Cholesterol is a wax-like fatty substance that is present in every cell of our bodies. Though it helps with a few other functions within the body it has three main purposes. It provides a coating for each cell in our body, produces bile salts for digestion and helps us convert vitamin d into a usable form. It travels through our bloodstream to the necessary places, but blood is like water and cholesterol like fat, so the two don’t mix. Our body has to package cholesterol with protein into particles called lipoproteins.
There are two basic types of lipoproteins. Low density and high density (LDL & HDL) lipoproteins vary by the amount of protein in the particle. HDL is considered the “healthy” cholesterol. It has higher protein allowing it to flow in the blood more freely. Unlike LDL which is likely to deposit itself in the arteries, HDL moves through the blood collecting excess fat and cholesterol from cells and tissues. It takes it to the liver to be processed into bile or get recycled.
Increasing HDL cholesterol can decrease the risk of heart disease and is affected by lifestyle. Exercise increases HDL where smoking decreases it. Following a low fat diet decreases saturated fat and LDL cholesterol. To lower your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease try using healthy oils like olive, flax, hemp and coconut oil. Eat foods high in good fat like cold water fish, avocados and walnuts. Avoid fried foods, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. Reduce the amount of red meat and dairy and replace them with more vegetables on your plate.