This was during my imperceptibly overweight couch potato and eating lots of cake days. I was genuinely shocked; I was only 41 and yet, I was already developing a condition, which I’d associated with middle age. It was a reminder of my mortality. So, I did something about it.
I cut down eating cakes and exercised.
While writing this blog, I noticed that there was a recurring theme. Most of the healthy foods I looked at, where proven to reduce cholesterol. So, I’ve decided to examine it in more detail.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance made in the liver. There is usually about 10g in the body; 7% of it, is found in our blood. It’s important for:
- Maintaining integrity and structure of cell membranes.
- Facilitating communication and transport across cell membranes.
- Maintaining cell membrane fluidity.
- Controlling the loss of sodium and potassium ions across cell membranes.
- Helping in the synthesis of bile acids, (used in fat absorption), including vitamin D, sex hormones and steroids.
Cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in water, so it can’t travel through our blood on its own. Therefore, the liver produces ‘lipoproteins’ – made from fat and protein, which helps to transport it.
These lipoproteins are made up of ‘good’ cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein or HDL), ‘bad’ cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL), and triglycerides, which are similar to LDL.
HDLs transport cholesterol towards the liver for disposal and, make you less likely to have heart problems or a stroke.
LDLs deposit cholesterol in the arteries; thus increasing the risk of heart disease because, too much of it can block blood vessels.
Triglycerides are used as a source of energy by the body when it uses cholesterol to build cells and certain hormones.
When we eat more calories than our bodies can use immediately, it converts the excess calories into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells.
High cholesterol doesn’t cause any symptoms and this condition can run in families.
The only way of knowing if we have it, is by having blood tests.
How can we reduce it naturally?
Exercising can help. Stopping smoking and drinking less alcohol also helps, and we need to be careful of what we eat.
Most supermarkets use clear labelling which indicate if the foods have high levels of unhealthy fats. Like the traffic light labelling used in the UK, for example.
Foods to avoid or reduce are:-
Foods that contain ‘saturated fat’, (no more than 10% of our total calories should be saturated fats), like, red meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, coconut, pastries, meat pies, sausages, cream, hard cheese like cheddar, biscuits and my favourite, cakes. 😭
Foods to eat more of include, foods that contain ‘unsaturated fat’ like, oily fish, brown rice, bread and pasta, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables.
Foods that lower cholesterol include:- oats, barley and whole grains, beans, soy and soy-based foods and foods rich in fibre.
Finally, don’t worry about eating too little cholesterol because the body makes enough, whether or not you consume it.
Sources: nhs.uk, mayoclinic.org, bhf.org.uk, healthline.com, medicalnewstoday.com