Davina Dowling our in store Nutritional Therapist explains the pro's and con's of cholesterol.

There are a lot of people seeking information about cholesterol now as they are finding that their levels are creeping up. We are getting regular enquiries at the health shop and I have seen many clients over the past few weeks looking for diet and supplement support around increased cholesterol.

How can you lower your cholesterol if it is too high?

Cholesterol is a type of fat found naturally in our bodies. Despite its bad rap, it is involved in many important roles including production and repair of cell membranes, the maintenance of hormone levels including Vitamin D.

But too much cholesterol in the blood is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It is a component of the plaque that can build up on the inside of our arteries, slowly reducing blood flow to important tissues and organs.

It is key to keep cholesterol in a healthy range – enough to be helpful but not so much that it increases our risk of cardiovascular disease.

The majority of our cholesterol is made by our liver. How much cholesterol the liver makes is influenced in part by our diets, particularly our intake of saturated fats, trans fats and sugar. Minimise your intake of fried foods, fatty meats, trans fats found in processed/packaged foods and sugar to keep your liver healthy and manage cholesterol levels.

The good, the bad and the triglycerides

We often hear talk of good and bad cholesterol. The proteins that carry cholesterol in the blood are known as high-density lipoprotein (good) and low-density lipoprotein (bad).

HDL is known as good cholesterol; it helps to carry cholesterol away from artery walls and brings it back to the liver for processing and removal from the body. High levels of this protein are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Exercising regularly is a good way to increase HDL – at least 30 minutes daily .

LDL is often called the bad cholesterol because it transports cholesterol to the tissues and organs of the body and is the type found in arterial plaques. Among the best studied natural cholesterol lowering ingredients are plant sterols. Studies have used dosages of 2g per day which result in up to 15% reduction in LDL levels. Smoking is shown to increase LDL levels so a good reason to give it up!

Triglycerides are another type of fat that can be measured in the blood and high levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Fish oils have become a widely recognised ingredient for heart health. They are particularly beneficial for promoting healthy triglyceride levels.

The role of bile in removing cholesterol

Bile plays a key role in digesting fats so that they can be used by the body. Bile is also necessary for removing cholesterol. It is made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder until it is needed.

Bitter foods are great at stimulating bile production. I recommend using dandelion in the form of teas, drops or juice.

Lecithin is also used as a food supplement to help lower cholesterol as it is a source of phospholipids. These molecules help with absorption of healthy fats in the body. Lecithin is available as granules which are easy to use in the diet or can be taken in a supplement form.

The key lifestyle tips I recommend to help manage cholesterol are:

  1. Minimise or avoid foods known to affect cholesterol negatively ie. unhealthy fats found especially in processed foods and sugary foods and drinks.

  2. Keep your digestive system working efficiently by eating healthy wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, oily fish, nuts and seeds and sort out any issues with constipation.

  3. Try adding apple cider vinegar in water before meals.

  4. Aim to get at least 30 minutes exercise daily.

  5. Stay hydrated.

  6. Manage stress levels as much as possible.

If you are taking blood thinners, you need to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking fish oils or apple cider vinegar.

You can contact Davina in store or directly

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