What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a special type of fat that forms part of the structure of every single cell membrane in the human body. It is also a major component of steroid hormones and bile. In the body the liver is the main site for cholesterol synthesis, but each cell also has the ability to create cholesterol if needed. It flows through your body via the blood stream, and is an essential component of health.
Are there different types of cholesterol?
Yes, there are several types of cholesterol in the body. They have different functions, but work together in a feedback system via the liver. The main two types of cholesterol that we commonly hear about are called HDL (high density lipoproteins) and LDL (low density lipoproteins). The cholesterol itself is a fatty waxy substance, and therefore can’t move around in the blood stream without a carrier protein. When it forms together with this protein, we then call it lipoprotein (fat & protein).
HDL – These molecules have more protein than cholesterol, and are considered our ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL molecules carry cholesterol mainly to the liver, but also to other organs to create steroid hormones and the like. They can also remove fat molecules from artery walls.
LDL – These molecules have more fat then protein, and are considered ‘bad’ cholesterol. LDL molecules can transport their cholesterol component into the blood stream and artery walls, which can cause fat build up and blockages.
Do we need cholesterol?
Yes, cholesterol is an absolutely essential component of human health. It is created naturally in our bodies, and used for things like hormone production and cellular integrity. It is vital in the production of Vitamin D, and our sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone. It’s also essential for production of bile acids, which our body uses to digest food efficiently. If our bodies had no cholesterol, we could not live.
What causes high cholesterol?
Firstly, when we talk about high cholesterol, it usually means that the ratio of our different types of cholesterol is too high. Or it could mean that our LDL cholesterol is too high, which can cause too much fat to build up in our arteries.
There are a number of factors that can increase cholesterol in your body. A major factor is diet, specifically ingestion of a large amount of sugars. This includes things like white bread, pasta, potatoes, lollies, chocolate, sugar in tea and coffee, cakes and biscuits, desserts and most processed packaged foods. The sugar causes our bodies to signal creation of further cholesterol.
Fibre is another important factor in our diet. If we do not consume enough fibre, cholesterol cannot be effectively excreted from the body via the bowels. If you suffer from constipation or loose bowel motions, this will also affect the levels of cholesterol in your body.
Can my diet effectively lower my cholesterol levels?
Absolutely. You can lower your cholesterol effectively and easily by employing some simply dietary strategies.
Number 1: consume oats on a daily basis. An easy way to do this is via porridge for breakfast. Oats are very high in fibre, and contain beta glucan, a natural cholesterol balancing agent.
Soaking oats overnight can help reduce any bloating which may be caused by their consumption.
Number 2: Consume fibre daily. The best way to do this is by consuming 6 serves of vegetables and at least 2 serves of fruit daily, with the skins on. Nuts, seeds and oats are also full of fibre. You can also use a dietary supplement, such as lecithin or psyllium husks to help increase your fibre.
Number 3: Ensure you consume essential fatty acids daily. These fats are healthy, and found in foods such as nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, chia seeds and avocados. You can also take a fish oil supplement provided by your naturopath. Avoid saturated fats, as these damage your cells and cause inflammation in your body.
Number 4: Reduce or cut out completely your consumption of trans fatty and saturated fatty acids. These damaged fats are found in all take away foods, baked goods, processed packaged foods and cakes, biscuits etc. When consumed they promote inflammation and ‘sticky’ blood, increasing the risk of plaque formation and clotting. Replacing them with essential fatty acids greatly reduces your inflammation, and promotes healthy arteries.
For further tips and information on naturally reducing your cholesterol levels, book an appointment with me at the clinic on 5443 4610.