Did you know your body needs cholesterol?
Did you know your body makes all the cholesterol it needs?
Why does our body make cholesterol?
We need some cholesterol to live a long, healthy life. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that plays a role in making sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, adrenal hormones and also helps regulate blood pressure and metabolism as well as plays an important role in the formation of Vitamin D.
Cholesterol has gotten a bad reputation because the low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “Lousy” cholesterol, can build up in our blood vessels and can cause plaques to form in our arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Since our body makes all the cholesterol it needs, we do not need any dietary cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal products. So if you are needing to lower your total cholesterol or your LDL-cholesterol, the best way to do that is to simply decrease or, better yet, omit the source of cholesterol, i.e. animal products, from your diet.
But there is good news about cholesterol. High-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol acts as your body’s garbage truck and hunts down excess cholesterol and carries it to your liver. Once in the liver the cholesterol is broken down and removed from the body, therefore we call this “Happy” or “Healthy” cholesterol. HDL-cholesterol has a powerful preventive action against heart disease and stroke. Therefore, you want to increase the HDL roaming in your blood.
How can we increase HDL cholesterol?
There is a large amount of research that gives us some hints of how we can increase our HDL level and improve heart health! We will look at five ways:
1. Move more! Cardiovascular exercise can help normalize your weight and increase your HDL levels! According to the Journal of Sports Sciences, cardio exercise performed for 50-60 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 12 weeks, resulted in a significant decrease in body fat, insulin resistance, blood pressure and LDL-cholesterol levels, while increasing the HDL-cholesterol. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, aerobic or cardio exercise (aerobics, walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, etc.) consistently increase HDL levels. You can know you are doing “cardio” exercise if you can carry on a conversation while you are exercising, but you should not be able to sing a whole line of a song without taking a few extra breaths. If you can sing a whole line you need to speed up. If you cannot carry on a conversation, slow down.
2. Be Tobacco Free! Smoking reduces the body’s concentration of HDL-cholesterol, but just by quitting smoking you can increase your HDL-cholesterol by as much as 30% in three weeks of quitting, according to Biomarker Research. As long as you are still breathing it is never too late to quit smoking. Quitting isn’t easy, but it is possible!
3. Go Nuts! Eating 8-20 nuts (but not more) daily is enough to raise HDL levels by as much as 16 percent after 12 weeks, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition. The type of fat in nuts seems to limit the absorption of LDL-cholesterol and increases the amount sent to the liver to be eliminated. So grab a small handful of nuts this morning at breakfast!
4. Eat More Whole Plant Foods and Decrease Processed Foods! Choose colorful foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts and seeds. Plant foods contain fiber that will help eliminate unneeded cholesterol.
5. Drink water! Water is our body’s preferred liquid. If we stay hydrated, our blood will be thinner and more efficient with cleaning up and clearing out unwanted materials. Also as you increase fiber in your diet you will also need to increase you water intake. Fiber loves water like pigs love mud. Keep your blood and gut happy by drinking enough water.
You can do it! You can Start a New YOU!
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