What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance made by the liver that is waxy and fatty by nature. Our bodies need a certain amount of cholesterol to keep cells healthy and to produce vitamin D as well as certain hormones. Normally the liver produces enough cholesterol by its own to satisfy our bodies’ needs. But you have to be careful, because there are some dangers with cholesterol. In our modern life-style people tend to eat too much food that contains a high amount of cholesterol. This may cause our cholesterol levels to reach dangerous levels.
People with high cholesterol levels run an increased risk of suffering from heart disease. Heart attacks are usually a result of arteries (blood veins) getting clogged up by too much cholesterol sticking to artery walls. High cholesterol levels can also cause high blood pressure, since the blood cannot flow easily through arteries that are filled with cholesterol.
Is there such a thing as Good Cholesterol?
Yes! The type of cholesterol called “HDL” removes “bad” cholesterol from the arteries. It carries excess “bad” cholesterol to the liver, where HDL cholesterol is broken down and eliminated by the body. Having enough HDL cholesterol in your body may help prevent strokes and heart attacks while too much bad cholesterol may increase the risk of those health problem.
Foods with the highest amount of cholesterol include:
- Egg yolks
- Chicken liver
- Food fried in animal fats
- Processed meats
- Bakery products such as cakes, pies and cookies
Foods providing good cholesterol include:
- Whole grains
- Tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)
The best way to reduce your bad cholesterol levels is by eating more good cholesterol foods and avoiding saturated fats.
What is a Cholesterol Diet?
If your blood cholesterol reading is 150 mg/dL or more, you should start reducing your high cholesterol by:
- Making sure any fats you eat are unsaturated fats (found in fish, soybean products and virgin oil)
- Including plenty of soluble fiber in your diet (oatmeal, apples, prunes, pears and kidney beans).
- Eating fresh vegetables, legumes and cereals that contain plant sterols, a nutrient that can help reduce cholesterol by preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
- Bake, broil, grill, poach or microwave foods to reduce cholesterol amounts.
The Importance of Exercise for Reducing High Cholesterol Levels
Research shows that exercising regularly can reduce cholesterol by increasing good cholesterol levels and preventing your blood from absorbing bad cholesterol. Exercise can also help maintain a healthy weight. Overweight people tend to have high cholesterol levels and are more at risk for suffering heart disease than people who keep a healthy weight.
So, by avoiding saturated fats and eating appropriate food you can avoid unhealthy cholesterol and reduce the risk of serious health problems such as heart attacks and strokes. And remember, exercising helps keep your bad cholesterol levels down too!