What is Cholesterol?
- Cholesterol is a type of fat molecule used as part of the structure of every cell in the body;
- Cholesterol is produced by almost every cell in the body, except for brain cells, with the liver being the major producer;
- Cholesterol is not water-soluble (called hydrophobic – “afraid of water”), which means that it does not mix well with blood. It is carried through blood inside a transport mechanism. Otherwise, it just floats and doesn’t move along with the blood flow;
- The transport mechanism of cholesterol is called lipoprotein, which has a water-friendly layer on the surface and keeps all of the fatty particles inside, separated from the blood. Think of them as tiny submarines carrying a load (cholesterol and other lipids) through tunnels filled with blood.
- Chemical structure of cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a molecule containing 27 carbon atoms. Structurally, it consists of three parts: a hydrocarbon tail, a ring structure with 4 hydrocarbon rings, and a hydroxyl group.
Where does cholesterol come from?
- The biggest source of cholesterol comes from the re-absorbed cholesterol made by our own body;
- Our bodies are usually capable of maintaining a healthy cholesterol level, by increasing or decreasing it when needed, although a combination of genetics, diet, and lifestyle may also have an effect on cholesterol levels;
- A large portion of dietary cholesterol comes in a form that is not absorbed but excreted (called esterified cholesterol – CE); (10)
- The small portion of cholesterol derived from food that is absorbed has very little effect on the overall level of cholesterol in the body. Some foods, however, such as carbohydrates, may increase the production of cholesterol in your body.
What are the functions of cholesterol? Why it is harmless?
Cholesterol is essential to our survival, since:
- It is an important component of cell membranes since it provides their structural integrity and fluidity;
- It is used in the production of steroid hormones, such as testosterone, cortisol, and estrogens;
- It is used in the production of bile acids;
- It is used in the production of vitamin D.
Cholesterol can be used to form a plaque on the artery wall, but only in presence of specific factors such as damaged artery walls, high blood pressure, high level of small and dense lipoproteins.
Therefore, by itself, cholesterol doesn’t pose any health threats. It is possible to have a higher than usual total cholesterol and perfectly good cardiovascular health provided that other risk factors are not present.
Epidemiological studies don’t find an association between dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases, so eating eggs is not unhealthy!
The Importance of Right Level of Cholesterol in the Body
For sound health and heart maintaining a healthy cholesterol level is of elementary importance. In medical terms, cholesterol is a steroid fat that is produced in the liver or the intestines. Producing hormones and cell membranes is the primary function of it and in all mammals, it is transported in the blood plasma.
It is an essential component in mammalian cell membranes and is also required to establish proper membrane permeability and fluidity.
Although cholesterol is necessary for mammals, a high amount of cholesterol in the blood can damage the arteries and is potentially linked to diseases associated with the cardiovascular system.
A Healthy Cholesterol Level
A minimum of 40mg/dl of HDL or good cholesterol is considered a healthy cholesterol level. While, for the LDL or the bad cholesterol, a maximum of 200mg/dl is considered healthy and anything different from these numbers requires immediate attention to bring the levels back to normal.
For people aged twenty years or older, it is recommended to test blood cholesterol levels after every five years. As both high and low cholesterol levels are a threat to your health and both can result in serious health hazards it is important to properly regulate them.
Abnormally low level of cholesterol seems to be the consequence of an underlying illness and often suggests links with depression, cerebral hemorrhage, or sometimes cancer also. On the other hand, a high level of bad cholesterol in the blood may be a cause of heart attack as it blocks the arteries and disrupts normal blood circulation.
Maintain a good cholesterol level
To maintain a healthy cholesterol level the first thing you have to do is to undergo regular cholesterol checks which will keep you informed about the condition all the time and prompt precautions can be taken if necessary. Though cholesterol level is not related to weight still it is recommended to watch your weight as obesity is often found as a reason behind the presence of a high level of bad cholesterol in the blood.
But there is no guarantee that a slim person or even the underweights have a healthy cholesterol level and they also can suffer the same.
Bad cholesterol is normally found in trans and saturated fats and you should read all the food levels before buying them to ensure that you do not consume those particular types of fats. Foods like egg, poultry, milk, and butter also contain cholesterol and the fact is that it is impossible to avoid all the foods that contain cholesterol. However, what you can do is control and minimize the consumption of those particular foods to maintain a healthy cholesterol level.
You can have freshly prepared animal products as they contain harmless cholesterol more often and it is better to avoid cholesterol in dried milk or aged cheese because they are oxidized and harmful to your health. Your liver naturally makes cholesterol worth seven eggs per day and if you consume more cholesterol than your liver produces, it is going to produce less. As long as the right antioxidant protects your body cholesterol it is quite fine with the health.
With a balanced level of cholesterol in the blood, you can have optimal health as due to the presence of the high amount of oxidants in the air the cholesterol in the blood may oxidize and cause serious health hazards.
Foods to avoid
If the cholesterol level in your body is already high, it is better to avoid certain foods such as egg yolk, liver, and whole milk dairy products. As cholesterol comes from animals, all the foods that come from animals contain cholesterol.
Fruits and vegetables do not contain it at all. Eggs and animal liver are the foods that have the highest amount of cholesterol as there is 213 mg of cholesterol present in an egg yolk. Other high cholesterol foods that one should avoid are butter, cream, cream cheese, and ice cream, certain shellfishes like shrimp, and especially organ meats like kidneys or brains.
Duck and goose meat has more cholesterol compared to chicken and turkey and the skins of these birds are extremely rich in cholesterol and must be avoided.
Cholesterol Fighting Foods
When you have cholesterol, everyone seems to come with a list of foods that you should not take, but there are few who tell you what food to eat to fight against it in a natural way. Nearly all the fresh fruits such as bananas, apples, watermelons, and oranges are good to bring down the level of cholesterol in the blood as fruits are low in saturated fats and contain no cholesterol at all.
Regular consumption of these fruits will help you to lower your cholesterol level and flush the toxic elements out of your body.
Apples are exceptionally rich in antioxidants and fiber that is very effective to lower the level of bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. Fresh vegetables are also helpful but the best ones to fight against cholesterol are dark green vegetables like spinach, ladyfinger, and broccoli.
These vegetables are particularly rich in iron, protein, and antioxidants that purify the blood, lower your cholesterol and help you to keep your weight in check. Fish is also a very good diet as they contain Omega 3 fatty acids that help to prevent blood clotting and the vitamin B3 lowers the bad cholesterol in your body.
Black beans, dal, Kala channa, and rajma also contains a high amount of dietary fiber along with brown rice, oatmeal, and white bread and are very effective to keep your cholesterol under control as all of them contain vitamin B and E, fiber, iron, magnesium, and other antioxidants.
Walnuts, peanuts, and cashews are also known to help to decrease bad cholesterol, however, keep a check on the quantity of the nuts that you eat every day.
Along with all these, a little change in the cooking process can really help you to bring your cholesterol back to normal. Try to bake, boil, grill, or shallow fry your food with minimum oil while roasts and poached foods are also very good options. So maintain your diet intelligently, eat a lot of food and still keep your cholesterol under control.
Also, Read – How to Make Healthy Foods to Lose Weight Fast
The common cholesterol tests do not give conclusive results, since they measure the number of cholesterol particles instead of a number of small, dense LDL lipoproteins responsible for dumping its contents (the building material of the plaque) in the artery walls.
Cholesterol and heart disease: understanding the connection
For years, it was believed that there was more or less a direct line between cholesterol and heart disease – but recent research has shown that this relationship can be more complicated.
A study by the Minneapolis Heart Foundation, published in the April 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that many people do not have high cholesterol in heart attacks. “The link between cholesterol and heart disease is weak,” says Dr.
Robert, who blames a large part of the blame for the persistence of that link in pharmaceutical advertisements for statin drugs. “Statin lowers cholesterol levels, but atherosclerosis still progresses,” he says, because of age, poor nutrition, smoking, and so on.
In addition, a review of the Cholesterol and Heart Disease Study, published in the August 2015 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that there is no strong link between dietary cholesterol intake and CVD risk.
On the other hand, the results of a long-term study, published in the circular magazine in September 2017, found that statin use in men with high LDL cholesterol, who had no other risk for heart disease, was associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease. Percent
In addition, a study of more than 400,000 people published in Lancet in December 2019 found a strong link between non-HDL cholesterol and the long-term risk of heart disease.
However, when it comes to heart health, your biggest risk factor is age, Roberts says.
To keep the risk of high cholesterol as low as possible and to keep your heart healthy for as long as possible, eat real (processed) food, exercise regularly, do not smoke, and keep your blood pressure under control.