The confusion over cholesterol is high these days. What should we be eating and doing to keep our cholesterol numbers in check? What numbers should we really be paying attention to?
While cholesterol is an actual molecule, what it is bound to while it's floating through your blood is what's more important than just how much of it there is overall. In fact depending on what it's combined with can have an opposite effect on your arteries and heart. Yes, opposite!
Myth #1: Cholesterol is just "cholesterol"
Cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood. These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.
They're grouped into two main categories:
"Cholesterol” isn't simply cholesterol. Because of the different components of cholesterol, it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it's bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.
Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad
Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats. It acts as a "healing agent" for damage that may be occurring in your arteries. Not to mention that it's incorporated into the membranes of your cells for flexibility.
Talk about an important molecule!
The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn't nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.
While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.
Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol
Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver. It's actually not from the cholesterol you eat. Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)? 'Cause that's where it's made!
What you eat can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces. After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn't need to make as much. Your body has a beautiful way of balancing things, especially when you eat whole (non-processed) foods.
Find out why the "Diet" mentality can reek havoc on your body's natural balance of cholesterol.
Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible
As with almost everything in health and wellness there's a balance that needs to be maintained. There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.
People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.
And remember what I stated earlier, cholesterol is needed for the production of our sex hormones and vitamin D.
Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance
Please don't start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.
While drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol, they don't seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.
Guess what does? Nutrition and exercise!
One of the most powerful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables (which happen to contain plenty of natural plant sterols). I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day. Every day.
I help my clients to incorporate vegetables into their diet with each meal and snacks too!)
Don't worry the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.
You can also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats. That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil. Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.
Incorporating more exercise into your day is not as easy as it seems. One has to develop a system for changing up routine habits that are not enlisting healthier habits to ensue.
The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we're learning more every day. You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are. And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.
The Restart Program can help show you the way!
Recipe (Dressing to go with your salad): Orange Hemp Seed Dressing
Makes about ¾ cup
½ cup hemp seeds
½ cup orange juice
1 clove of garlic, peeled
dash salt and/or pepper
Blend all ingredients together until creamy.
Serve on top of your favourite salad and Enjoy!
Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge. Will keep for about a week.
It's a blog...
I am a fanatic when it comes to uncovering the truths and the falsities to sound nutrition and good health. When we use a little common sense we can back up anything, yet there is always room for debate.