Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is not the “bad guy” it has been made out to be. In fact, cholesterol is vital for life and is used for many important functions within the body. To name a few, it maintains the integrity of cell walls, provides antioxidant protection, repairs inflammation within the body, is a precursor to steroid hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone as well as the adrenal hormones that help our bodies to handle stress, and synthesizes vitamin D3 in our skin from sunlight.
Some additional facts you may not have know about cholesterol that are worth knowing:
- Approximately 80% of total cholesterol is made in the liver and only 20% comes from the foods that you eat.
- The body makes it only when it is needed. In other words, if you are getting a lot of cholesterol from the foods you are eating, your body will make less. If you eat less, your body will make more.
- Cholesterol is a healing agent in the body; a natural balm/moistener that naturally will rise in response to any inflammation.
- Cholesterol rises significantly after surgery and will increase when you have an infection or mental stress
- The brain is particularly rich in cholesterol and accounts for 1/4 of all cholesterol
- Low levels of cholesterol have been linked to poor memory and cognitive function, a common side effect from taking cholesterol lowering statin drugs.
As you can see, there is SO much more to what may increase cholesterol in the body than just eating high cholesterol foods. In fact, knowing that only 20% of cholesterol comes from our diet and 80% is made in the liver makes limiting higher cholesterol foods a much less significant issue vs. focussing on reducing overall inflammation and stress in our life. In other words, eat the egg yolks people, unless you body is sensitive to them of course which would increase inflammation and therefore raise cholesterol levels.
So, next time you go to the doctor and you are told that your cholesterol levels are too high, before automatically agreeing to start on a prescription of statin drugs and assume you have to avoid high cholesterol foods like the plague, consider why your cholesterol may be high in the first place:
- Are you dealing with a significant amount of stress currently?
- Have you recently had surgery?
- Do you have any infections? Some infections can go undetected for years!
- What might be contributing to inflammation in the body? Diet is usually the main culprit here.
If you wish to manage cholesterol naturally, the diet should be your foundation as with any health building program. Below are some of the top ways to manage cholesterol through the diet that have nothing to do with lowering high cholesterol foods.
- Increase fiber: When the body’s supply of cholesterol exceeds the need for its uses, the excess is excreted through the digestive tract. With the aid of dietary fiber it is eliminated in the feces. If the diet doesn’t contain adequate amounts of fiber, cholesterol cannot be properly removed and will be reabsorbed and recycled in the body, contributing to elevated cholesterol levels.
- Eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods while simultaneously decreasing inflammatory foods: Remember, cholesterol rises in response to inflammation and this includes inflammation that comes from the foods that we eat. The best way to reduce inflammation in the diet is to eat foods that have a healthy balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and omega 6 fatty acids are inflammatory. Our body needs both of these, but too much of the omega 6 will contribute to inflammation in the body. Striving for balance is key.
- Foods with the best ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids: leafy greens (especially spinach, kale and romaine) and grass-fed/pastured/wild caught animal meats and fish.
- Foods with the worst ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids: Vegetable oils, Sugar, grains (especially corn), grain fed animals, most nuts and seeds
- Running a food sensitivity test would also be beneficial so that you can avoid all foods that your body has an immune response to.
- Eat plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits