Cholesterol: The Good, Bad and Ugly.
For decades, the medical establishment and even governments have portrayed Cholesterol as a threat to people's health.
The problem is that your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to function. Which is why it's important to realise that there are "GOOD" and "BAD" sources of cholesterol.
The trick is to know the difference, so that you know which type to embrace.
Your body uses cholesterol to build cell walls, produce Vitamin D and make hormones. But if you're consuming excess "bad" cholesterol, you'll run into health problems down the road.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance in which 80% is made by the liver and 20% comes from plants.
Cholesterol is a fat that helps all 76 trillion cells maintain their shape. It protects the myelin sheaths of the nerves fibres.
The problem is when cholesterol is derived from eating the bodies of dead animals. This is 'bad' cholesterol because it's no longer 'primary'; it is cholesterol that went into the making of the living animal and is now spent with no life force.
"Good" cholesterol is something that the body makes on its own when supported with a plant-based diet that is rich in nutrients to help protect nerves and build new cells.
Types of Cholesterol
It’s not really a case of there being two different kinds of cholesterol, but more so, two different types of “lipoproteins” that cholesterol travels through.
High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL)
This is the type commonly referred to as “good” because they remove cholesterol from your arteries and deliver it to the liver to be processed and eliminated.
Certain 'animal' sources like raw organic eggs and yoghurts are ok, but the best sources of natural, body-producing cholesterol is derived from fruits like avocados, nuts and cold-pressed plant oils.
Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL)
This is the type known as “bad” because it leaves cholesterol deposits in the arteries.
If you eat too much, your body is overwhelmed and toxicity and inflammation grows. The fats turn into clogging masses of plaque that block arteries, coat the brain and eat away nerves and organs.
The main culprits of "bad" cholesterol are a long list of packaged and fried foods like, cakes, cookies, donuts, pastry, hydrogenated oils and fatty, processed meats.
Why is "Bad" Cholesterol a Problem?
High blood cholesterol is one of the major causes of heart and cardiovascular disease.
Dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels, especially in high-risk individuals. (Since cholesterol and saturated fat are usually found in the same foods, by cutting back on foods that are high in saturated fats, you will also generally be cutting back on "bad" cholesterol).
What are the symptoms and effects of too much bad cholesterol?
A wide range of health problems are connected to high levels of LDL blood cholesterol.
This can lead to a congestion of blood vessels and as already mentioned is often a significant factor in heart attacks and strokes.
When cholesterol becomes oxidised, it becomes sticky and starts to build up in the artery walls. These plaques, if they become too large, can block off blood flow or break causing a clots.
Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the rest of the body, while veins return blood to the heart after the oxygen has been used. These blood vessels can also develop disorders that restrict the steady flow of blood.
Vessels can become blocked by fatty deposits or plaque, which consists of cholesterol and calcium. This is a process called atherosclerosis, and it often develops over a period of years. Because of the plaque, blood vessels can become swollen and painful, or the walls can become thin and possibly rupture.
Atherosclerosis is caused mainly by high, bad, dietary fat and bad cholesterol, and is compounded by a lack of exercise and high stress.
The inner walls of the arteries become less elastic and more rigid, and they become clogged more easily with accumulated plaque as we age. The waxy substance of cholesterol not only clogs arteries but also increases the risk of blood clots and gallstones. This increased narrowing of the arteries is what eventually interferes with or stops blood flow.
Other symptoms and effects include:
- Chest pain
- Erectile dysfunction
- Extreme fatigue
What about fats?
Not all fats or cholesterols are equally made. Monounsaturated fat is the “good” fat responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol.
Consuming monounsaturated oils appears to reduce total blood cholesterol and the “bad” (low-density lipoproteins [LDL]) cholesterol levels without disturbing the “good” (high-density lipoproteins [HDL]) cholesterol levels.
Well known Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Omega-3 Fatty Acids belong to this group.
Good fats include:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Flax seeds
- Grape seed oil
- Nuts: Almonds, pecans, cashews, macadamia (raw)
- Sesame seed
- Wheat germ oil
Saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as high-fat meat and conventional dairy.
Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats such as Coconut Oil, but the body responds healthfully to plant saturated fats, and even free range eggs and raw dairy because these are primary where flesh is secondary.
Generally, “Bad” fats don’t grow on trees or in gardens; they come from animals that have been slaughtered.
The only plant oils that are toxic, are molecularly tweaked versions that have undergone hydrogenation and processing i.e. usually Canola, Corn, Safflower and Soy Oils should all be avoided as they cause chaos in the body.
This category is called “trans fats” and are regarded as the worst type because not only do they raise your LDL but also lower your HDL levels!
So in a nutshell, in order to prevent any of the problems associated with 'high-cholesterol', it's important to stop eating meat and to kick up your intake of fats that are derived from whole food plant sources.
This will not only help to reduce your LDL levels, but also provide you with a whole host of other wonderful anti-inflammatory and nutritional health benefits.
And if you're on synthetic, cholesterol-lowering drugs, it might be time to also consider weaning yourself off these things as you move to a healthier diet and lifestyle.
Learn more in High Cholesterol: How To Reduce Your Levels