The Lowdown on Cholesterol and How to Improve it Naturally
We’ve all heard about high cholesterol, and we all know it’s something we want to avoid, but what is cholesterol? Is all cholesterol bad? How can we improve cholesterol levels?
Here is the lowdown on cholesterol and how to improve it naturally.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat in the body. It travels in the bloodstream, and it is essential for hormone production, cell structure, and creating bile for the digestive system. However, our bodies don’t need much cholesterol to carry out these functions. If there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it can accumulate in blood vessels and cause plaque. This plaque buildup can disrupt blood flow and lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other heart disease complications.
Different Types of Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol— LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind that increases your risk of heart disease, whereas HDL cholesterol is good and has protective effects. Foods high in HDL do not increase overall cholesterol levels because HDL neutralizes or removes LDL. Foods high in saturated fats and trans fats, such as red meat, dairy, and processed fatty foods, increase LDL cholesterol levels.
Some lifestyle changes can help improve your cholesterol levels. Be sure to discuss any changes with your chosen medical professional.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber lowers total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol levels. Aside from its digestive benefits, fiber reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed in the blood. Foods high in fiber include leafy greens, whole grains, beans and legumes, and chia seeds. Try incorporating more fiber into your meals, whether it’s a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or a chia seed pudding snack.
Exercise improves cholesterol levels because it increases HDL and lowers LDL levels. Reaching a healthy weight is an important factor in improving cholesterol levels. Try to move your body a few days each week, increasing the amount as you feel comfortable. Go for a fast-paced walk, enjoy a morning swim, or attend a fun fitness class. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as your heart rate increases and you stay consistent.
Eat Less Saturated Fats
Saturated fats found in red meat and dairy products are high in cholesterol. Try to limit your intake of these foods and replace them with heart-healthy alternatives. If you eat red meat, have a smaller portion and fill your plate with lots of fiber-rich vegetables. Trans fats are even worse for cholesterol levels and overall health, so try to avoid them entirely. Trans fats are in processed foods such as margarine and anything that contains partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Incorporate Unsaturated Fats into Your Diet
Replace those saturated fats in your diet with healthy unsaturated fats. These fats provide many health benefits, especially for the heart. Unsaturated fats lower blood pressure and help keep you full for longer, so you’re less likely to overeat. Olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are rich in unsaturated fats.
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