The truth about cholesterol is far more complex than just knowing someone’s total cholesterol. Traditionally the medical focus has been on Total Cholesterol & LDL’s (‘bad’ cholesterol), but we now know that the BEST PREDICTOR of heart disease is the ratio of Total Cholesterol: HDL (good cholesterol). This should be less than 5 and ideally 3.5. In addition to knowing this figure, there are other tests now available that measure subfractions of LDL’s which reveal even more information about our cholesterol status. These look at particle size and number.
We do need some cholesterol in our diet to make our hormones and cell membranes and for brain health. Without enough cholesterol, testosterone levels & sex drive fall and there is increased cognitive dysfunction, among other issues. So it’s not about having lower cholesterol, it’s about having the RIGHT TYPE OF CHOLESTEROL.
What makes the worst impact on our heart health is SUGAR & REFINED CARBOHYDRATES. Excess sugars in our diet convert to fat in the body. Refined sugars reduce HDL’s (good cholesterol) & raise triglycerides & small dense cholesterol particles found in LDL’s (bad cholesterol).
We need to eat the right kind of fats & avoid others.
To balance cholesterol levels we also need to consider all lifestyle factors apart from just diet. We need to exercise regularly, manage stress well, and get good quality sleep every night, something that many people fail to do.
What To Eat
Eat a diet that is low in sugar, flour and refined carbohydrates, and starches of all kinds, eg. bread, pastries, cakes, crackers, flour-based products, artificial sweeteners, sugar, honey, maple syrup, … anything in a packet, and anything that is sweetened. Also, high-fructose corn syrup is used in soft drinks, fruit juices & processed goods. All of these are inflaming foods that are highly addictive, eg. sugars. The more you eat, the more you crave. Remember, sugar and refined carbohydrates are the foods that raise our cholesterol.
Eat quality fats—omega-3 fats. Include olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, nut butter, coconut oil, and flaxseed. Spread the fats between all of your meals, aiming for 2-3 small serves per meal. They have the added bonus of being anti-inflammatory. A small amount of saturated fat (eg. found in coconut oil & eggs) is necessary to manufacture our own cholesterol. This fat needs to be eaten so that we can make our hormones & cell membranes. Avoid trans fats found in refined processed (packet) foods, eg. store-bought cakes, bread, biscuits, pastries, margarine, and refined vegetable oils like canola, grapeseed, etc. These fats are toxic to our cells.
Eat fresh vegetables and some fruit daily for their high fiber and vitamin content. The deeper the colours and the more variety, the better: ‘eat a rainbow daily’. This provides a high phytonutrient content which is protective against most diseases and helps to boost our microflora (good gut bugs) and is anti-inflammatory in nature.
Stay away from chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, MSG, and artificial sweeteners.
Get back to making meals from scratch, eg. make a marinade for meat/chicken/fish or vegetarian meals with tofu. Cook some fresh veg or a salad to go with it. Eg. use a chilli pesto marinade or create one from Tamari, oil, and lemon juice.
Make sure you’re getting enough protein for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Spread this throughout the day. Good quality choices are lean meat, chicken or turkey, fish & seafood, nuts & seeds, beans/legumes/lentils, tofu, and eggs.
Choose foods that ideally are organic, local, and fresh. Eat a diet that is low in pesticides, antibiotics, and added hormones and no or low in GMO foods (genetically modified). These have been processed much more than other processed foods and are likely to contain more pesticide residues.