top of page

Demystifying Cholesterol: Key Facts and Natural Solutions

Updated: Apr 4


In today's health landscape, cholesterol remains a hot topic, with many misconceptions surrounding its role in our bodies. Let's delve into the essentials to understand cholesterol better and explore natural ways to maintain healthy levels.


How to lower cholesterol naturally?


Understanding cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in every cell of the body and is vital for various physiological functions. It plays a crucial role in building cell membranes, producing hormones like oestrogen and testosterone, and synthesising vitamin D. However, cholesterol levels can become problematic when they're imbalanced.


Dispelling the cholesterol myth

Contrary to popular belief, not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, the body produces cholesterol naturally, and it's essential for optimal health. The misconception arises from labelling cholesterol as solely harmful, leading to fears surrounding its consumption and a widespread misunderstanding of its role. Our bodies (liver) produce around 80% of the cholesterol and only around 20% of the cholesterol in our bloodstream comes from the food that we eat.


Foods that contribute to higher dietary cholesterol are:


  • red meat (pork, beef, lamb)

  • processed meats (ham, sausages, viennas, smoked sausages, salami, bacon etc)

  • butter

  • full-fat dairy (whole milk, cream, cheese)

  • palm oil

  • coconut oil

  • baked goods (such as potato chips, cookies, pastries, cakes, muffins, containing trans fats or saturated fats)

  • sweet foods and drinks (ice cream, sodas)

  • processed vegetable oils

  • alcohol

  • refined grain products (white bread, tortillas, pasta, bagels)


While the dietary recommendations are that no more than 10% from our daily intake of fats should come from saturated fats, and less than 1% from trans fats, it's also important to understand why our bodies need saturated fats:


  • Heart- prefers saturated long chain palmitic and stearic acid for energy

  • Cell membranes- need 50% saturated fatty acids to function properly

  • Liver- saturated fats protect it from the adverse effects of alcohol and some medications

  • Hormones- saturated fats function as signalling messengers for hormone production

  • Bones- require saturated fats to assimilate calcium effectively

  • Immune system- saturated fats prime white blood cells to destroy invading viruses, bacteria, fungi

  • Gut health- lauric acid, myristic acid, medium chain fatty acid in coconut oil, butter, meat work to kill bacteria and yeast in the gut. 


Healthy cholesterol levels

Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is paramount for overall well-being. While total cholesterol levels are often measured, it's essential to differentiate between LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. LDL is often dubbed "bad" cholesterol as high levels can contribute to plaque buildup in arteries, while HDL is known as "good" cholesterol for its role in removing LDL from the bloodstream. The primary role of LDL cholesterol is to transport fat-soluble nutrients (saturated fats) into cell membranes for use. But it's also importance to understand that there are different types of LDL particles depending on their size. LDL particle size helps to understand whether LDL may contribute to heart disease or be protective of heart disease. Low thyroid function could also affect the LDL cholesterol levels be elevated and having a higher LDL than normal can also be genetic. If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels or want to understand your cholesterol levels, it's best to talk to your healthcare provider.


When you test your blood cholesterol, it's always important to test not only total cholesterol, but also LDL-cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.


LDL to HDL ratio is good to have 3 to 1 or less (2 to 1 is great)

Triglycerides ratio to HDL is good to have 2 to 1 or less (1 to 1 is great)


If triglycerides are higher than HDL cholesterol, then it's typically a sign of insulin resistance and high fasting insulin.



Natural strategies to lower cholesterol

Fortunately, there are several natural approaches to manage cholesterol levels effectively. These include dietary changes, regular physical activity, stress reduction techniques, and incorporating specific foods and supplements known to support heart health.


Cholesterol-lowering and heart-healthy foods include:


  • Vegetables (eat them in rainbow of colours, fresh, steamed, baked)

  • Berries and fruits (blueberries, strawberries, honey berries, pomegranates

  • Legumes (beans, lentils)

  • Whole grains (buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, oats)

  • Nuts (raw almonds, pecan nuts, walnuts)

  • Flaxseeds, chia seeds

  • Oily fish (SMASH)- salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring

  • Poultry

  • Extra-virgin olive oil as well as olives and other healthy fats

  • Dark chocolate (aim for 75% and higher cacao content)- promote good brain and heart health thanks to antioxidants (polyphenols)

  • Extra-virgin coconut oil

  • Turmeric

  • Ginger

  • Fenugreek

  • Basil

  • Artichoke leafs

  • Hawthorn berry


Contrary to common belief that consumption of eggs contribute to high cholesterol, eggs are actually known to help to increase HDL-cholesterol and lower LDL-cholesterol. Moderation is key here. As per dietary guidelines, having 0.5-1 eggs a day is part of a healthy diet.


As your liver is responsible for synthesising cholesterol as well as clearing off the body from excess cholesterol, it's important to support your liver health on a regular basis. Learn more here how to support liver health.


If you want to read in more detail about cholesterol, I recommend to read the the following articles, from which I have pulled snippets of information in this article:



Understanding cholesterol is key to maintaining optimal health. By embracing natural strategies, you can take proactive steps towards achieving and sustaining healthy cholesterol levels, ultimately promoting overall well-being and longevity. If you want to improve your health, want to understand how to eat to help to lower cholesterol levels, don't hesitate to reach out to me for health and nutrition coaching at info@katrinpeo.com.

Comments


bottom of page