As more and more health experts attribute the cause of common serious health conditions to high levels of cholesterol, we get the concept that cholesterol is bad for the body. On the contrary, cholesterol is vital for the body’s functions. The body needs cholesterol for building cell membrane structures, producing hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and adrenal hormones, producing bile acids, and helping with metabolism.
Without cholesterol, our body won’t function as normally as it does. The problem will only arise when our body produces higher levels of cholesterol than it needs. Our body has been designed to thrive only on small amounts of cholesterol. Too much of it can be disastrous for our health.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance the liver produces for important bodily functions. Since the liver processes cholesterol and dietary fats, it transports these substances to the bloodstream, including the animal fats we consume, in the form of lipoprotein carriers. These carriers are made up of two types: the good ones and the bad ones. The good carriers are called High-density lipoprotein cholesterol or HDL. Their function is to remove excess cholesterol out of the arteries and other cells. The bad carriers, known as Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL, carry most of the cholesterol to the cells. They’re called the bad guys because they increase the levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream, which could lead to clogged arteries.
Clogged arteries decrease the blood flow to the heart leading to problems such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and other coronary artery problems. A total blockage can put an individual at risk of a heart attack.
To avoid this scenario from happening, health professionals recommend keeping our cholesterol at safe levels, which is 5.5 mmol per liter. They also said that we don’t need to eat cholesterol since our bodies can produce the level of cholesterol that is enough for it to function properly. We can lower our cholesterol levels by following these expert tips:
1. Avoid too much trans fats consumption
Trans fats or trans unsaturated fatty acids are unsaturated vegetable fats that went through the hydrogenation process. This means they become solid in room temperatures. Trans fats are bad news for the body since they increase our bad cholesterol levels and decrease the good cholesterol levels.
Regular consumption of trans fats will put us at a high risk of developing heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes. Some trans fats foods include fried and baked goodies, such as doughnuts, cakes, crackers, or margarine. Reading package labels also gives us a hint of whether the food we’re buying contains high levels of trans fats or not.
2. Eat less of foods with saturated fats
Saturated fats are solid in room temperatures. Having too much saturated fats in the diet can lead to serious heart problems and other serious health conditions. It can also lead to obesity since too much fat leads to extra calories, which results in weight gain.
Foods high in saturated fats that we must avoid include pizza, salami, sausages, chips, fatty meats, cheese, cooking oil, and pastries. Eliminating these foods from our diet helps us maintain a healthy weight, thereby reducing our chances of developing heart diseases, diabetes, and other health problems.
3. Add soluble fiber
Dietary fiber or roughage brings enormous health benefits for the body. Dietary fibers are parts of plants that are indigestible and are categorized into two kinds: soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is dissolved in water, while insoluble fiber is not. Because of its thick, spread-out gel, soluble fiber does great in blocking fats to prevent them from being absorbed by the body. Thus, this food type is essential in decreasing fat absorption and weight management.
Regularly eating soluble fiber can significantly decrease cholesterol levels in the blood. Aside from this vital function, soluble fiber works in other ways. It also helps stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion rate of carbohydrates and other nutrients. Meaning, our sugar levels are less likely to spike when we add soluble fiber into our diet. Because of this, the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other circulatory problems decreases. And if we’re on our weight loss journey, soluble fiber helps manage our weight by making us feel satiated.
Our food cravings will decrease because soluble fiber makes us feel full longer. Some of the best sources of soluble fiber are vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, and whole grains including oatmeal and brown rice.
4. Regular exercise
Moving our body offers lots of benefits not only physical but also mental and emotional. Among these varied benefits, lowering bad cholesterol levels and increasing the good ones are some of them.
Though doctors cannot specifically point out the connection between exercise and low cholesterol levels, one thing is for sure – exercise helps maintain weight. Excess weight has been linked to high cholesterol levels, which is the leading cause of serious health problems. With exercise, bad cholesterol levels decrease as good cholesterol levels increase.
According to research, exercise stimulates the enzymes to transport LDL from the blood to the liver, which is then converted into bile for excretion. When we exercise more, our body eliminates more LDL from the body. Now the question is, how much exercise is needed to lower cholesterol levels?
Some experts say a moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day such as gardening, walking, or jogging is enough to lower the LDL levels. However, a study revealed that sedentary individuals, who did moderate exercises without changing their diet, showed only a slight drop in their LDL levels. Those who did more vigorous and intense exercises showed a significant increase in their HDL levels.
5. Quit smoking
Smoking has been linked to serious health risks including lung cancer, high blood pressure, and others. Health professionals warned that smoking and high cholesterol levels can dramatically increase our risk of a heart attack. Studies showed that people who quit smoking within three months showed improvements in their circulation and lung functions.
6. Limit alcohol consumption
Alcohol consumption also plays a role in our cholesterol levels. Moderate drinkers show higher HDL levels compared to heavy drinkers. Since heavy drinking is associated with serious diseases, moderate drinking should be the key to maintaining a fair amount of cholesterol in the blood while remaining healthy.