How to Manage Cholesterol, Naturally!
Cholesterol gets a bad wrap, but did you know it is essential to life? It is present in every cell in the human body and plays important roles...
It is needed to strengthen the cell wall and is a major component of the myelin sheath which insulates nerve cells.
It protects our brain against oxidative damage associated with aging
It is needed to produce vitamin D from sun exposure
It is vital for the production of our sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, and
It helps produce bile acids which help break down fat for digestion.
Cholesterol needs to travel through the bloodstream which is water-based, therefore cholesterol needs a fat-based carrier. That's where lipoproteins, LDL and HDL, come in to carry cholesterol to and from the liver. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to different parts of the body and HDL carries it from parts of the body to the liver for removal.
Often LDL cholesterol levels are used to determine whether preventative heart disease treatment is needed or not. However, not all LDL particles influence heart disease. The most important is the size and density of the LDL particles. They come in two sizes, small and large. The small LDL cholesterol particles are more of a risk than their larger counterparts. Too much small and dense LDL and not enough HDL enables cholesterol to build up in the bloodstream. This build-up allows for smaller and dense LDL cholesterol to attach to the artery wall, build plaque and damage the artery wall - contributing to atherosclerosis.
Standard LDL cholesterol levels are calculated based on measured total cholesterol, HDL, and triglyceride levels (a type of fat found in blood and fat cells). Standard blood cholesterol levels do not consider the size of the LDL particles and unfortunately not all cholesterol-lowering drugs promote a shift in LDL particle composition. These drugs often have side effects associated with taking them too.
Often a low-fat diet is recommended for people with higher cholesterol and to reduce the risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, a low-fat diet usually becomes a high-carb diet that increases LDL levels, raises triglycerides, and reduces HDL levels that carry cholesterol to the liver for removal.
Here are some tips to help manage cholesterol, naturally:
Reduce the intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars in your diet. This includes baked goods and packaged foods with high sugar content. A high intake of refined carbs increases triglycerides which are part of forming small, dense LDL particles.
Avoid trans fats and refined vegetable oils & margarine. Trans fats raise LDL levels and lower the amount of HDL cholesterol. Instead choose healthy fats with a high omega-3 ratio such as walnut oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for reducing inflammation, decreasing free radicals that can cause damage, and increase HDL levels.
Have a regular exercise schedule. Regular exercise has been shown to directly influence lipoprotein particles. It can increase HDL cholesterol and reduce dense LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Increase fiber intake - especially from fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Fiber acts like a sponge, absorbing and removing cholesterol from the gut.
Increase the beneficial bacteria in your gut with probiotic foods & supplements. They can help reduce cholesterol levels.
Increase antioxidant intake from fruits like berries They support the reduction of oxidation of the small, dense LDL cholesterol buildup in arteries.