September 18th, 2013 by

The whole world seems to be obsessed with cholesterol levels. Alarm bells ring when we hear the word, and we’re told that in the name of good health we should keep our levels down. But aside from gimmicky adverts and heart-breaking food industry claims, what do you really know about cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy steroid of fat which is naturally produced by your liver and intestines. It is an essential requirement for hormone production and cell membrane formation, which is transported through the blood. Cholesterol is a vital structural component of the body’s cells and needed to keep our cell membranes fluid and permeable.

Additionally, cholesterol works in the body to produce steroid hormones, bile acids and vitamin D. So please note that cholesterol is not a bad guy, and without it, your body would fail to function.

There are two types of cholesterol: Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) and High Density Lipoproteins (HDL). It is important to keep these two types at a healthy ratio. This is the important point to remember when it comes to cholesterol. We should not be concerned with overall lowering of cholesterol, rather – striking a favourable balance between HDL (the ‘good’) and LDL (the ‘bad.’)

Foods which contain high levels of natural cholesterol like eggs, meat and animal proteins are important for your health and actually assist your body with managing to maintain your good cholesterol levels. The misunderstood and often demonised natural substance, butter, actually works to increase our HDL ‘good’ cholesterol and decreases damaging LDL levels.

A major risk for heart disease is a low fat and low cholesterol diet! Damaging triglycerides are the main culprits behind blocked arteries and fatty tissue accumulating around the heart. And what makes these triglyceride formations? Sugar!

Just like fats in the body, if cholesterol levels are exceptionally high, cracks may begin to appear. This doesn’t mean that natural and highly nutritious foods like eggs should be avoided. Raised cholesterol levels commonly point toward a systemic imbalance in the body – in other words cholesterol is not being utilised efficiently. So really the answer is to view the body as an integrated system in order to restore balance. This is where clever nutrition comes in.

The truth is cardiovascular disease is caused by a number of factors: High sugar and carbohydrate diets, refined plant oils, obesity, hormonal imbalance, stress, erratic insulin levels, nutrient deficiencies… A number of factors trigger heart disease, and most of them are inflammatory processes that stimulate arterial damage.

This is where omega 3 comes into the picture – nature’s heart friendly anti-inflammatory. A cardio-supportive diet consists of omega 3 found in oily fish, plenty of vegetables, lean proteins including eggs, a small amount of butter and natural anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like garlic, turmeric, cinnamon and rosemary. Nowhere on this list do you see margarine. Margarine is a faux-food, dreamt up in laboratories as a substitute for natural animal fats. It is chemically created and linked with oxidative damage and inflammation in the blood vessels – both of which are known to precipitate heart disease. Interestingly margarine has the opposite effect of butter when it comes to cholesterol – Margarine is shown to decrease HDL (the ‘good’) and increase LDL (the ‘bad’).

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