5 things about cholesterol you need to know

5 things about cholesterol you need to know

During the evolution of western culture, diets and nutrition became exponentially more popular. The 1950s proved to be a specific time period in which cholesterol became one of the most feared health hazards in America. 


Back then, with fast spreading evidence from scientists and doctors, the American population believed fats and cholesterol were the enemy, and were becoming a detriment toward western health. 


Experts have continued over the years to understand how cholesterol works and have reflected on previous ideologies regarding the compound. 


Now that is is 2019, the knowledge surrounding cholesterol has changed, yet some people still find themselves unsure. 


With the popularity of high carb low fat diets, high fat diets like ketogenic, and high protein diets like paleo, it can get confusing for the average person to digest. 


Despite these popularities, it is important to understand that not every diet will work for every person. Each individual requires a diet that pertains specifically to their own health and balances. 


These 5 points regarding cholesterol are important to understand so that when the time comes, it can help you make an educated decision on what foods to integrate into your unique diet. 


1. What exactly is cholesterol? 


According to Medline Plus, cholesterol is a compound with a waxy, fat-like consistency, and is located in your cells. It can greatly effect your blood levels and overall health. 


The importance of cholesterol is to help produce hormones, make vitamin D, help move blood through your body, and assist with digestion. 


Cholesterol can impact your overall health because in excess it can combine with other materials throughout the body and form plaque within the arteries. This can lead to blockage of blood flow, and potentially a stroke and/or heart attack.


2. The good versus the bad. 


There are three types of cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein). What is most important for the everyday person to understand is the difference between HDL and LDL. 


HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein, and is your good cholesterol. The reason it is dubbed as good cholesterol is because it is responsible for helping to clear the bad cholesterol, or the plaque, from your arteries. It will bring the cholesterol to your liver, and the liver will expel the cholesterol from the body.


LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein, and is known as your bad cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is responsible for dispensing plaque into the arteries, and high levels can be dangerous. 


The average person should get their blood tested and look at both HDL and LDL values in contrast with one another to get a full idea on their cholesterol health. 


3. How do we absorb and obtain cholesterol? 


Most assume cholesterol is only obtained through food, but there is a certain level that is genetically passed on according to Englewood Health


These genetic factors cannot be changed, however small levels of an individual’s cholesterol can be changed through diet and exercise. If someone is genetically predisposed to unbalanced levels of cholesterol, they may have to work harder through diet and exercise to adapt the dietary cholesterol within their body. 


Harvard Health claims that only about 20 percent of the cholesterol within your body is acquired from the food you eat, and the other 80 percent is produced by your liver and intestines. 


Because of this, foods higher in cholesterol has a very small effect on LDL levels, and what is more important to focus on are the different fats within an individual’s diet. 


Saturated fats and trans fats are more likely to negatively impact the “bad” cholesterol levels and lower the amount of good cholesterol levels within the blood. 


Healthy fats like monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega 3 fatty acids are great for balancing cholesterol levels. 


4. Foods to avoid. 


According to The Street 15 foods to avoid eating if high cholesterol is a concern are:


  • Liver

  • High fat muffins

  • Margarine

  • Microwave popcorn 

  • Commercial baked goods 

  • Shellfish

  • Mac n cheese

  • Hamburgers/cheeseburgers 

  • Fried chicken 

  • French fries 

  • Cream cheese 

  • Ice cream 

  • Egg yolks 

  • Butter

  • Red meat 


From a general standpoint, there are more foods that go beyond those listed, and not all are bad in moderation, like eggs. 


A general rule of thumb is to look out for and avoid foods high in unhealthy fats and discuss dietary and exercise plans with a doctor. 


5. Foods to eat.


According to Harvard Health, 11 foods to eat in order to lower cholesterol are: 


  • Oats (like our granola!)

  • Barely and whole grains

  • Beans

  • Eggplant and okra 

  • Nuts

  • Vegetable oils

  • Apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits 

  • Foods fortified with sterols and stanols 

  • Soy

  • Fatty fish

  • Fiber supplements 


In addition to that, avocado, dark chocolate, teas, and garlic have been known to help lower cholesterol as well. 

Back to blog

Leave a comment