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 hormones such as estrogen, 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 of the low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or 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. And yet we need some LDL-Cholesterol because it helps with cell stability and function. A healthy level of LDL-cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dl.
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 number one, best way to do that is to simply decrease or, better yet, omit animal products from your diet including all meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese, etc.
But there is more Happy News about cholesterol! The "Happy" about Cholesterol is HDL-cholesterol. High-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol has a powerful preventive action against heart disease, stroke risk, and plays a role in reducing inflammation. While both LDL and HDL cholesterol carry cholesterol to and from your cells, high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol acts as your body’s garbage truck, hunting down excess cholesterol and carrying it to your liver. Once in the liver the cholesterol is broken down and removed from the body, therefore we call this “Happy” or “Good” cholesterol. A good level for HDL is above 40 mg/dl for men and above 50 mg/dl for women. Therefore, you want to increase the HDL roaming in your blood. How can we do that?
Thankfully there is a large amount of research that gives us some tips for how we can increase our HDL level, reduce LDL levels, and improve heart health! We will look at five ways:
Move more! Cardiovascular exercise can help normalize weight and increase 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 cardiovascular, exercise (aerobics, walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, etc.) consistently increases 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 the exercise. If you cannot carry on a conversation you need to slow down the exercise.
Be Tobacco Free! Smoking reduces the body’s concentration of HDL-cholesterol. Quitting smoking can increase your HDL-cholesterol by as much as 30% in three weeks, according Biomarker Research. If you are still breathing, and you are since you are reading this, it is never too late to quit smoking. Quitting isn’t easy, but it is possible! Are you ready to quit? We can help! Ask us how!
Go Nuts! Eating 8-20 nuts 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 at breakfast!
Eat More Whole Plant Foods and Decrease Processed Foods. The standard American diet is loaded with fast and processed food, containing high amounts of trans-fats, saturated-fats, and cholesterol. Trans-fats lower HDL levels. Instead of sugary and rich desserts, packaged snack foods, fried foods and meats that will decrease HDL and increase LDL, 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. We need 30-40 grams of fiber a day, but the average American get 10-15 grams per day. Some great sources of fiber are beans and other legumes, berries, flaxseed, whole grains such as oatmeal, barley, quinoa, etc., apples and any vegetable or fruit, and all nuts.
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. As you increase fiber in your diet, we recommend also increasing water intake. Fiber loves water like a sponge. Keep your blood and gut happy by drinking enough water (for most adults that is 60-80 ounces a day, more with exercise and if overweight).
You can remember the difference between the types of cholesterol by their letter abbreviations: LDL should be low; L for low or lousy. HDL should be high; H for high or happy!
You can make your cholesterol happy again! Here’s to your Happy Health!
If you would like to know more about reducing your cholesterol naturally, schedule an appointment today.