Did you know that your body naturally produces cholesterol on its own? Cholesterol plays a vital role in hormone production, in the formation of bile by the liver to aid in digestion, as well as in the creation and maintenance of the protective membranes around cells. So how exactly can cholesterol be bad for you? Like with most things, too much can be dangerous. A diet high in cholesterol can lead to an imbalance of cholesterol in the blood, building up plaques on artery walls that cause increased blood pressure and stressful wear and tear on the heart. Eventually, this can lead to heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks.
Cholesterol makes its way through the body by traveling in the blood stream attached to a protein – the cholesterol-protein combo are referred to as a “lipoprotein.” High-density lipoproteins (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, transport cholesterol out of the bloodstream to the liver to be filtered out of the body. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, carry fat with them and are responsible for delivering cholesterol throughout the body to the places it is needed. Higher levels of HDL are linked to lower heart disease risk while higher levels of LDL are linked to higher heart disease risk.
While ideal cholesterol levels should be below 200mg/DL, the Center for Disease Control reports that nearly ⅓ of adult Americans have cholesterol levels over 240 mg/DL – and most don’t even realize the danger they are in. Enhance your diet with these cholesterol-lowering foods:
When you think about lowering cholesterol, think first of soluble, or viscous, fiber. Evidence suggests that soluble fiber, like is found in vast quantities in whole oats, lowers cholesterol in an interesting way. By boosting its LDL receptors, the liver pulls cholesterol out of cells in the blood stream to aid in the formation of bile salts which break down fat. Fiber has been shown to disrupt normal bile formation, causing the liver to lower LDL levels in the bloodstream in order to keep up with its normal bile production. Fiber-rich whole grain oats help you feel fuller longer and deliver healthy doses of zinc, protein, magnesium, and iron too.