We’ve all heard that high cholesterol is a risk to our health.
Lifestyle and dietary decisions, especially modern ones, contribute significantly to the risks of having too much bad cholesterol in our bodies.
Bad LDL cholesterol and good HDL cholesterol can affect us in significant ways. Foods with good types of fats actually work to lower our LDL cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance needed by your body to help build cells, help produce vitamin D, to make adrenal and other hormones, and contributes to other functions for our health.
The body actually produces its own cholesterol, so we don’t need any from our diets. But this is complicated by foods that we eat that contribute to the levels and types of fat our bodies take in and process.
We do need dietary fats, with recommendations suggesting they should comprise up to 35% of our diet. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are now known to be good for our health.
But the two not-so-good types, trans-fats and saturated fats, contribute to raising bad cholesterol, LDL, and can be problematic to our health.
The list of risks of having high LDL cholesterol is concerning:
- heart attack
- Alzheimer’s disease
- breast cancer
- declining kidney function
- damage to DNA
- lower back pain
- sexual dysfunction
- type 2 diabetes
Cholesterol-lowering drugs have been shown to be less effective than previously thought, and may actually increase health risks through their side effects. Muscle pain, liver damage, increased Type-2 diabetes and neurological effects are all linked to these drugs.
Improving our cholesterol balance through changes to our diet and lifestyle is now considered the ideal way to minimise the health risks of LDL cholesterol.
Changing diet along with having sufficient exercise shows the most effective results. Being overweight increases the amount of LDL cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream.
But just changing our diet can be very effective. Increasing our intake of mono-unsaturated fats (MUFAs) and avoiding or at least minimising our intake of trans-fats, saturated fats and cholesterol-rich foods can produce some amazing health benefits. This can lead to:
- improved cholesterol balance
- lowered risk of heart disease and stroke
- reduced risk of breast cancer
- reduced belly fat
- weight loss
- lessened effects of rheumatoid arthritis
All foods from animals contain cholesterol, whereas food from plants does not. Red meat, dairy products, chicken and eggs are all dietary sources which contribute to higher level of bad LDL cholesterol.
Fruit and vegetables, along with whole grains and beans not only contain no cholesterol, but some of these work to actually lower our LDL cholesterol levels.
Beans such as lentils, red and black beans and soy beans are plant-based sources of protein which can help lower LDL cholesterol, and also help lower blood sugar, and may even help lessen cancer risk.
Eating more foods containing monounsaturated fat, such as:
- olive oil
- almonds, cashews, brazil and pecans nuts, and
- macadamia nuts
can help provide the dietary fats our bodies need, all the while helping to reduce bad cholesterol.
Other foods which can help are cold water fish rich in Omega-3 oils – like salmon, trout, herring and sardines.
Increasing whole-grains in the diet, such as
- oats and oat bran
- sweet potato and potato
and lessening white flour and processed white flour products like white bread, cake and biscuits, can be particularly effective at lowering LDL cholesterol.
By treating cholesterol problems with a healthy approach, we may be able to lessen or even avoid the need for cholesterol-lowering drugs.