Cholesterol is good for you. Your body is made up of trillions of cells, and cholesterol helps repair them. Too much cholesterol, however, can cause a hardening of your arteries, leading to heart disease and stroke.
Shockingly, legitimate medical experts and researchers (not the quacks with something to sell) are now telling us that dietary cholesterol (the type found in eggs, butter, shellfish, cheese, etc.) isn’t the type that causes heart disease!
Dietary vs. Non-Dietary Cholesterol – The Key!
The cholesterol that causes atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”) is produced by your internal organs, such as the liver, intestines and adrenal glands. Dietary cholesterol is not atherogenic! After all these years of avoiding eggs – who knew?!
It’s About your LDL Particles
So, LDL is the “bad” cholesterol you need to watch out for. But the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood isn’t as important as the amount of LDL cholesterol that gets into your arteries. LDL cholesterol is more likely to get into your arteries if you have more LDL particles in your blood. LDL particles transport LDL cholesterol around your body, and when there are many LDL particles, more LDL cholesterol goes into your arteries.
Guess what stimulates the production of LDL particles? Sugar.
So, replacing steak and bacon and eggs and cheese with pasta and potatoes will actually backfire on you and increase your chance of coronary heart disease. This is not some Atkins/Low-Carb theory, although, you don’t want to rush to a low-carb diet. Low-carb/high-protein diets have problems of their own, such as causing dehydration, kidney problems, lack of essential minerals (especially calcium), lack of fiber, fatigue, no proven weight-loss benefit over balanced diets and other issues.
Eating a balance of colorful carbohydrates (fresh fruits and vegetables), eating nuts and seeds, adding more healthy fats (olive oil, Omega-3) and choosing lean protein sources is a better strategy than going carnivore crazy.
Keep an Eye on HDL
HDL cholesterol, known as the “good cholesterol,” can reverse some of the problems caused by LDL. If you get a cholesterol test, check your HDL numbers and Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are the best tools for fighting cholesterol problems for the general public. Reducing processed sugars, high-glycemic (processed and sugary) carbs, increasing Omega-3 fatty acids and taking medications called statins can also help. If you have chronically high LDL cholesterol, you and your doctor might not know that you have one of the most under diagnosed diseases — familial hyperholesterolemia. If you have low HDL (below 40 for a man and below 50 for a woman), you might have familial HDL deficiency.
Here are a few tips for helping improve your blood cholesterol…
•Eat More Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber is the part of plants you can digest, so they go right through you, taking lots of cholesterol with them. Oatmeal, for example, is an excellent cholesterol-fighting food, and one you should eat on a regular basis. Add fiber to meals with whole grains and vegetables. Include the skin of vegetables when you can, like the skins of potatoes.
•Choose the Right Types of Fish
You don’t always want to lower your cholesterol number. Raising your high-density lipoproteins, or “good cholesterol” may help you improve your overall blood cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic. Add the following fish to your meals to help improve your cholesterol. Taking fish oil improve your triglyceride levels.
Popular restaurant fish selections include tilapia and catfish. These are billed as healthy meals, but contain more Omega-6 fatty acids instead of the Omega-3 fats you’re seeking. While a plate of fish isn’t going to cure or kill you either way, eating “garbage fish” on a regular basis might lead to health problems.
•Avoid Bad Fish Oil
Be aware that no all fish oil is the same. Ignore the information on the front of the jar and check the back label. Don’t be fooled by claims of “1,000 mgs of fish oil!” You want 1,000 mgs of Omega-3 per pill. If not, you will get fish oil tablets with impurities and have to take three to five pills per day (with extra fat and toxins). Look for the amount of EPA and DHA on the nutrition label. Also, choose enteric-coated capsules for better digestion and absorption.
Nuts are another good way to add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Nuts can be high in calories, so take a large handful as a snack, and put just enough peanut butter and banana sandwich to taste. You mouth may not notice those extra couple of tablespoons on your sandwich, but your hips eventually will.
Cranberry juice is a high-calorie, but heart-healthy, option. The jury is still out on whether or not cranberry juice definitely improves your cholesterol, but at least two studies found that some patients who drank cranberry juice each day raised their HDL levels by as much as 10 percent. This may not be convincing enough evidence to drink cranberry juice every day as a cholesterol preventive, but cranberry juice also has other benefits, such as helping reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
Read the label on any juice you buy. Look for 100 percent juice (it must say it near the nutrition label). You’ll also be shocked to learn that many of the juices you examine (no matter what fruit or berry is advertised on the label) are mostly apple and pear juice.
•Choose Healthy Fats
Cook with monounsaturated fats to lower your low-density lipoprotein, or “bad cholesterol” numbers. Read nutrition labels to avoid saturated and trans fat.
•Add Aerobic Exercise
Regular aerobic exercise can improve your good cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. You’ll also burn calories and strengthen your heart. Make exercise fun (go for walks, ride a bike, play tennis) and you’ll be more likely to get physical activity on a regular basis.
When to See your Doctor
If you can’t improve your cholesterol numbers with dietary and lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor about supplements and medications, specifically statins. If your numbers still don’t respond, ask your doctor to examine you for familial hypercholesterolemia or familial HDL deficiency. It’s one of the most under-diagnosed conditions (roughly 90 percent of people who have it don’t know it) and many doctors are not familiar with it.
World’s Healthiest Foods: Cranberries
Mayo Clinic: Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Cholesterol Numbers
Mayo Clinic: HDL Cholesterol: How to Boost your “Good” Cholesterol