Reduce High Cholesterol – Why All the Concern?
High cholesterol–so why all the concern? It only becomes damaging if there’s too much of it in the body. The body doesn’t need much to do the job. The liver naturally produces all the body needs. Excess cholesterol in the body usually stems from a diet high in saturated fats. It is deposited on blood vessel walls as a thick plaque. And over time, this plaque causes blood vessels to narrow so that less blood reaches the heart muscle, which could result in a heart attack or stroke.
But despite its association with cardiovascular disease, it is essential to the body’s good health. It’s used to make Vitamin D; cell membranes; the sheaths around nerves; bile, which is used to digest fats; and hormones, including estrogen and cortisol.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that circulates through the body attached to substances called lipoproteins. There are two types: High-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) gathers cholesterol and returns it to the liver so it can be eliminated from the body. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) allows fatty plague to linger in the bloodstream where it can build up deposits on artery walls, which increases the risk for heart disease.
Fortunately, it’s a risk you can control in part by eating plenty of low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol-lowering fruits and vegetables.
So, picking freely from the produce and bread aisles helps you lower cholesterol for several reasons:
1. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have little or no fat, so a diet rich in these foods is unlikely to deliver excessive cholesterol to your blood.
2. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have fiber, a powerful dietary weapon that comes in two forms. Insoluble fiber (or roughage) resists digestion, so it speeds food through your system. Soluble fiber is a gummy substance that dissolves in your blood. While both types are helpful, soluble fiber gets extra credit for helping to regulate production and elimination of cholesterol. Foods that provide the highest levels of soluble fiber include chewy grains (barley, oats, and oat bran), crunchy vegetables (broccoli, carrots), and juicy fruits (grapes).
3. Also, many fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, such as vitamins A and C and beta-carotene, which help guard against fat buildup in the blood.
Although ample amounts of foods like oatmeal, apricots, and spinach can help you win the fight against high cholesterol, you should also limit foods high in dietary cholesterol and saturated fats, because these foods can raise cholesterol in the blood. Eat sparing amounts of fatty, highly marbled meats and processed cold cuts, whole dairy products, and saturated fat sources–such as butter, palm oil, and coconut oil–often used in backed goods. Choose lean cuts of beef, chicken, or pork; low-fat milk and yogurt; and olive oil.
While diet is key, it’s not the only way to alter cholesterol levels. By losing weight when needed, even as little as 5 to 10 pounds, you can lower total cholesterol, reduce LDL and raise HDL levels. Exercise and not smoking can raise HDL cholesterol levels, too.