The Link Between Dietary And Blood Cholesterol
The liver produces as much cholesterol as the body needs. It packages cholesterol with fat in very low-density lipoproteins .
As VLDL delivers fat to cells throughout the body, it changes into the more dense LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, which carries cholesterol wherever it is needed.
The liver also releases high-density lipoprotein , which carries unused cholesterol back to the liver. This process is called reverse cholesterol transport, and protects against clogged arteries and other types of heart disease.
Some lipoproteins, especially LDL and VLDL, are prone to damage by free radicals in a process called oxidation. Oxidized LDL and VLDL are even more harmful to heart health .
Although food companies often advertise products as low in cholesterol, dietary cholesterol actually only has a small influence on the amount of cholesterol in the body.
This is because the liver changes the amount of cholesterol it makes depending on how much you eat. When your body absorbs more cholesterol from your diet, it makes less in the liver.
For example, a study randomly assigned 45 adults to eat more cholesterol in the form of two eggs daily. In the end, those eating more cholesterol did not have higher total cholesterol levels or changes in lipoproteins, compared to those eating less cholesterol .
While dietary cholesterol has little influence on cholesterol levels, other foods in your diet can worsen them, as can family history, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.
Eat A Variety Of Healthy Proteins
The best choices of protein are fish and seafood, legumes , nuts and seeds. You can eat smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry but limit red meat to 1-3 times a week.
Flavour foods with herbs and spices rather than salt, and avoid processed foods as these contain a lot of salt too. Salt can lead to high blood pressure, which can increase your risk of heart disease.
Who Needs A Lipid Profile
Everyone over 20 should get a full lipid panel every 4-6 years. Kids should have a full lipid profile once ages 9-11 and again ages 17-21. Thatâs partly because high cholesterol and triglycerides may lead to plaque buildup in children and teens. Your doctor may want testing more often if youâre at risk for heart disease or if youâre being treated for high cholesterol. Acceptable total cholesterol for most people under 19 is 170 mg/dL.
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Should I Stop Drinking If I Have High Cholesterol
Cutting down on alcohol will help your liver to work better at removing bad cholesterol. It may also improve your heart health in other ways by helping you lose weight and lower your blood pressure.
Our top tips for drinking alcohol are to:
- drink less than 14 units of alcohol a week
- have a few days each week where you dont drink at all
- avoid binge drinking by drinking half what you usually would
- order a small glass of wine or half a pint of beer.
Read more of our advice on alcohol.By making some of these small changes you should see your cholesterol levels go down.
Goals For Your Cholesterol Levels
It’s best to keep your total cholesterol level below 200. Women of any age should have an HDL level of 40 or higher.
If you already have heart disease or diabetes, or your doctor estimates that your 10-year risk of heart disease is 20 percent or higher, try to keep your LDL level below 100.
If you do not have heart disease or diabetes, but you have two major risk factors, try to keep your LDL cholesterol level below 130. Major risk factors are age over 55 cigarette smoking high blood pressure low HDL a father or brother with heart disease before age 55, or a mother or sister with heart disease before age 65.
If you have fewer than two major risk factors, try to keep your LDL level below 160.
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Increase The Amount Of Fiber In Your Diet
Most of us do not get enough fiber in our diet. The recommended amount is 25-35 grams of dietary fiber per day. Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. As fiber passes through the body, it affects the way the body digests foods and absorbs nutrients. Fiber can help reduce your LDL cholesterol level. A fiber-rich diet can also help control blood sugar, promote regularity, prevent gastrointestinal disease and help you manage your weight.
There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of all high-fiber foods. Refined foods, like white bread, white pasta and enriched cereals are low in fiber. The refining process strips the outer coat from the grain, which reduces the amount of fiber that’s left.
The best sources of fiber are whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes .
Curb Cholesterol Not Flavor
Itâs no secret that certain foods can help you lower your LDL cholesterol, which causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries that leads to heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. But what may surprise you is that many of these foods are delicious and easy to incorporate into your everyday meals without sacrificing flavor or fun.
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Cut Excess Saturated Fat
Sometimes a small change can make a significant difference. Although this is based mostly on clinical experience, simply eliminating extra liquid saturated fat may normalize LDL levels.7 That means eliminating MCT oil and butter in coffee, fat bombs, or other keto treats.
Some people may find that limiting their saturated fat intake to whole foods is all it takes to improve LDL levels.
What Happens When Ldl Cholesterol Is Too High
When these LDL cholesterol particles get into our arteries, they trigger an immune system response. The body sends in inflammatory cells to try and clear the leftover cholesterol, but that very process creates more damage, which can attract more LDL cholesterol particles.
“It becomes a little bit of a vicious cycle,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones says.
He explains that over time, this damage can make it more likely someone will form plaque in their artery walls. That narrows the arteries, limiting blood flow and significantly raising the risk of heart disease.
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Eat More Plant Sources Of Protein
Excellent plant proteins include beans all beans, like lentils, red beans, pinto beans, and soybeans. Rather than raising blood cholesterol levels, as animal sources of protein do, beans actually help lower cholesterol.
Beans also help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, and may even lower cancer risk.
What Causes High Ldl Cholesterol
High LDL cholesterol levels are primarily driven by poor dietary habits, explains Eugene Yang, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Section Leadership Council and professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
The Western diettypically high in things like unhealthy saturated fatsencourages elevated LDL cholesterol levels.
With the increasing availability of fast and processed foods, high cholesterol is a trend that’s on the rise worldwide.
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, the number of deaths attributed to high LDL cholesterol grew by almost one million between 1990 and 2017. This research also shows a drastic shift in cholesterol-related death rates from high-income regions to middle- or low-income countries, particularly in Asia.
But diet isn’t the only culprit. Genetics can influence a person’s risk for having high LDL cholesteroland the heart problems that can occur as a result.
Dr. Yang explains that about one in 250 people has what’s called familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic mutation that affects their ability to clear LDL cholesterol from their body.
This predisposes people to levels of cholesterol that are higher than the average person. As a result, they’re up to 22 times more likely to have coronary heart disease, according to the CDC.
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Use Alcohol In Moderation
When used in moderation, the ethanol in alcoholic drinks increases HDL and reduces the risk of heart disease.
A study of 18 adult women found that drinking 24 grams of alcohol from white wine daily improved HDL by 5%, compared to drinking equal amounts of white grape juice .
Alcohol also improves reverse cholesterol transport, meaning cholesterol is removed from blood and vessel walls and taken back to the liver. This reduces the risk of clogged arteries and heart disease .
While moderate alcohol intake reduces heart disease risk, too much alcohol harms the liver and increases the risk of dependence. The recommended limit is two drinks daily for men and one for women .
12 drinks per day may improve HDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of clogged arteries. However, heavier alcohol use increases heart disease risk and harms the liver.
How To Lower Cholesterol Naturally
Here are 6 drug-free alternatives for lowering LDL cholesterol.
To avoid a heart attack, research has found that a key strategy is getting LDL cholesterol way down. Striving for LDL levels of 100 and below is good, but dropping to 80 and lower may be even better. Learn how to lower cholesterol naturally.
Go ahead, binge on beans! Enjoy all kinds! Black beans. White beans. Red beans. Pinto beans. Adzuki beans. They’re all champions at actively lowering LDL cholesterol.
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Cook With Vegetable Oil
Putting Together A Low Cholesterol Diet
When it comes to investing money, experts recommend creating a portfolio of diverse investments instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for eating your way to lower cholesterol. Adding several foods to lower cholesterol in different ways should work better than focusing on one or two.
A largely vegetarian “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods” substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants. Add margarine enriched with plant sterols oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber soy protein and whole almonds.
Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more attention than popping a daily statin. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your shopping cart and getting used to new textures and flavors. But it’s a “natural” way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that plague some people who take statins.
Just as important, a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol. It keeps blood pressure in check. It helps arteries stay flexible and responsive. It’s good for bones and digestive health, for vision and mental health.
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Different Ways For Lowering Cholesterol
There are four major ways people lower their bad cholesterol: diet, exercise, supplements, and medications. The first three methods have no side effects while lowering LDL, but all will take time to work effectively, so patience is key!
Here we will break down seven completely natural ways that you can help lower your cholesterol levels.
Lower Ldl Levels Are Better
In a JAMA editorial accompanying the study, Christopher P. Cannon, MD, of Brigham and Womens Hospital and Harvard Medical School wrote that aggressive LDL lowering is the ideal lower is better.
The JAMA studys findings echo those of another large 4,162-patient study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It concluded that LDL cholesterol levels of 62 were even better than levels of 95 at preventing death, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular-related problems in people with heart disease.
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Foods Rich In Unsaturated Fats
- vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and seed oils
- avocado, nuts and seeds
- a medium sized vegetable such as a turnip, parsnip, sweet potato, leek, tomato or carrot
- a medium sized fruit for example, an apple, orange or banana
- 2 small fruits such as plums or satsumas
- a handful of berries or grapes and other small fruits like strawberries and prunes
- a good-sized slice of a larger fruit such as a melon, mango or pineapple
- a tablespoon of dried fruit
- a 150ml glass of fruit juice
- a bowl of salad
Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, tinned, frozen or dried. They all count. If you choose tinned, choose options in juice or water, without added sugar or salt.
Potatoes, yams, cassava and plantains are exceptions. They dont count because they count as a starchy food, like rice or pasta.
Unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies count too, but only one portion. More than one doesnt count because the loose sugar and acid in them can damage your teeth.
Consider Swapping Saturated Fats For Unsaturated Fats
For some, making small changes like the ones listed above wont be enough to produce a meaningful change in LDL. Instead, they may need to reduce saturated fat from all sources and replace it with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. In practice, that means less beef, cheese, and cream and more fish, macadamia nuts, avocados, and olive oil.
Liquid polyunsaturated fats, such as seed oils, remain a point of contention. This is because observational studies show a small cardiac benefit, but randomized, controlled trials show they can reduce LDL but may increase both cardiovascular events and risk of dying.8 Furthermore, mechanistic data suggest seed oils can increase oxidation and inflammation, although clinical trials havent shown this.9 See more in our evidence-based guide to vegetable oils.
Many people find that reducing or eliminating saturated fats while still remaining on a LCHF diet successfully lowers LDL cholesterol. The more pressing question is if this is a sustainable eating pattern. The answer is highly individualized and requires personal experimentation.
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How Can Foods Help Lower Cholesterol
People can often reduce their cholesterol levels dramatically by changing the foods they eat. Diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterolfound in meat, dairy products, and eggsraise cholesterol levels, which increases heart attack risk. Foods high in saturated fat are especially dangerous because they can trigger the body to produce extra cholesterol.
Plants do the opposite. They are very low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol. Plants are also rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of cholesterol and reduces the amount of cholesterol the liver produces. Oatmeal, barley, beans, and some fruits and vegetables are all good sources of soluble fiber.
It is important to continue to work closely with your health care provider to monitor your health and manage medications, even as you make dietary changes.
What Is Insoluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber is generally referred to as “roughage.” Insoluble fiber promotes regularity, adds bulk and softness to stools, helps with weight regulation and helps prevent many gastrointestinal disorders. Good sources on insoluble fiber include:
- Wheat bran and whole wheat or grain bread/bread products, pasta, cereal and crackers.
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Work With Your Doctor On A Lower Cholesterol Plan
Lowering your cholesterol doesnt mean going it alone. Your primary care doctor is a helpful partner along your journey.
Your doctor can work with you to create an action plan just for you one that combines diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes to help you lower and manage your cholesterol.
For example, losing weight and quitting smoking can be big helpers for lowering cholesterol. Quitting smoking can raise your good HDL cholesterol levels, and losing weight can lower your bad LDL cholesterol levels significantly.
But these two tasks arent easy. Fortunately, your primary care doctor can be a great resource to help you get started and find practical ways to stick with it. Plus, help with quitting smoking and losing weight may already be covered if you have health insurance.
Whether you want to quit smoking, lose weight or just learn more about how your personal health would benefit from lower cholesterol levels, regular check-ins with your doctor are key. They can also perform cholesterol tests the only way to actually measure cholesterol to check your progress and help you make adjustments based on the results.
Limit Bad Fats And Cholesterol
Research shows that there isn’t really a link between how much fat you eat and your risk of disease. The biggest influence on your risk is the type of fat you eat. Two unhealthy fats, including saturated and trans fats, increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood cholesterol and increase your risk of developing heart disease. However, two very different types of fat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do just the opposite. In fact, research shows that cutting back on saturated fat and replacing it with mono and polyunsaturated fats can help lower the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
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