In a world that is filled with a wealth of conflicting evidence online and various opinions from health professionals (or not professionals), it can be very difficult to determine which diet will be best for your goals – never mind which diet is best for your cholesterol levels.
There is conflicting science on specific foods and how they may or may not have an impact on your health, but what we can all agree on is that high cholesterol levels are correlated to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
When it comes to cholesterol, it is important to understand that cholesterol itself is not a bad thing. However, too much cholesterol in the body does have strong correlations to chronic diseases.
Cholesterol is, by definition, a type of protein that the body already creates. In fact, the body creates two types of cholesterol – these are HDL’s and LDL’s.
You may have heard that there are good and bad cholesterols, but it is important to reinforce the idea that there is not necessarily a bad cholesterol, but too much of anything could be harmful to your health.
Cholesterol is a natural mechanism that the body uses to heal arterial walls.
High-density lipoproteins (commonly referred to as good cholesterol) are created in an effort to recycle cholesterol in the arteries – these are the guys that take cholesterol away from the heart and arteries. This is a natural mechanism that the body goes through in an effort to heal.
Low-density lipoproteins, on the other hand (commonly referred to as bad cholesterol), is the type of cholesterol that carries its contents to the arteries. For this reason, many people consider LDL’s bad – although they are rightfully just doing their jobs.
The difficulty arises when we have a diet that contains an excessive amount of foods which promote LDL production or contain high amounts of cholesterol in general.
This can cause an issue because the body does not have enough HDL’s to recycle the cholesterol and remove the plaque from the arterial walls. In this case, you have a buildup of gunk in the arteries that can raise blood pressure and lead to other chronic diseases.
Moral of the story? Eat foods that are rich in HDL and low in LDL.
In most cases, this means eating a diet that is rich in plant foods like beans, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and fruit. Try your best to limit fatty meats like pork, beef, and chicken.
Whole plant foods will generally contain a much lower source of cholesterol and will contain many more vitamins and minerals to help balance other systems in the body.
As mentioned previously, cholesterol is not the problem – it is the amount of unbalanced cholesterol you put into your body that can cause challenges. Eating plenty of whole foods helps the “good” cholesterol to handle the “bad.”
NOTE: Before making any changes to your diet, be sure to consult with your health professional.