4 minutes read.
While writing this blog, I noticed that there was a recurring theme. Most of the healthy foods I looked at, were proven to reduce cholesterol. So, I’ve decided to look at it in more detail.
Your Vital Guide to Cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance made in the liver. There is usually about 10g in your body; 7% of it is found in your 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 your 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 your body when it uses cholesterol to build cells and certain hormones.
When you eat more calories than your body 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 normal way of knowing if you have it is by having blood tests. However, there are warning signs.
According to the British Heart Foundation, you could develop a condition known as ‘peripheral artery disease.’ (PAD). This condition is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits inside your arteries that often concentrate in your feet. (It’s usually your feet because they are the furthest from your heart.) When your blood flow worsens, your body can’t deliver enough blood, nutrients and oxygen to your skin and soft tissues.
Symptoms of PAD include:-
- hair loss on legs and feet
- numbness or weakness in your legs
- brittle, slow-growing toenails
- ulcers on your feet and legs that don’t heal
- pale or blue skin colour on your legs
- shiny skin
- erectile dysfunction
- muscles wasting away in your legs
How Can You Reduce it Naturally?
Exercising can help. Stopping smoking and drinking less alcohol also helps, and you need to be careful of what you 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:-
Foods that contain ‘unsaturated fat’ like oily fish, brown rice, bread and pasta, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables.
Foods That Lower Cholesterol:-
Oats, barley and whole grains, beans, soy and soy-based foods and foods rich in fibre.
My Brush With High Cholesterol.
When I had my health check, several years ago, my blood test showed that I had slightly raised cholesterol levels.
This was during my slightly 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 on eating cakes and started going to the gym. As you some of you know, I love running which I restarted four years ago. I also became a vegetarian.
So, if you develop any of the above symptoms, see your doctor.
One more thing. 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, dailyrecord.co.uk, bmcardiovascdisord.biomedcentral.com, who.int