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The Relationship Between Food & Cholesterol

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood that comes from two sources, your liver and food. Your liver naturally produces the cholesterol your body needs and the remainder of it comes from the part of your diet that consists of animals or animal produce. Cholesterol is important for building cells and making vitamins.

Understanding cholesterol

LDL (low density lipoprotein) - Known as “bad” cholesterol. This can clog up your arteries which makes them narrower. This essentially makes it harder for the blood to be passed through your body and is a major risk factor for developing heart disease.

HDL (high density lipoprotein) - Known as “good” cholesterol. It keeps your arteries clean by transporting excess levels of cholesterol back to your liver. Your liver then re-processes it and passes it out of your body.

Triglycerides – Another type of fat in the blood which comes from the food we eat. They are our main source of energy. However, having high triglyceride levels is linked with increased risk of having a heart attack and stroke.

Total cholesterol – Total amount of LDL and HDL cholesterol that’s found in your blood.

Picture of salmon ,  an avacado, spinach, different nuts, beans and lentils.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep your cholesterol levels in check and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Can your diet affect your cholesterol?

The simple answer is yes. The most common cause of high cholesterol is having a diet high in saturated fat, combined with not getting enough exercise. Foods that are high in saturated fat (which are bad for you), cause your liver to produce more cholesterol than it needs too. For some people the extra amount of cholesterol means they could go from having normal cholesterol levels to high cholesterol levels.

Ways to lower your cholesterol

Eat fewer fatty foods – Cut down on fatty foods, especially those that are high in saturated fat.

The healthier type of fat to consume is unsaturated fat. Food labels give you all the nutritional information that you need to know.

Try to eat more:

  • Oily fish – this contains omega 3. e.g., mackerel, salmon and tuna

  • Brown carbohydrates instead of white e.g., rice, bread and pasta

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Fresh, unprocessed foods

Try to eat less:

  • Fatty meat e.g., sausages, bacon

  • Butter, lard, and ghee

  • Cheese – this includes both hard cheese and cream cheese

  • Food containing coconut oil or palm oil

  • Biscuits, cakes and pastries

Exercise more:

30 minutes a day of exercise is recommended.

This can be any form of exercise:

  • Walking – brisk walking to get the blood flow going

  • Swimming

  • Cycling

  • Badminton

  • Football

Finding an exercise, you enjoy means you are more likely to keep doing it.

Stop smoking:

Smoking can raise your cholesterol. It narrows your arteries and makes you more likely to have a heart attack, stroke and cancer.

Reduce alcohol intake:

Avoid drinking more than the recommended 14 units per week

Avoid drinking lots of alcohol in a short time (binge drinking)

Leading a healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep your cholesterol levels in check and reduce your risk of heart disease. What changes could you make to improve your cholesterol levels?

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Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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