The mere mention of cholesterol brings a negative image to most people and it’s been at the top of many governments’ hit lists over the past few decades.
However, recent research is beginning to indicate cholesterol may not be the menace it was once thought to be.
Why Do We Need Cholesterol?
The body needs cholesterol for essential bodily functions such as:
- The primary ingredient in bile – which is produced by the liver to digest fats, oils and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K in the small intestine
- A base for some essential hormones including cortisol, oestrogen and testosterone
- Keeping cells stable and watertight
- Assisting in the skin’s conversion of Vitamin D from sunlight
Current Research on Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Diseases
Recent studies indicate lowering cholesterol intake from the diet does NOT reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (involving the heart and/or blood vessels). In fact, those with very low cholesterol levels have been shown to be more at risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.
It is believed other underlying reasons may be contributing to cardiovascular issues to a greater degree. These include inflammation from too much sugar, salt and processed foods; excess toxins from alcohol, cigarettes, etc. damaging blood vessels; not having enough hydrating fluids and even malnutrition from a lack of beneficial nutrients from food.
Some of the latest research has found a connection between calcium and cardiovascular diseases:
- Excessive calcium from the diet may be causing an increase in high blood pressure, heart disease and arterial diseases
- Magnesium, Vitamin K and Vitamin D can help with calcium absorption
- The body appears to send excess calcium to cells that are already highly acidic, therefore taking away some of what is needed by the heart
Where Do We Get Cholesterol From?
Most cholesterol comes from animal sources in the diet such as red meat, eggs, fish and dairy.
A healthy bowel, good bile production and sufficient Vitamin D can help optimise cholesterol so it’s not too high or too low.
Unfortunately, getting enough Vitamin D from the diet alone is not easy and sufficient sunlight is needed for the body to make larger amounts. This can be difficult in darker months, if you are housebound or expose very little skin whilst in the sun, etc.
Bile helps to excrete excess cholesterol from the body. For this to happen successfully, the liver and gallbladder need to be healthy. A healthy diet featuring plenty of fruit and vegetables, good hydration, as well as limiting toxins like sugar, processed foods, alcohol and tobacco along with keeping stress to a manageable level are the key. If you struggle with fruit and veg intake, I stock alkalising greens supplements in my online shop.
An optimum balance of flora in the gut can help break down cholesterol and lower stress-type symptoms. Balanced pH levels are very important – eating plenty fruit, vegetables; and possibly supplementing with alkalising supplements can help neutralise pH in a typically acidic western diet. Small amounts of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh and miso can also provide beneficial bacteria to aid gut flora balance. Taking a probiotics supplement can help restore gut flora balance.
The body also helps regulate cholesterol to some degree – if there is too little, the liver (especially), intestines and reproductive organs can synthesise further cholesterol from the right foods. If there is too much, the liver will produce less cholesterol than normal.
My Advice on Cholesterol
Although we clearly need cholesterol in our daily diet, it’s worth remembering that our body, in particular the liver, kidneys and gallbladder, needs to be functioning well to best utilise the cholesterol we are taking in.
My advice would always be to eat a balanced diet of meals and snacks featuring high quality (non-processed) protein, beneficial fats and alkalising fruit and vegetables. Taking on board 1.5 to 2 litres of hydrating fluids (as well as limiting caffeinated drinks and alcohol) is highly important.
Additionally, to guard against too much cholesterol, limit your intake of processed foods, excessive amounts of red meats, dairy, grains, salt and sugar. Concentrate on basing your diet around poultry, fish (especially oily fish), pulses, beans, nuts, seeds and lots of vegetables with one or two portions of fruit a day.