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What You Really Need to Know About Cholesterol

When a person eats fatty foods, those fats are ultimately absorbed by the small intestine and sent along to the liver, which breaks them down into various other fat products, but mostly cholesterol. The liver then transforms 80 percent of this cholesterol into cholic acid (bile), which is necessary to digest fats and proteins.

The rest of the cholesterol is then used as building blocks for all cell membrane construction, all hormone fabrication, stem cells and the insulation of nerves cells in the brain. Pretty important stuff. In fact, huge amounts of cholesterol are required for these functions. Remember that the brain is 80 percent fats by weight, mostly cholesterol and omega-3.

Cholesterol's Bad Rap

Then why does cholesterol have such a bad reputation? It’s because there are two types of cholesterol. The first is high density lipid (HDL) cholesterol, which is beneficial and does not harm blood vessels. In fact it protects them because it actually collects some of the negative cholesterol and carries it back to the liver for removal.

The negative cholesterol is low density lipid (LDL) and it acts as a free radical in the body. A free radical has nothing to do with the 1960s. It is an unstable protein molecule that can do great damage to the body and cells. The damage done by LDL cholesterol attracts inflammation which obstructs blood vessels and allows excess cholesterol in the circulation to be deposited in the damaged vessel walls. It is when clots form on these blockages in the blood vessels that flow is restricted and heart attacks or strokes may result. That is the cause of cholesterol's negative reputation.


This inflammation and blockage of the blood vessels is called arteriosclerosis. (By the way, calcium is also deposited in the vessels when inflamed and in this case is as dangerous as cholesterol.) And since it can have such dangerous consequences for human health it's worth understanding more clearly how it develops.

The lining of blood vessels can be damaged by many factors, not just cholesterol. The inflammation caused by the free radicals actually tries to repair damage, but the swelling it causes allows cholesterol and calcium to deposit. There has to be damage for cholesterol to stick and cause and arteriosclerosis.

So it's not so much LDL cholesterol, but the damage done by free radicals that are created by LDL cholesterol, that eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes. The blockages in the blood vessels cause protrusions, which lead to clots, which deprive the heart or brain of oxygen.

Guarding against arteriosclerosis

  • Exercise is the best cure. It can actually reverse arteriosclerosis.
  • Maintain a high intake of potassium. Bananas, orange juice, tomato paste and potatoes are among the foods high in potassium, or take a supplement.
  • No smoking.
  • Eat a balanced diet, low on toxins, fats and meat. Also avoid high amounts of sugars, starches and prepared foods.
  • Lower intake of saturated fat, but don’t cut it out entirely.

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Good and Bad Cholesterol

good bad cholesterol

HDL and LDL levels show up on what the doctor calls a lipid panel. Then the total cholesteral level is known by adding the two together. HDL is considered "good" cholesterol and LDL is considered "bad" cholesterol. Understanding what the good and bad cholesterol does and how to increase the good and decrease the bad is the first step to regulating cholesterol levels.

The Bad Cholesterol

LDL is known to settle in the walls of arteries and heart tissue which causes clogging. The reduced blood flow makes the heart work more, and can lead to a heart attack. LDL levels of 100 milligrams per deciliter or below is optimal.

When LDL gets above 120 milligrams per deciliters, doctors start to worry and suggest diet and exercise changes. The best practice is to keep the LDL values as low as possible.

What Else Does LDL Do?

It has been discovered that LDL inhibits the rate of fat breakdown in the body. Thus LDL levels that are high can discourage the body from losing weight by restricting fat processing. This effects the homeostasis and leads to other problems.

The Good Cholesterol

HDL is the good cholesterol. 60 milligrams per deciliter or above is optimal.

Typically the more HDL, the better. HDL is a transporter of fat and helps remove it from the body. It also helps filter bad cholesterol out. Its been shown that the HDL levels increase and LDL levels decrease when people eat right and exercise.

Getting a Healthy Cholesterol Score

The key to maintaining a healthy level of good and bad cholesterol is to exercise and eat right. Exercising 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week will reduce cholesterol issues and have a strong effect on the body and mind. Learning to choose healthier foods will complement the exercising.

This typically means reducing the intake of red fatty meats and increasing fruits and vegetables, as well as non-processed grains. Another diet tip is to reduce consumption of high amounts of processed sugars. This includes reducing the number of artificially sweetened soda pops and drinking more water. Water helps HDL attach to fiber and leave the body.

Last but not least, the New England Journal of Medicine shows that studies indicate exercise is required, regardless of diet. The basics remain: eating right and exercise are the main way to stay healthy. With any diet and exercise suggestion, balance is the key. Consult a physician before starting an intense exercise regiment.

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A Heart-Healthy Diet for Controlling Cholesterol

heart-healthy diet

Eating a fiber-rich diet can improve heart health. Fiber-rich foods may prevent or improve diabetes and other conditions that are associated with heart and other cardiovascular diseases. Dietary fiber can be found in many types of food and can be a delicious staple in everyday meals and snacks.
Combine foods high in fiber with polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant sterols and stanals for a heart-healthy diet that will lower the bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and raise the good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Soluble Fiber

Foods high in fiber lower LDL cholesterol. Fruits such as apples, bananas and pears have soluble fiber. Kidney beans are packed full of soluble fiber as are barley and oats. A heart-healthy serving of oatmeal can provide as much as six grams of fiber. Adding fruit can increase the amount of fiber to 10 grams, which is sufficient to lower LDL cholesterol and overall cholesterol. Whole-grain breads often contain higher amounts of fiber than their more-processed counterparts. Checking the label is a must.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Polyunsaturated fatty acids maintain the elasticity of blood vessel walls. This allows the blood vessels to adapt to pressure changes with each heartbeat. Nuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and small servings may contribute to heart health. A handful of almonds, walnuts, peanuts, or other nuts are all one needs each day to lower one's risk of heart disease. Weight gain can increase one's risk, so it is important to eat just one serving of nuts per day.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and has proven beneficial to those at high-risk for heart attack. Two servings of fish per week contain enough omega-3 fatty acids to produce these benefits; however the fish should be baked or grilled rather than fried. Mayo Clinic suggests that albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, mackerel, salmon and sardines have the highest amounts of omega-3-fatty acids. These fatty acids can also be found ground flaxseed, canola oil, or food supplements.


Olive oil contains a certain mixture of antioxidants that lower LDL cholesterol while leaving the good HDL cholesterol levels high. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation is two tablespoons of olive oil per day. The less-processed extra virgin olive oil may be more beneficial than the lighter varieties. Olive oil is often used in salad dressing, as a fiber-rich, whole-grain pasta topping, or for sautéing vegetables.

Plant Sterols or Stanols

Plants produce sterols or stanols, which are substances that inhibit the absorption of cholesterol from food. These substances only seem to lower LDL cholesterol and have no effect on HDL cholesterol. Only 2 grams of plant sterols are needed to lower LDL cholesterol. They can be found in sterol- or stanol-fortified foods such as orange juice, margarines and yogurt drinks.

Foods High in Fiber and a Heart-Healthy Diet

Combine foods high in fiber with other heart-healthy foods to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. Eat normal serving sizes and limit high-fat foods to maintain a normal weight because excess weight increases one's risk for heart disease. The following are ideas for incorporating foods high in fiber with other heart-healthy foods:
  • Eat at least 10 grams of fiber per day.
  • Eat no more than one serving of nuts per day for a heart-healthy serving of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Combine nuts with whole-grain breads, fruit salads, or other foods high in fiber.
  • Add ground flaxseed to oatmeal to combine the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.
  • Combine the power of antioxidants and fiber by tossing whole-grain spaghetti with olive oil, fresh basil and garlic.
  • Mix powdered-fiber drink mixes to sterol-fortified orange juice.
  • Add oats and flaxseed to yogurt to boost its fiber content.
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Healing Properties of Fruits: Apple

ApplesApple has cooling thermal nature, sweet-and-sour flavor. It reduces heat, especially summer heat and, creates fluids for the body in general, but particularly to moisten dryness and cool heat in the lungs—protects the lungs from cigarette smoking; stimulates appetite. Apple also has the property to remedy indigestion—this ability is due in part to the presence of malefic and tartaric acids in apples, which hold back the growth of ferments and disease-producing bacteria in the digestive tract. It contains pectin, which removes cholesterol, toxic metals such as lead and mercury, and the remains of radiation. This fruit is beneficial for low blood sugar conditions and emotional depression associated with it. A poultice of grated apple over the eyes for twenty minutes helps relieve inflammation and irritations such as sunburn or a eye disorder called "pink eye." Apples and their juice are also cleansing and favorable for the liver and gallbladder by softening gallstones.
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