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Image by Annie Spratt


Food Fabulous

Notes from midlife

What to eat to lower cholesterol

It's National Cholesterol Month all though October, but you are very welcome if you are reading this at any other time of year. The information doesn't have a use-by date.

Cholesterol is one of the things that might be on the high side if you have an underactive thyroid and tends to go up a bit with age if you're not careful. I'm going to answer some common questions for once and for all.

Does eating cholesterol cause high cholesterol?

Short answer, no. But read on.

Will eating fat give me high cholesterol?

Again, not in the way you think, but read on.

How can I lower my cholesterol?

Don't do it by taking prescription drugs. There's a lot you can do by making changes to how you eat.

First of all, I'd like to introduce you to Charlie the rabbit. He took part in the experiments that led to that 'golden nugget' of science doctors have always been very keen to tell you about (don't worry, they're getting more clued up now)... that eating fat or foods containing cholesterol will give you high cholesterol.

Well, Charlie, lovely little vegan that he is didn't like being fed a diet high in fat or in foods containing cholesterol and things didn't go so well for him. In fact, he and his little rabbit chums got all furred up in the arteries department and, well, departed this earth. Not a great surprise, you might think, given he is a bloody rabbit, but that's science for you... Tune in later for the lowdown on this cholesterol business...

When you hear the word ‘cholesterol’ you're probably not thinking good things. Thanks to decades of anti-fat, anti-cholesterol propaganda, you’re probably thinking ‘no thank you’ when it comes to cholesterol in your body. In fact, cholesterol is a vital compound that fulfils a number of very important roles. There is a bit of a science lesson coming up, but it's important you know this stuff.

What is good and bad cholesterol?

Raised levels of LDL are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and, for this reason, LDL has been dubbed ‘bad cholesterol’. HDL, on the other hand, is associated with a reduced risk of atherosclerosis and is therefore often referred to as ‘good cholesterol’. If the cholesterol level is raised, knowing the relative proportions of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood stream is important. Ideally the ratio of HDL:LDL should be 2:1.

How is cholesterol made?

A large portion of the cholesterol in your body is actually made in the liver and one of the things scientists have now uncovered is that diets high in carbs (that's’ starchy carbs like rice and pasta and the like) turn on the fat production factory in your liver (lipogenesis), and this causes high cholesterol, high triacylglycerols, while lowering good (HDL) cholesterol.

Dietary advice for reducing cholesterol

Start following a low to moderate carb diet and scale back or cut sugar… Needs some help with this? Get in touch with me and I'll show you how.

Foods to reduce when you want to lower cholesterol

  • Sugar

  • Red meat

  • Butter, lard and other saturated fats

  • Refined carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, white rice, white potatoes)

  • Trans fats (fast food, cakes and biscuits)

Foods to eat when you want to lower cholesterol

  • Oats (porridge or overnight oats)

  • Fish, poultry, vegetable proteins (lentils, pulses, quinoa)

  • Olive oil, nut and hemp oils (reserve for salad dressings), rice, bran, rapeseed oil (use this for frying as it degrades at a much higher temperature than olive oil)

  • Beans & pulses

  • Essential fats (especially omega 3 from walnuts, flaxseeds, seeds, fresh tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel)

  • Live yoghurt (natural, organic, probiotic – like Yeo Valley or Rachel’s)

  • Vegetables of all kinds contain plant sterols. These are all good. Generally, the richer the hue, the better. This means: leafy greens, bright oranges, yellows, plums, blueberries

  • Garlic

  • Avocado

  • Tofu

  • Dark chocolate (in moderation)

  • Green tea

Having high cholesterol is a warning sign that things need to change. And, specifically, you need to know that, unless you want to end up on a lifetime of drugs that bring with them the requirement to have other drugs, you need to take responsibility for making changes to what you eat and how you live your life. That sounds scarier than it is… With the right support, changing what and how you eat is enjoyable. More than just helping address clinical markers like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and so on, the benefits of the benefit are enormous – like massively increased energy and weight loss.

Who do you know who needs this? Why not share this post?

I offer all clients a free mini session to help them take their first steps to making a change. Need that? Click here to book yours.


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