Cholesterol levels are an important issue. No matter what shape you are in, regardless of whether you are fit or unfit, it is important for everyone that they keep track of the amount of cholesterol in the body. Why? Simply because, as most people are aware, too much cholesterol and too high cholesterol levels can have disastrous effects on health. However, what most people do not know is that not all cholesterol is bad.
Is there such a thing as good cholesterol?
Simply put, yes. There are two main types of cholesterol that you will come across in your diet – HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Respectively, these stand for ‘high density lipoproteins’ and ‘low density lipoproteins’. Although the science of it is not important, what you should know is that these two types of cholesterol have almost polar opposite effects on the body.
High density cholesterol is what is commonly referred to as a ‘good’ form of cholesterol for you, something that you should strive to have more of when you are watching your cholesterol levels. This is because the HDL form of cholesterol has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, and hence has a good reputation. LDL on the other hand is what is known as bad cholesterol, as this is the kind that you will hear about again and again in the media – it increases obesity and increases the risk of heart related problems.
Getting the right cholesterol
Unfortunately, a lot of the food that we know and enjoy contains LDL forms of cholesterol, not the beneficial HDL that our body needs. This means it is up to you, personally, to make sure that you ingest foods that are beneficial to you, and contain more of the good kinds of cholesterol than the bad.
What you therefore have to realise when considering your cholesterol levels is that you have to get the right kinds. When talking about your levels of cholesterol in general, any professional will be considering both the HDL and LDL forms, it is your job to make sure that you have more of the HDL than the LDL.
Although this may not be easy, luckily more and more food companies are realising that people truly care about their body and their heart’s health. This means that if a food contains the better form of cholesterol, it is far more likely that the company will advertise this, making it easier for you to keep track of the kinds of cholesterol you are taking in.
How to do this
What can work for a lot of people is simply the image of cholesterol in your blood. Right now there are forms of cholesterol building up in your arteries, and if you eat too much food with the wrong cholesterol, this can easily lead to blockages and heart disease.
Therefore, it is your job to make sure you keep your levels of cholesterol down, and that you go to your GP for advice.
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Cholesterol in your diet
The sad truth about dieting is that everyone has to take heed of it. Even if you are not at a stage where you feel you need to lose weight, dieting also involves making sure you eat the right kinds of food on a daily basis, and that you do not indulge too much in foods that you know to be bad for you.
This is because dieting is not only about losing weight, but about keeping your body at its best, and reducing the likelihood of any food related diseases and the like, particularly those caused by high cholesterol.
How to lower cholesterol
The mystery of how to reduce cholesterol is one that should concern us all. Even the healthiest of individuals still need to find a way to keep their cholesterol levels down, if only because cholesterol is a silent predator.
If you have too much cholesterol in your diet then you may not even realise it, and by the time you do realise it, it could be far too late. This is why there is such a pressing need for finding out how to lower cholesterol. Luckily, it is actually no real mystery, and is fairly easy to do.
Finding cholesterol lowering foods
What may also allow you to breathe a sigh of relief is the fact that not all cholesterol is bad for you. You can easily find a plethora of foods with ‘good cholesterol’, and even foods that can help to lower your current cholesterol levels.
Food companies are catching on to this, and say now it is actually fairly easy to find food in the supermarket that is labelled as lowering cholesterol, and most of the time they do this. However there is a far easier way of keeping your cholesterol levels down, and that is simply by realising which foods contain high amounts of cholesterol.
Steps to a healthier body
So, rather than buying high cholesterol foods only to then buy foods that lower cholesterol, cut out the middle man by going straight for the low cholesterol foods and avoiding others. It is quite simple to know which foods are good and bad – all the usual suspects such as butter, fried food, cheese and the like contain more cholesterol than you need.
By simply reducing the amount of high cholesterol that you buy, you can start to save money and live far more healthily. What a lot of people think is that dieting has to be a chore, but there are a lot of low cholesterol items out there that are still delicious. Take certain forms of fish for example – despite being a form of meat with a vast amount of protein, salmon can help lower your cholesterol levels, as it contains ‘good’ fat.
Whole grain food can also be incredibly tasty, and whilst eating it you will know you are helping your body. In the end you will see that how to lower cholesterol is easy, and you will start to feel far healthier, simply by following a few simple changes to your daily diet.
If you have to introduce foods into your diet to reduce cholesterol the range is probably wider than you imagine and incorporating them into a healthy eating plan is not as difficult as it may first seem. The foods cover the entire spectrum of food from nuts to red wine and by nature, most are relatively healthy. Watch out for upping your calorie intake. You are looking to lower your cholesterol not add to the problem by gaining weight so as with all foods, even those good for you, moderation and a balanced diet is still the most important factor.
1. Good fats:
Some fats and oils can actually help to lower cholesterol. Plant fats found in nuts and seeds, sunflower and safflower oil, canola and rice bran oil all help to reduced LDL cholesterol. Fat found in olives and olive oil and oily fish can also lower cholesterol.
Legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, cannellini beans, soy beans and lentils are all great cholesterol lowering foods that are high in fibre. They can be bought dry and soaked overnight before cooking, or bought in cans and heated.
Quinoa is a cholesterol-lowing seed that you can use instead of pasta or rice. You can cook it the same way as rice with the absorption method. Use one cup quinoa to two cups water and bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer. Cover the saucepan and cook for 15 minutes. Quinoa has a slightly nutty flavour.
4. Red wine:
Studies have found that a glass of red wine each night may assist in increasing your HDL cholesterol levels. Recent studies have found that red wine contains saponin, which helps to lower bad LDL cholesterol, especially syrah and red zinfandel varieties.
Diets high in vegetables have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Consider becoming a vegetarian for a few months to lower your cholesterol quickly, or cut down on your meat intake and increase your vegetable intake to include a wide range of fibrous vegetables. Eat five or more serves of vegetables each day and, if you do eat meat, choose very lean cuts.
6. Food with fibre:
Foods that contain fibre are great for lowering your cholesterol. The best foods are those which contain water soluble fibre. Try oat bran, psyllium seeds, rice bran, wheat germ, gua gum and pectin. These foods form a gel that binds to the cholesterol in your intestines and allows you to excrete cholesterol instead of absorbing in into the bloodstream. Foods containing fiber also improve the levels of good HDL cholesterol while decreasing bad LDL cholesterol. Sprinkle a tablespoon of bran or psyllium seeds onto your breakfast cereal or add some into your homemade baking.
Garlic contains sulphur compounds and is thought to lower your cholesterol levels in a mild way. Include garlic in your daily diet by adding it to savoury dishes.
Like garlic, onions contain sulphur compounds that may have a positive effect in lowering your cholesterol levels. Eating a raw onion a day may actually increase your levels of good HDL cholesterol up to thirty percent, while lowering bad cholesterol levels.
9. Alfalfa sprouts:
Alfalfa sprouts contain saponin and have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and improve HDL cholesterol levels in the body. The chemicals and fibres in alfalfa stick to bad LDL cholesterol so that it doesn’t become deposited in the blood vessel walls, while it leaves good LDL cholesterol alone.
10. Soy products:
Food that contains soy protein and soy isoflavones has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. Cholesterol lowering soy products include tofu, soy milk and the Indonesian food tempeh.
Cholesterol is found in animal products such as egg yolks, red meat, poultry, full fat dairy and seafood. If you wish to reduce your bad LDL cholesterol levels, it is best to restrict your intake of these foods. Remember, also, that foods high in saturated fat will increase your LDL cholesterol levels and sugar can also have a detrimental effect on your cholesterol health.
Squid, shrimp, and oysters are high in dietary cholesterol. If you wish to decrease your cholesterol intake, choose scallops, mussels and clams, which are shellfish that are low in dietary cholesterol.
One egg yolk contains 200–250mg of dietary cholesterol, which is nearly the total recommended intake of 300mg cholesterol per day. If you suffer from high cholesterol, you can substitute whole eggs for egg whites, which have no cholesterol. Where a recipe calls for one egg, use to egg whites to substitute. However, if you have normal cholesterol levels you probably do not need to reduce your egg yolk intake.
3. Organ meats:
Organ meats such as liver, kidneys and sweetbreads are high in cholesterol, despite being fairly low in fat.
4. Fatty processed meats:
Processed meats like bacon, bologna, salami, hot dogs, and sausage are high in fat and salt and are high in cholesterol. Choose lean cuts of meat like turkey and chicken breast and avoid fatty cuts of meat and processed meat. Always trim the fat off whole cuts of meat to reduce your fat intake.
5. Fatty dairy products:
Butter, sauces made with cream and large quantities of whole milk dairy products are high in animal fat and should be avoided. Choose skim milk products that contain less fat and cholesterol. Replace cream and sour cream with low fat or non-fat yoghurt.
6. Full-fat cheese:
Cheese is high in cholesterol and you should limit your intake to twice a week if you need to reduce your cholesterol levels. Choose reduced fat hard cheeses and choose low fat white cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese over hard cheese. Look for white cheese that is one percent fat.
7. Goose and duck:
Duck and goose meat has far more cholesterol than chicken or turkey and the skin of these poultry are very high in cholesterol.
Trans fats found in margarine, biscuits, croissants, doughnuts, pastries and processed snack foods raise your LDL cholesterol and reduce the good HDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. Foods containing trans fats should be avoided altogether. Check labels of packaged food and use polyunsaturated fat when cooking sweets at home.
9. Deep fried foods:
Deep fried food such as chips, fish and battered take-away food can be cooked with trans fats and contain a lot of hidden fat. Choose food that has been cooked in polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oil instead.
While sugar does not contain dietary cholesterol, eating sugar promotes cholesterol production in your body. The average person’s intake of sugar is far higher than it should be and sugar is addictive. Cutting down on sugar within your diet in general will improve your cholesterol levels and lead to other health benefits.
Cholesterol is measured in many numbers. One of the most important ones is the cholesterol ratio. Since many people suffer from high cholesterol, two different approaches were devised to measure the condition. Scientists are on opposite sides of the fence.
The first theory accommodates the idea that only cholesterol numbers matter. Opposite that, scientists believe that the most important is the parameter ratio.
What is the ratio number?
The total cholesterol number adds high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL) and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) together. HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol because it takes on the role of collecting fats from the organs and transferring them to the liver. From there they are excreted.
LDL is the “bad” cholesterol because it is the reverse of the process that HDL does. It zaps the cholesterol from the liver and sends it back to the organs and blood vessels. With high levels of LDL, a person is at risk for multiple life threatening issues. The master plan of LDL is to irritate the outer walls of the vessels. When this happens plaque builds inside the vessel preventing proper blood flow. This could lead to high blood pressure all the way to stroke.
VLDL is very low density lipoprotein. It works around the body until the main component, triglycerides are transferred to fat and muscle leaving the remains to be modified to LDL.
What are you reading when given a ratio?
Cholesterol ratio is easy to understand. Once you are given your total cholesterol after a blood test, you will have three sets of numbers. First will be your total cholesterol, second will be your HDL level and lastly your ratio. Example, you have a total level of 300mg/dl and a HDL of 100mg/dl. Your final ratio is 3.1. This is a great ratio to have. This method of calculation is considered to be most important for cardio-vascular predictions.
100 mg/dl is an outstanding number to have. The norm is over 60mg/dl. Anything under that and you are putting yourself at risk. Your total cholesterol levels will normally be high due to levels of HDL or LDL. You want the first scenario always.
Studies have surmised that if your cholesterol goes up so does your risk of cardiac problems. The ranges normally used are: 3.3-4.4:1 is low risk, 4.4-7.1 is the norm, and 7.1-11.0 is upper borderline while over 11.1 are very dangerous.
The above is only part of what you need to know about your cholesterol ratio. To learn more ask your doctor.
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A lot of people will commonly associate the words cholesterol and heart disease. Cholesterol will commonly conjure up thoughts of obesity, heart attack and overly high blood pressure. Interestingly, however, people often do not realise how certain forms of cholesterol do not change their normal blood pressure. Whilst high cholesterol levels are an important issue of the day, an urgency that should not be ignored, it is also important to know the ins and outs of it, and realise that not all forms of cholesterol have been proven to be negative. In fact, some cholesterol could even be good for you.
It is important to know the two main types of cholesterol – HDL and LDL, high density lipoprotein and low density, respectively. What must be known is that it is not both of these that cause the link between cholesterol and high blood pressure. HDL is often known as ‘good cholesterol’, and LDL as ‘bad cholesterol’. This is simply because high HDL levels have been found to be associated with decreased risk of heart disease, with LDL being the opposite, increasing risk of heart disease and increased blood pressure.
Then again it is often the case that people will panic overly much, and assume that having cholesterol and high blood pressure in their system means the two are linked. However it is important to realise that the individual cholesterol levels for men and cholesterol levels for women are extremely different. In general, men have higher levels of cholesterol, and women have lower, ideally. However this varies from person to person, and the best way to find out what is the ideal level for you, is through asking your local GP. Also through monitoring your weight and blood pressure, you can find out what is the norm for you.
As said, it is important not to panic. Too many people will assume the worst, without going for expert advice. Through simply asking an expert that you trust, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary worry and panic. If you do your own research, then ask your local practitioner, you can be sure that you are following the course of action best suited to you.
You must also remember, that high levels of LDL show the link between cholesterol and heart disease, whereas HDL is meant to lower the risk. Hence, if you can find foods with only, or primarily, ‘good’ cholesterol, then you are taking a major step towards better health. It is also important not to get taken in by advertising, and rather look for yourself and attempt to find out the facts about what you should and should not be eating, especially for you as an individual. If you can tailor your own diet, and make sure you read up on the different types of cholesterol that can help and hinder you, you can avoid any false advertising and help your body.
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We are being almost constantly bombarded with nutritional advice nowadays, specifically with regards to high cholesterol foods, and at times it can be hard to understand what you should eat and what you shouldn’t. For example, how much cholesterol per day is normal for an average person to eat? Are there different types of cholesterol that will affect me differently? It is obviously very important to know, so that you can plan the kind of things that you eat on a daily basis. If you eat the right kind of foods, then you can be in complete control of your body image.
However, as many people know, having a low cholesterol diet is not always easy. Ironically the tastiest foods are some of the worst for our health – with the problem many people have being that foods with high cholesterol are the easiest and cheapest to buy. This is not a coincidence. Many of the ways in which producers can keep the cost of food down is to make it using methods that are cheaper and unhealthier. Specifically in high fat foods such as cheese and butter, the worst forms of cholesterol are found. One of the main culprits is fast food – the way that it is cooked once again causing high cholesterol.
What is the problem?
Unfortunately, high cholesterol levels have been linked to problems such as heart disease, but more commonly simply obesity. Whilst obesity itself may not seem like a huge problem, in the long run it can cause serious problems. Problems include constant fatigue, increased risk of organ failure, and also of heart attacks. Even if this is a risk you are willing to take, often obesity can be hereditary, meaning you could endanger any children you have simply through eating too much fast food and foods with high cholesterol.
How can this be avoided?
Luckily, governments everywhere are starting to recognise that obesity and high cholesterol levels are a major problem, and there is plenty of help that you can get. However, one of the simplest ways to avoid risk of heart disease and the like is to simply avoid cholesterol wherever you can. There are more and more government initiatives that are attempting to make people more aware of the food they eat. Take the ‘five a day’ for example, or the fact that most foods show ever more nutritional data, allowing you to see how much of a food you should consume, at most, per day.
Luckily, once you start to notice which are the high cholesterol foods, these can easily be avoided. By simply cutting these things out of your diet, you are able to save a lot of worry and potential health problems. You will also feel far healthier. Even if you are not unhealthy now, switching to a diet that you consider to be healthy will have plenty of beneficial psychological effects too, making this extremely worthwhile.
If you are one of many who suffer from elevated cholesterol, it is important to visit your doctor, so that they can monitor and assess your cholesterol levels. This is because elevated cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. If you are the type of person who is too busy to regularly see your doctor, then it is easy to take an active role in blood cholesterol monitoring yourself.
Private cholesterol monitors are becoming more and more popular, thanks advances in technology, making them quick, cheap and easy to use. Home cholesterol monitors offer a fast alternative to frequent doctor visits, and provide you with a simple way to monitor your own levels. Home cholesterol testing can now give as accurate and informative results as tests used by the doctors, so you can be sure you are getting correct and reliable information. In most cases all you need to do is give a drop of blood as a sample from quick and easy finger sticks.
The convenience of home testing means that more and more people are deciding to do it, since you can monitor for yourself the readings, helping to give you early warnings, and also confirming whether changes in your diet and exercise habits are having a positive effect on your levels. Advanced models give you a breakdown of your LDL and HDL levels, which is informative since LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol you need to keep an eye on, while HDL actually helps combat the bad cholesterol.
There are many places to find cholesterol monitors. Health care centres and drug stores offer a range of monitors, and your doctor can give you expert advice on what models would be best for you, based on your situation. There are also many online retailers offering good deals on monitors. Large online shops have a great range of products at competitive prices.
Cholesterol is a wax like lipid produced in the liver to sustain balance and health .The liver manufactures just enough cholesterol that the body needs. The level of cholesterol in our bodies is a result of what we add to it with the food we consume.
Consumed cholesterol is both beneficial and detrimental to our body and the difference between good and bad is down to the density of the lipids:
- When the body consumes high density lipoproteins (HDL) then all is good.
HDL which we call the “good cholesterol” is a vital function of the body and its processes. The HDL has a major friend called RTC. This is reverse transport cholesterol. This component actually removes excess cholesterol through fecal matter.
- On the flip side, if that cholesterol is low density lipoproteins (LDL) the body starts to have negative reactions.
LDL, aka “bad cholesterol” likes to build up in the blood stream and block blood flow increasing risk of cardio-vascular diseases.
The reaction of cholesterol to alcohol
An oddity of cholesterol is the attraction to alcohol. It has been studied that people in France have a long life expectancy and cholesterol levels are lower; all this while they eat a lot of food containing fat. Most of the residents of France drink some form of alcohol.
Alcohol in moderation and regularly consumed can actually help raise your HDL level. The beverage also appears to help the body increase resistance towards insulin.
Are all types of alcohol a cholesterol reducer?
Not all alcoholic beverages have the same qualities. Red wines are particularly high on the list of “medicinal” beverages for the body. Any other type of alcohol will have a minor effect to reduce cholesterol levels.
On the other hand, too much alcohol use can cause very harmful issues such as heart disease, cancer, damage to the liver and non-health related problems. The issue boils down to personal responsibility and only using red wine in moderate servings, perhaps a few ounces a day to help up your level of “good cholesterol” and reduce “bad cholesterol”.
As well as the effects alcohol has on the cholesterol, it can also help your blood vessels improve elasticity which in turn will reduce blood pressure. Overall the effects can be favorable.
To sum it all, the use of alcohol in reducing HDL is a good start. The key is moderation and the type of alcohol. Used in excess, alcohol can severely damage your body by hampering the functionality of your liver, including upsetting one of its key processes – the manufacture and regulation of cholesterol.
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Cholesterol has been cited many times as one of the most important small molecule in biology, and especially in cell function. It was first isolated in the 18th century, however, it was initially a tricky molecule to work with, and took until the 20th century before specific insight was gained on its structure and action. It wasn’t until the 60’s, that cholesterol was first synthesised, by Robert.B.Woodward, who earned the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his efforts.
Cholesterol, like many organic compounds present in the body, is a complex organic molecule, and primarily holds its importance as a constituent of cell membranes. It is classed in the subgroup of steroids, and is the major sterol synthesised by animals. Structurally it is formed with rigid carbon rings, and a hydrocarbon tail. Its composition is such that it is a lipid, and is so hydrophobic, apart from a hydroxyl at one end, making it amphipathic. Cholesterol is synthesised from acetic acid, by using enzymes, which are crucial in selectively speeding up chemical reactions in the body.
Its role in cell membranes sees it placed adjacent to the tails of phospholipids, and the hydroxyl group forms hydrogen bonds with phospholipids, preventing the close packing in the spaces in between of fatty acids. Cholesterol therefore prevents the transition to the crystalline phase at body temperature – crucial for cell mobility and survival.
Cholesterol is also important for digestion. Bile acids, are a broken down polar form of cholesterol, which are generated from cholesterol in the liver, and subsequently secreted into the gall bladder, and eventually pass into the intestine and play their role in the breaking down of fats. This is the only method of cholesterol excretion in the body, and most is reabsorbed in the small intestine, to be eventually re-secreted again by the liver (enterohepatic cycle).
Cholesterol serves a number of other important functions, including its role in the synthesis of Vitamin D3, steroid hormones (processed in the adrenal gland) and sex hormones. They are therefore important in stress regulation due to the production of these hormones.
Aside from its importance, Cholesterol can also cause problems in the body. Too much LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) can cause thickening of the arteries over time, causing heart problems. Cholesterol is also known to crystallise in the gall bladder, causing gallstones. The links to heart disease give cholesterol a bad press, but it is important to note its significance and role in healthy cell production.
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