Do you think cholesterol is only about fatty food? Did you know that most of this fat substance is actually made by our bodies? 75% of the cholesterol in our body is produced by the liver and circulated in the blood, while only the remaining 25% comes from our food. Contrary to its negative rep, cholesterol, at normal levels, plays a vital role in aiding cell function. Get a better understanding of what cholesterol is, what’s good for you, what’s not, and food habits that can help maintain stable cholesterol levels.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a wax-like fat substance found in the cells in the body. Some level of cholesterol is needed by the body to produce vitamin D, hormones, and other enzymes or substances to aid digestion. While the body produces the cholesterol it needs, the additional ones come in from our food. This excess cholesterol in our system combines with other elements in the blood to form plaque. Plaque can bind to the walls of arteries, narrowing them down or even blocking them and eventually leading to heart disease, stroke and other chronic ailments.
What are LDL and HDL?
The two main types of cholesterol are:
HDL: High density lipoproteins (HDL) are referred to as the good cholesterol as they carry cholesterol from different parts of the body to the liver, from where they are removed from the body.
LDL: Low density lipoproteins (LDL) are referred to as the bad cholesterol as high LDL levels lead to build up of cholesterol in the arteries.
Causes of High Cholesterol
Several factors contribute to high cholesterol levels in the body:
- Unhealthy diet and eating habits
- Lack of or poor levels of physical activity
- Smoking, especially in women, lowers HDL levels and increases LDL levels
- Genetic predisposition or medical condition, for example, familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited type of high cholesterol
- Stress has an indirect but definitive link to high cholesterol levels
Cholesterol Diet and Cholesterol Reducing Foods
Since the main source of bad cholesterol is your diet, it’s imperative to watch what you eat. Avoid saturated fat found in red meat, full fat dairy products, baked goods, chocolate, deep fried as well as processed foods. Also avoid trans-fat, which is again found in fried and processed foods.
Harvard Health compiled a list of cholesterol lowering foods that can be incorporated into your diet to help keep cholesterol under control:
- Okra and eggplant
- Barley and whole grains
- Vegetable oil (sunflower, canola)
- Soy and soy-based foods
- Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, and tuna)
- Fruits (apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits)
- Fibre-rich food
How to Lower Cholesterol Levels?
Heart-healthy lifestyle, heart-healthy diet, regular physical activity, and weight management are all various steps to a common goal – healthy cholesterol levels. Beyond these means, there are some conditions that will require medication and a constantly-monitored medical plan structured by a physician to ensure your cholesterol levels remain steady and don’t pose a health threat.