The way we eat affects our bodies in so many ways, cholesterol levels being just one of them. You may have heard from certain food commercials that their food product helps lower cholesterol, like Cheerios. What do they really mean by this? What is cholesterol? This post takes a deep dive answering these questions and to provide you with information on how you can manage your cholesterol levels within a healthy range.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol in the body is used to help make Vitamin D, bile acids, and myelin sheaths. Bile acids are used to help digest fats, and myelin sheaths are the part of neurons that makes sure the electrical signal can move from one side of the cell to the other for cellular communication. Cholesterol is actually very important! When doctors may tell you to lower your cholesterol, they are most likely talking about your LDL levels specifically. Talk with your doctor and ask questions if you are confused or concerned about your LDL, HDL, or total cholesterol levels.
There are two different forms of cholesterol – LDL and HDL. LDL is known as the “bad” form; it carries cholesterol molecules to cells in the body that need it. It can become bad when there is too much LDL carrying cholesterol because then it may collect in the walls of the arteries creating a buildup of plaque, which does not give blood enough room to pass through the artery. HDL is known as the “good” form; it’s role is to get rid of excess cholesterol in the blood. This helps keep the arteries clear and prevent plaque from building up on the artery walls.
What Foods Help Lower Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is found in animal sources only, not in plants. Common food sources include poultry, red meat, pork, dairy, egg yolk, and shrimp. Depending on the product, cholesterol can be found in processed foods as well. Check the nutrition facts label on the package to see if it contains any cholesterol.
It is important to note that just because these foods contain cholesterol does not mean that they should be eliminated. Remember that cholesterol does play an important role in the body! And these foods are also great protein sources. What is important is to eat them in a moderate level.
Foods that can help lower cholesterol include oats, barley and other whole grains, beans, eggplant and okra, nuts, vegetable oils, apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits, soy, and fatty fish. Several of these foods (whole grains, vegetables, and fruit) contain soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and removes them from the body before they are introduced into the body’s circulation. Fatty fish and nuts are good sources of polyunsaturated fats which are known to lower LDL cholesterol.
What Else Can I Do to Lower my Cholesterol Levels?
There are a number of things that you can do in your daily life that will help lower your LDL cholesterol levels. Here are several tips that you can follow:
Stay physically active – choose movement that you enjoy!
Do not smoke
Increase your fiber intake
Lower your alcohol intake to 1 drink/day
Reduce your processed food intake (croissants, biscuits, ice cream) – there is no need for complete elimination, that can cause greater harm in the long-term. It’s about moderation!
The Bottom Line
Managing your cholesterol is easier than you think! Choose foods higher in fiber, limit your red meat consumption and alcohol intake, and create a fitness routine that you enjoy and fits your schedule. These are just a few things you can do to help lower your cholesterol levels.
Do you want to make some of these changes but not sure how to get started on your own? Book your free 10-minute consultation with me to learn how to make sustainable lifestyle changes to benefit your health!