After satiating my taste bud with some heavenly food essentially high on calories, my friend remarked that eating deep fried and junk food in excess would only increase my cholesterol level which would later lead to a lot of health problems for me.
Table of Contents
- What is cholesterol?
- Keeping a check on your cholesterol levels
- Foods that increase cholesterol levels
- 10 foods that lower cholesterol
- Make lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol
The rude remark not only made me sad but the pleasure of eating such a lovely preparation was replaced with anxiety and a deep-rooted fear about my rising levels of cholesterol in my body.
What if my cholesterol level had actually gone up in all these years because of my indulgence in all kinds of junks, street food and deep fried items? Also, have I ever bothered to check my cholesterol levels? Sadly no!
So when I came back home, I started my research on this “life-threatening” word called CHOLESTEROL and I discovered the following:
- Cholesterol is present in every cell of the body.
- Cholesterol has important natural functions when it comes to digesting foods, producing hormones, and generating vitamin D.
- It is manufactured by the body but can also be taken in from food.
- It is waxy and is fat-like in appearance.
What is cholesterol?
I also learned that there are two types of cholesterol; LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins), which is the bad cholesterol and HDL (High-Density Lipoproteins), which is the good cholesterol. I also found that cholesterol could be both good and bad.
If maintained at a normal level, it is essential for the body; but if its concentration in the blood increases, it becomes a silent killer.
It is important for us to understand that cholesterol performs four main functions in our body quite essential for our survival, which is contributing to the structure of cell walls, making up digestive bile acids in the intestine, allowing the body to produce vitamin D and enabling the body to make certain hormones.
Now the question arises as to what the causes of high cholesterol in our body are. High cholesterol is a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease and a cause of heart attacks.
A build-up of cholesterol is part of the process that narrows arteries, called atherosclerosis, in which plaques form and cause restriction of blood flow.
Keeping a check on your cholesterol levels
Our cholesterol level can tell us important information about our heart health which we may not know otherwise unless we get that test done.
That is because high cholesterol often does not cause any symptoms until something serious like a heart attack occurs. So ever wondered how often we need to get our cholesterol levels checked regularly?
Reports suggest that we should be cautious after attaining an age of 35 especially if we have a history of heart problems in the family or are overweight. Regular check-ups and discussion with your doctor can be helpful.
Did You Know?
- Cholesterol is an essential substance that is produced by the body but is also ingested from animal-derived foods.
- The greatest risk factors for high cholesterol are modifiable lifestyle choices – diet and exercise.
- Having high cholesterol does not usually produce any symptoms.
- If lifestyle changes are unsuccessful or cholesterol levels are very high, lipid-lowering drugs such as statins may be prescribed.
Foods that increase cholesterol levels
Reducing intake of fat in the diet helps manage cholesterol levels. In particular, it is helpful to limit foods that contain:
- Cholesterol – From animal foods, meat, and cheese.
- Saturated Fat – Found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, deep fried and processed foods
- Trans Fats – Found in some fried and processed foods.
Being overweight or obese can also lead to higher blood LDL levels. Genetics can contribute to high cholesterol – very high LDL levels are found in the inherited condition familial hypercholesterolemia. Abnormal cholesterol levels can also arise due to other conditions, including:
- Liver or kidney disease
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Pregnancy and other conditions that increase levels of female hormones
- Inactive Thyroid gland
- Drugs that increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol (progestins, anabolic steroids and corticosteroids)
Interestingly having high cholesterol levels, while a risk factor for other conditions, does not itself present any signs or symptoms. Unless routinely screened through a regular blood test, high cholesterol levels will go unnoticed and could present a silent threat of heart attack or stroke.
Now let us see the health benefits of some foods that lower cholesterol level in our body. These superfoods are best known as cholesterol-lowering food.
10 foods that lower cholesterol
- Barley and whole grains
- Eggplant and okra
- Vegetable oil (Canola, Sunflower)
- Fruits (Mainly apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits)
- Soy and soy-based foods
- Fatty fish (Particularly salmon, tuna, and sardines)
- Foods rich in fiber
According to Dr.Rupali Datta, Chief Clinical Nutritionist at SmartCooky, “Foods rich in fiber, monounsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels.
Fibre has a positive effect on lowering cholesterol because of the three important functions it performs. It bulks up your food and helps in controlling your appetite. Secondly, it decreased the absorption efficiency of cholesterol and thirdly, it increases the secretion of bile acids.”
She adds, “In order to keep your cholesterol in check, half of the cereals in your daily meals should be whole grains. Non-vegetarians should have fish thrice a week as they’re rich in Omega-3, especially salmon.” 
Make lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol
Four changes to lifestyle are recommended for all people with high cholesterol or who wish to ensure their levels remain normal. These changes will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Regularly exercise
- Avoid smoking
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
These were a few critical things you need to know about cholesterol and how to control it. With cholesterol levels rising like an epidemic even in young kids, it has become imperative to keep a tab on our lifestyle so as to steer clear of this menace.
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