Everyone seems to understand a few things about cholesterol. Certainly, just by reading the newspaper, watching TV or browsing the Internet, you’ve learned that cholesterol is bad for you. But how much do you really know about cholesterol? Perhaps you’ve heard of good and bad cholesterol, but do you really know what that means? And while you might know that cholesterol is bad for you, do you happen to know why? And how to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your diet? Here is a primer about cholesterol that will help improve your knowledge, and hopefully your health, immediately.
Cholesterol is bad because it hardens and clogs your arteries, the main pathways that your heart uses to distribute blood throughout your body. An abundance of cholesterol in your diet will stay in your blood, blocking the arteries and making it difficult to pump blood through. This is actually how strokes happen; the cholesterol build-up blocks the oxygen that blood carries to your brain. Similarly, this is how heart attacks happen.
But what is cholesterol exactly? It is a waxy, fat-based substance that is found in a variety of high-fat foods. Some examples of food that is high in cholesterol include butter (the highest per serving), other diary products, such as ice cream and whole milk, and red meats. What most people aren’t aware about cholesterol is that your main source of cholesterol is… you. Your liver produces most of the cholesterol in your body, which is needed to create cell membranes. However, your liver more or less produces the “perfect” amount, and so a diet that is out of control with cholesterol will quickly cause problems in your blood.
So what is good and bad cholesterol all about? Good cholesterol will actually remove the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood. Some example of food rich in this good/HDL cholesterol include oils, such as olive oils and a variety of nuts. Also, your body produces more HDL cholesterol when you exercise, so this is crucial in lowering the amount of cholesterol in your body.
To summarize about cholesterol, bad/LDL cholesterol will clog your arteries and lead to a myriad of health problems, many of them fatal. While your body produces cholesterol, health problems result in eating foods with high LDL cholesterol, such as fried foods, processed foods, and red meat and diary products. You can ingest more HDL cholesterol to help lower cholesterol levels by eating more oils and nuts and, most importantly, regular exercise.
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