4 tips to manage cholesterol
'Cholesterol' is a mis-understood area and commonly just assumed to be 'bad', which is a myth that needs busting. Cholesterol is essential for our health, playing a vital role in our body from building our body's cells to producing vitamins and hormones.
Changes to your diet are the easiest way to improve healthy cholesterol - learn more from our nutritionists in '5 tips to improve healthy cholesterol'.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance needed by your body to build your body's cells, produce vitamins, nutrients and other hormones. Cholesterol is produced by your liver, and your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs. The more saturated fats you eat, the more your body produces cholesterol. Learn more about the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats. You may also enjoy reading about the best oils for cooking.
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Cholesterol is transported around your body in your blood, which is why cholesterol has an impact on cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. HeartPro is an acclaimed formula including clinically studied phyto-sterols shown to reduce cholesterol and support your heart health.
Most of the cholesterol in our body is LDL cholesterol. Our body needs LDL cholesterol to protect our nerves and produce healthy cells and hormones.
HDL cholesterol is often referred to as 'good cholesterol' because a healthy level of HDL can actually help protect against cardiovascular disease. HDL transports LDL away from your arteries back to your liver, where it is processed before being excreted from your body.
If you have a high level of HDL and LDL cholesterol, the priority is to lower your LDL cholesterol through your diet and lifestyle, and if additional support is required, through heart supplements with phyto-sterols which lower cholesterol. Your diet is the first and most effective step to healthy cholesterol levels, so here we share the 5 best tips for healthy cholesterol.
4 tips to manage cholesterol
1. Eat lots of soluble fibre
Soluble fibre is a type of fibre that is mixed well with water, and when consumed helps to maintain healthy bowel movements and sweep toxins from the bowel. Soluble fibre also helps to trap bile and remove it from the body. This means your body makes more bile out of stored cholesterol, which in turn reduces cholesterol levels. Learn more about what does your poo say about your health.
Soluble fibre also provides a food source for the probiotics in your gut. This fibre is called 'prebiotic fibre'. These fibres feed probiotic fibres that are ‘bile salt hydrolase active’ that metabolise bile, so it cannot be reabsorbed, again meaning your body has to make more bile from cholesterol stores, ultimately lowering LDL cholesterol. You may enjoy reading our nutritionists blog on 'Why your should improve your gut health'.
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Sources of prebiotic and soluble fibre include 'pectin' which is found in fruits. Consuming pectin-rich foods on a regular basis, such as apples and garlic, helps to keep your gut healthy and your cholesterol levels in check. Pectin is a substance that helps to move food along the gut. Having the right type of fibre and supporting probiotic concentrations should be number one on your list for gut health! Learn more in the latest gut health research.
2. Plant-based (traditional) Mediterranean diet
Most people have heard of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. A traditional Mediterranean diet (which is plant-based) is a lot better for health than the modern Mediterranean diet, which is actually considered by many as unhealthy. The modern Mediterranean diet includes more meat and cheese which is not found so much in the traditional Mediterranean diet.
A traditional Mediterranean diet contains whole grains, beans, lentils and ample fruit and vegetables and is one of the best for providing plant stanols. Learn more about the pros and cons of a Mediterranean diet from our nutritionists in 'Is a Mediterranean diet actually healthy?'.
Plant stanols are a type of phytosterols (plant sterols) which help prevent dietary cholesterol from being absorbed. Plant stanols do not get absorbed themselves and help to lower LDL cholesterol levels in the body.
3. Regularly consume cholesterol-reducing foods
Some foods are 'superfoods' for lowering cholesterol levels.
Oats and oat milk
Oats contain a type of fibre called 'beta-glucans' which can help to improve healthy cholesterol, although it's important to note too much oat milk can also cause an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. Oat milk has also been shown in studies to be effective at lowering LDL cholesterol - learn more in 'Which plant-based milk is the best'.
Some studies also show that the consumption of oat milk consistently for 5 weeks can lower serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in men with moderate hypercholesterolemia.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been shown in research to significantly decrease total 'serum cholesterol'. If you suffer with acid reflux, discover our recommended best 3 foods to eat and avoid for acid reflux or 'GERD'.
Taking a daily dose of apple cider vinegar with a meal is also excellent for digestion and gut health, ultimately supporting probiotic numbers. Discover GlucoBalance, which contains apple cider vinegar and 7 other ingredients to manage blood sugar levels.
Omega 3 fats
Omega 3 fats found in flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and their oils provide Omega 3 fats which help to reduce blood triglyceride (fat) levels. Plant-sourced Omega 3 known as alpha linolenic acid helps to prevent the synthesis of cholesterol in the body.
4. Avoid cholesterol-raising foods
Avoid unhealthy fats
Unhealthy fats such as those in processed and deep-fried foods should be avoided as they increase blood fat and cholesterol levels. Avoid pasties, cakes, takeaways, palm oil, trans fats, and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. Focus on consuming homemade food rich in healthy fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, olives and avocados.
You may be interested in our nutritionist advice for healthy weight loss.
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Avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates
When refined carbohydrates and sugar are consumed, your liver converts the extra glucose derived from these foods into fats (triglycerides) which circulate in the blood and plays a role in total cholesterol levels. This is usually what makes total cholesterol seem high. All carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and can create the same issue. Learn more about whether sugar is actually good for you.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2023 advised the public not to use sweeteners for weight control, and that the use of plant sweeteners such as stevia, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, have no long term benefit for weight loss and they increase the risk of long term health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Whether you're looking to improve your cholesterol health or not, we recommend avoiding plant and artificial sweeteners, including those found in meal replacements and protein shakes. Always #CheckTheLabel.
Other ways to understand cholesterol
There are lots of options for improving healthy cholesterol through your diet and lifestyle - this should always be the first step and if changes to diet are made correctly, medications such as statins will be unnecessary. There are other steps you can take that will help better understand what may be affecting your cholesterol levels.
Your GP will be able to check your thyroid stimulating hormone level, which is an indication of how well your thyroid is working. This will help determine if you have an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), which can affect cholesterol levels.
It is worth checking out your testosterone levels. Testosterone is also very important for women. Unbalanced testosterone levels can lead to higher cholesterol levels and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
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Get help for smoking and drinking alcohol
Smoking and drinking alcohol are both detrimental to health and cholesterol levels. If you need help quitting, your GP can point you in the right direction to get support.
Smoking causes excessive oxidative stress in the body which can lead to the hardening of cholesterol in your arteries. Alcohol is very high in calories and negatively impacts the liver, leading to a rise in cholesterol levels. Learn more in 'Is wine good for you?'.
Get regular cholesterol checks
Many people are put off getting regular cholesterol checks as they do not know how to check cholesterol levels other than going to the GP. Your nurse and pharmacist can also test, and you can even do some tests yourself at home.
You may also enjoy reading:
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- Why the hype about Apple Cider Vinegar?
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