regular exercise really can help lower the level of cholesterol within your blood.
There are some foods that contain cholesterol, this is dietary cholesterol (as of cause that’s where we get it from). Foods such as good old eggs and kidneys have high level of cholesterol than other foods. The cholesterol found in food has much less of effect on the cholesterol within your blood, than the mount of saturated fat that we eat.
One of the most important things you can do when advised to lower the level of cholesterol within blood is to reduce the amour of saturated fat within our diets.
Now there are two main types of fat, saturated being one of them! Un -saturated of cause is the other type of fat.
If you have a high level of cholesterol, the best foods to avoid are processed meat pies (the kind you get at the football gents!) and meats such as sausages, butter, cream and cheese.
Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can actually help reduce cholesterol levels.
If you are looking to improve your diet and improve your blood cholesterol levels then look to replace foods containing saturated fats with foods that contain higher levels of unsaturated fats instead of its saturated twin, look at foods such as oily fish (mackerel and salmon) and nuts (almonds and cashews). Look at the back of food labels and get wise to the differing ingredients and nutritional values your food actually has.
Websites such as the NHS are superb for advice and really can help you plan your and your families diet, to ensure you are on the right track.
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