Cholesterol is essential for our health. It is required to make hormones, for cell membranes, tissue repair and vitamin synthesis. Many people worry about high cholesterol, but low cholesterol is also linked to disease.
There are two main types of cholesterol, LDL and HDL. It is the LDL (also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol) which is considered to cause the most damage. Factors that contribute to high LDL levels include smoking, high sugar consumption, low omega 3 intake, high omega 6 intake, a diet high in trans fats (processed foods, deep fried foods, confectionary etc) and high insulin levels (or insulin resistance).
Many people think that eating a diet high in dietary cholesterol (eggs are always the food mentioned!) will cause high cholesterol in the body, but this isn’t true. Most of the cholesterol in the body is made by the body. Trans fats and sugar have more of an impact on the body’s cholesterol level than dietary cholesterol.
Here are some tips to a health cholesterol level -
- Avoid high sugar foods such as processed chocolate, cakes, cereals, cereal bars, yoghurts etc. which will all also be processed. Instead opt for naturally sweetened foods such as fruit. If you need to sweeten a dish (such as porridge) try using cinnamon or brown rice syrup.
- Reduce omega 6 oils such as sunflower, safflower, canola etc. Many people cook with these, but instead, cook with coconut oil, or, if cooking at a low temperature, olive oil is ok. Using too many omega 6 foods and oils will affect the omega 3:6 ratio.
- Introduce healthy fats such as avocados, raw unsalted nuts and seeds, and oily fish. Walnuts and flaxseeds have been shown to have the most benefit on lowering cholesterol. These will increase the omega 3 levels in the body, as will oily fish.
- Eat plenty of veg! Organic is always best, but any is better than none! I advise at least 8 portions a day, but ideally 12+! A variety of colourful veg will give you a range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, reduce inflammation and will also improve the health of the arteries.
- Avoid stress, or find a way to cope with stress. I am aware many stressors cant just be cut out of our lives, but we can learn how to deal with it better. Stress and hormonal imbalance is massively liked to high cholesterol. Use deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga etc. to help reduce stress, as well as increasing foods high in magnesium, B5, B6 and vitamin C which are the nutrients needed for adrenal health.
- Exercise enough to help reduce stress and to reduce the levels of fat in out blood stream, but be aware not to over exercise. Over exercising can cause extra stress, which you want to limit if you know you already have high stress levels!
- Eat lots of high fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables, oats, beans, lentils and wholegrains.
- Add lots and lots of garlic to your meals! It has been shown to lower triglycerides, LDL and increase HDL.
So if you have high cholesterol, or just want to make sure you keep it in a health range, follow these simple steps!
If you would like to keep up to date with blogs and recipes, please fill in the form below to sign up to my newsletter.