Understanding Cholesterol

Let me just state that cholesterol is essential for our body’s healthy function. However out liver produces all the cholesterol our body needs. The dietary requirements for cholesterol is precisely 0. 

Excessive amount of cholesterol in the  bloodstream is the main contributor to cardiovascular disease. Basically what happens is that the fat cels and cholesterol are deposited in the lining of the walls of the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis which eventually leads to cardiovascular disease. Ever heard of clogged arteries ? That’s cholesterol for you. This whole process may take years and some studies have shown tha heart disease may start in childhood. 

If you had your blood work done and your total cholesterol is around 200 mg/dL, you may be told that your cholesterol level within normal range. But death from heart disease is also became “normal” in western societies. Despite the obvious correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease doctors do not recommend to lower cholesterol to an optimal level of 150mg/dL or even lower, to be completely heart-attack proof.

That would require dietary and lifestyle changes, because cholesterol lowering drugs don’t work nearly as well as people think and they cause multiple undesirable side effects. 

“And what are the dietary changes required?” you might ask. I will give you a very simple answer. Cholesterol is made in the liver so it comes exclusively from animal products. 

To drastically reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, you’ll need to cut out three things out of your diet: trans fat, which comes from processed foods made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and naturally from meat and dairy; saturated fat, which is found mainly in animal products and some plant foods such as palm and coconut oil; and dietary cholesterol found in all animal products such as eggs, meat, chicken, sea food and dairy. 

“But what about genetics?” , you might ask. 

Well I’ll give you an example of myself. A couple of years ago I had my annual check up and my blood work showed total cholesterol 230mg/dL. So my physician told me to reduce consumption of fried foods, fat and meat. When I explained that I don’t eat fried foods and eat lean chicken breast and fish, barely any meat and occasional white cheese, he told me that it must be generics then (especially having very low body fat) and that I might have to start taking cholesterol lowering medications in the future. And that was that. 

Four months after I started plant based diet I had my cholesterol tested and it was down to 170mg/dL total cholesterol!! It must be even lower now, after being plant based for over a year.

So now you know what to avoid in you diet. Want to know what are the best foods to include to lower LDL cholesterol? Greens and beans!! Include variety of plant foods, but the higher the fiber content the better. As fiber acts like a sponge in your body and absorbs cholesterol, excess fat and toxins out of your system. Foods high in fiber are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, but the highest of all are beans. Try to include legumes in your diet daily. And remember, the best cure is prevention. Even if you do have low cholesterol, the best way to keep it that way is to eat primarily plant based diet. 

The sources for this article and others on my website are listed here.  

Victoria DiachkovaComment