Why Cholesterol is Important for Your Health!
Cholesterol isn't always a dirty word...
Like cortisol the stress hormone, cholesterol has gained an unjustifiably bad rap, but the truth is cholesterol is important for your health--and not all cholesterol is bad for you!
Keep reading. I'm going to explain how cholesterol is vital to the health of your body.
What is Cholesterol? And Why Is Cholesterol Important for Your Health?
Characterised by its waxy, fat-like appearance, cholesterol is a substance found in every single cell in your body. Your body needs cholesterol to help your body produce vitamin D, hormones (importantly, sex hormones like progesterone, oestrogen, testosterone), and the substances that aid in food digestion.
Your liver makes cholesterol for your body, so unless you are suffering from hormone deficiency or digestive issues, it's unlikely you need to consume any extra cholesterol from food.
On my personal journey (and this is not health advice), I have found that being in perimenopause with its low progesterone and oestrogen levels, that consuming ghee every other day has helped a lot.
Check out my blog about Ghee and progesterone production here.
Low Cholesterol Side Effects
However, cholesterol that is too low may cause infertility in women. This is why we can sometimes need a little cholesterol from food.
How much cholesterol per day do we need?
Most experts recommend 300 mg a day. 200 mg a day if you have heart disease or are at risk of heart disease.
But not all cholesterol is created equal...and here is where the confusion lies when it comes to whether cholesterol is good or bad.
The truth is, it can be both!
When you eat too much LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol type foods, (also known as "bad" cholesterol) - it collects on the walls in your blood vessels (like your arteries) which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
LDL comes from saturated fat and trans fats. Saturated fat is found in butter, creams, fatty cuts of meat, as well as some superfoods like coconut oil and cocoa. So, some of these saturated fats can actually be very good for you. (More on that in a bit!)
Trans fats, on the other hand, are devoid of redeeming qualities. Trans fats can be found in fast food, vegetable shortening, margarine, crackers, cakes, cookies, frozen pies, and refrigerated dough products.
Importantly, trans fats not only raise your levels of LDL but lower your levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol--the good cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol can be found in olive oil, beans and legumes, whole grains, chia seeds, flax, nuts, fatty fish, and fruit.
In a study, the consumption of olive oil polyphenols helps to reduce cardiovascular risk and one reason why people on a Mediterranean diet tend to live longer.
So, your best bet to keep your balance of good and bad cholesterol in check is to limit or avoid foods like high-fat dairy* foods and fatty meats and eat lots of plant-based whole foods.
*Ghee is not bad and can actually be very healthy (see our blog about Ghee and hormone balance here). It should be used moderately still.
But should you NEVER eat any sources of LDL cholesterol-boosting foods?
Not necessarily! While you could go without eating fatty cuts of meat for the rest of your life to no detriment, some sources of LDL like cocoa, ghee and coconut oil have many health benefits when consumed in moderation, like being rich in antioxidants and good for heart and brain health. 🧠
Cacao boosts good cholesterol! So keep up with those cacao smoothies! (this is not including chocolate bars, these are not part of the deal sorry) 🤪
Your best bet is to simply be mindful of your cholesterol intake and when you do eat it, try to ensure the majority is coming from good sources.
I hope you enjoyed today's blog and please leave us a comment if you like. 🙋🏼♀️
This article is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as health advice. Statements made have not been evaluated by the TGA and are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent and one should always consult with their trusted health professional before adding a new supplement to their diet.