The liver naturally produces cholesterol, which is then transported throughout the body by proteins in the bloodstream. Cholesterol is essential for the body, however, too much can result in significant health problems such as stroke, heart attack, and coronary heart disease. Cholesterol is found in animal foods such as meat and eggs, and it is worth mentioning that there is no cholesterol in plant foods such as vegetables, grains, seeds, fruits, and nuts. Some people are diagnosed with a high cholesterol level, which means that the cholesterol levels in their blood are high; thus, it seems sensible for them not to eat too much dietary cholesterol. Here is a look at the common foods to avoid and the ones to include to keep your blood cholesterol in check.
The following are two types of cholesterol and are categorized based on the type of protein that transports it.
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, and it is deposited throughout the body. LDL builds up in the body, increasing the total cholesterol.
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol. They collect bad cholesterol from the body and deposit it in the liver for disposal.
Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats command the liver to create more bad cholesterol, thus raising the body’s total cholesterol. Saturated fats are found in fatty meat and processed meat products such as sausages and bacon, dairy products (such as cream, yogurt, milk, and cheese), and animal fats, including butter, ghee, and margarine. Reducing the consumption of these saturated fats can decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is the ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats are solidified vegetable oils that have been artificially produced through the process of hydrogenation. Trans fats are considered the most harmful fats because they decrease the good cholesterol and increase the levels of bad cholesterol. Examples of foods containing trans fats include buttered popcorn, potato chips and crackers, packaged cakes, cookies, cakes, donuts and pastries, and commercially fried foods.
Add whey proteins. When taken as a supplement, whey protein reduces LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in the body. Dairy products are the primary source of whey proteins.
Increase soluble fiber. Studies have found an increased consumption of soluble fiber is associated with a small decrease in total cholesterol levels. Foods with high soluble fiber content include kidney beans, pears, oatmeal, sprouts, apples, and fatty fish such as trout. Soluble fiber helps to reduce the absorption of cholesterol by binding to it and removing it through stool.
As earlier mentioned, cholesterol is only found in animal products and foods. Conversely, dietary cholesterol is poorly absorbed in the bloodstream though it increases the total cholesterol in the body. The following foods may be best if avoided and include sausage, red meat, bacon, and organ meats such as the liver and kidney.
The take away
It is important to regularly visit your doctor so that your overall health and the cholesterol levels in the body can be checked. There are medications to help lower cholesterol levels in the body and are prescribed by doctors (if your health is at risk, a change in your lifestyle is also recommended). Most people suffering from high cholesterol levels are a result of living a sedentary lifestyle with a poor diet. Coupling the use of medications and changing your lifestyle will go a long way to ensure that you are healthier. Among the lifestyle habits you can change include quitting smoking, increasing your physical activity, losing weight, and moderating your alcohol intake.