One of the most confusing subjects for people to shuffle through is understanding their serum cholesterol score. It is not as easy as just combining the numbers to create total cholesterol and if over 200. It is far more complex than that and more testing is available that really gets down to the nitty-gritty of cholesterol. You need a better view of the complex structure of the molecules, size, and density which all make a difference. We were told that HDL was our Happy cholesterol, so we wanted it high, and our LDL is Lousy, so we want it low. Hold on, it’s not that simple!
First, we need to understand that cholesterol is crucial for life, without it we would die. Cholesterol is:
- used to produce hormones, including sex hormones
- necessary for cell wall structure
- vital for brain function
- needed for nerve signaling
- required for the production of vitamin D
- a factor in autoimmune conditions as well as cancer, if too low
- involved in the production of bile, used for digestion
- related to depression
Isn’t high cholesterol inherited?
There is a condition called familial hypocholesterolemia; which is the inherited form of high cholesterol not necessarily related to the foods that are eaten. This type should be managed by food and possibly conventional medicine, so make sure you are weighing and researching your doctor’s advice AND eat clean to give yourself a chance at a long healthy life. Long life is not enjoyable if you don’t have your health.
I have a relative with this type of high cholesterol and she is now 88 years old and living on her own with a clear mind and active body. She has eaten clean her whole life because she just ate whole foods as her mother taught her. She never fell into the processed food frenzy and she stuck to the foods she grew up on, as her family ran a dairy farm back during and after the great depression.
Not all high cholesterol is inherited by genes, but most is inherited by one generation teaching the next how to eat. Those who have moved from whole foods to processed foods also pass on the progression of poor-quality cholesterol ratio in the bodies of their offspring. So, in a way, it’s inherited behavior and traditions, not simply inherited through genetics.
So, before you go removing naturally occurring cholesterol from your body with a statin, let’s do what we can with our food to balance cholesterol.
What does LDL cholesterol do then?
LDL particles are involved in the detection of germs or foreign substances in our bodies. These little LDL scouts go out and when they come in contact with bacteria, they become oxidized and are taken up by white blood cells. At this point, the white blood cells form an attack on the invader. It basically gives itself up to start the immune response to the bacteria. This can be why high LDL is found in people with a lot of health problems. Lots of scouts are needed to identify problems and start the immune response. This also leads to inflammation, which leads to other problems and the cascade of negative events leading to co-morbidity factors.
So, what about HDL cholesterol?
Natural fats from whole foods consumed are not the culprit often blamed for atherosclerosis. If your body needs more cholesterol, it will make more. If it needs less cholesterol, it will make less. If you consume extra, the HDL particles will work to remove it from your system, given there are high enough numbers of them.
Commonly called the HAPPY cholesterol, high HDL cholesterol is desirable because its job is to absorb extra cholesterol from the blood and carry it back to the liver to begin the process to flush it out of your body, thus lowering your overall LDL cholesterol and triglycerides particles. The more HDL cholesterol you have the better for overall cholesterol balance.
HDL cholesterol increases through nutrient-dense whole fatty foods like salmon, nuts & seeds, avocado, avocado oil, and extra virgin olive oil. Throw in multiple helpings of vegetables and a couple of fiber-rich fruits. The more of these foods you eat, the more satisfied you will be—and less tempted to eat harmful foods. Replace your processed foods with whole foods for better HDL cholesterol levels that go to work for you. The improvement can be staggering over just a few months.
Good Fats vs. Bad Fats:
Damaged fats like industrialized canola oil and vegetable oil are made up of damaged molecules that have been treated with high heat and chemicals, then deodorizers so we can’t smell the rancidity in the product. The rancid odor is damaged molecules and when eaten, cause more oxidative stress leading to more inflammation which leads to the laying down of more cholesterol to protect our arteries. It’s very complicated and I don’t want to overwhelm you, but what I want you to understand that what you eat is causing or avoiding bad cholesterol ratio and the laying of cholesterol on your arteries to protect them.
Some people think a pill will fix everything. I am here to tell you it simply does not fix the problem if you are not coupling it with a whole foods way of life. In most cases, you don’t need the pill at all if you are willing to do the right thing for your body. This is your choice.
I am often asked if thin people can have high cholesterol, yes…this is not a disease only people saved for those with visible fat. Thin people are also susceptible, especially if their diet is full of processed foods and sugars.
What can you do?
You may not have full control of the foods that are in your kitchen, but you do have control of the foods you put in your mouth. The challenge is using your mind rather than salivating in front of the refrigerator and making the wrong choice when you are hungry. If married, work as a team. If you have kids, teach them how to do it right when they are young, so they don’t have to reverse course later in life. Getting the crap out of your house is one sure-fire way to keep it out of your mouth, especially in times of boredom or grazing.
Your kids don’t need the crap that you are trying to avoid either. I cannot tell you how many times I hear about the snacks parents NEED to keep around for their kids that tempt them, this is an innocent mistake. This problem we have in America starts as a baby or young child and progresses. Teach your children to love whole foods, and they will. We are not born to crave processed foods. Don’t start the metabolic or brain pathway to processed carbohydrates that can and often do take over in their teens, then they are off and running through their adulthood.
A snack is a smaller portion of food to be used for an energy boost or to quench a hunger pain between meals. From this snack, our body will create energy to get you through to your next meal period. It is not an opportunity to have cookies and milk—although tempting—this will make your blood sugar rise and then drop making you even more tired since it was a surge rather than a slow increase to be converted to long-lasting energy and brain-power. Over time, this up and down of sugar (glucose) in your blood will lead to pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes—all of which are related to improper cholesterol levels.
What is a good snack?
A snack should consist of a smaller portion of whole foods and a glass of water. Here are 15 quick suggestions of an easy to grab, nutrient-dense snack:
- 2 pickle wedges, 8 olives, and 1 hard-boiled egg with sea salt.
- Hummus and vegetables of your choice for dipping.
- Cantaloupe/blueberries and brazil nuts (high in selenium).
- Overnight oatmeal in a jar with walnuts and blueberries, sweetened with Stevia. Eaten hot or cold. This makes a great on the go breakfast as well.
- Egg salad made with 2 eggs, served with celery or a handful of arugula
- Beef Jerky and fruit/vegetable of choice.
- Toasted Garbanzo Beans – good hot or cold.
- ½ avocado with sea salt and 2 slices quality ham and celery sticks.
- 4 or 5 slices of salami and few mild peppers or baby carrots.
- Deviled eggs, make a batch on Sunday, and snack on for the next several days.
- Small protein shake made with wholesome ingredients.
- Premade spring rolls; vegetarian or with shrimp. Grocery stores do a great job with these. Don’t eat the plum sauce, make your own with soy (or coconut amino’s or Bragg’s liquid amino’s) and chili sauce…YUM! Or use wasabi mixed with the amino’s. You can ask for a little side of wasabi from the clerk.
- Chia seed pudding
- Peanut butter or almond butter on a banana.
- Banana sliced and topped with Low Karb Granola or full-fat yogurt.
I am not saying you can never have a piece of cake or chocolate chip cookies. What I am saying is that it should be a treat after your evening meal or on the weekend; ONCE IN A WHILE, but not daily. Avoid creating the pathway to cravings. If that is too late, you can reverse the course.
A great book that will make you a bit angry at what our food system has done is called The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker. It explains how large food companies work to addict us to their foods. This book is also available on audible.com if you prefer to listen over reading. No, I am not a paid sponsor for the book or the audible.com, just a fan of learning through reading and listening.
The moral of the story is:
Eat a wide variety of whole foods like fiber-rich fruit and vegetables, wholesome proteins like seafood, beef, chicken, and healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Unless you have the inherited form of high cholesterol, you can avoid out of whack cholesterol that is a contributing factor to multiple diseases. First came one, then the other. These ailments of metabolic syndrome are 100% related.
If you are interested in learning more or want to take a journey to better health with a personal evaluation and meal plan, gained knowledge and accountability, give me a call at 303-875-1603, send me an e-mail or schedule a free 30-minute consultation—no sales pressure—I promise! Let’s see if I am the fit for you to return to wellness, or better yet, simply avoid getting the disease in the first place.