Is There Such A Thing As Good Cholesterol?
To answer this question we need to clarify what is cholesterol. Cholesterol is not a bad thing, it is vital for the production of vitamin D and hormones such as testosterone, cortisol (stress hormone) and aldosterone (blood pressure hormone). Cholesterol is made within our bodies and is consumed via our diet. It is westernise diets that have shown to increase to cholesterol. Before we start it may be nice to brush up on the National Institute of Health recommendations for a healthy diet, which is what this post’s recommendations will be based off of.
- Protein: 20%
- Carbohydrate: 50%
- Total Fats: 30%
- Saturated Fats 10% (Which 2% Limit of Trans Fats)
- Unsaturated Fats 20%
Fats are absorbed and packed into “pods” that transport fats from the small intestine and carry them to the liver to be “cleaned”. Fats are then “repackaged” in the liver, as it is unhealthy for fats to flow freely around the body. Free fats cause plaque to build up on the artery wall, narrowing the space for blood to flow, causing an increase in blood pressure which is linked to heart attacks and strokes. In order to prevent free fats, they are packaged in a lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are the “cardboard box” in which fats are stuffed into. Cholesterol acts as packing tape to ensure that the package survives in various temperatures. Fats that are consumed via the diet are packaged into these boxes and are sent around the body for various bodily functions. These boxes come in 3 types;
- High Density Lipoprotein (HDL),
- Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
- Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL).
When there is too much fat, the boxes become over stuffed and “holes” begin to appear on the boxes. As the “holes” get bigger the body compensates by covering the “holes” with more cholesterol which acts like tape. Like any box with holes covered in tape, stuff is going to fall out, and it does. This leaking effect occurs with VLDL and LDL, when they are transporting fats around the body. The fats become free and cling to the walls of the artery. For these reasons VLDL and LDL cholesterol are considered bad as they increase inflammation and risk the incidence of heart disease. Whereas HDL is the good cholesterol because nothing gets out until it is supposed to. It actually protects you from heart disease and strokes.
Can You Control Your Cholesterol?
The role of VLDL and LDL are to transport fats from your liver to adipose tissue. If you increase the consumption of the bad cholesterols then the output of the bad “packaging” is increased. HDL, LDL and VLDL can be controlled with diet and lifestyle;
- Smoking increases LDL.
- Having a high Body Mass Index lowers HDL.
- Physical activity increases HDL (30 mins of active exercise, 5 times a week).
- Excessive alcohol lowers HDL.
- Niacin, increases HDL.
- Fibrates, increases HDL.
- Statins lower LDL.
Different types of fats can affect HDL, LDL and VLDL, as shown in the table below:
How To Avoid The Bad Cholesterol.
Bad fats affect cholesterol but can be avoided. Trans fats, a bad type of fat, is a man made substance that was created to keep fats from leaking out of processed foods and extend the products shelf life. Trans fats can be found in most of the bad stuff that we know we should not eat such as; donuts, muffins, cookies and some pizza bases. Always check the nutrition label if you are unsure if your food contains trans fats, but be careful as some companies label partially hydrogenated oils instead of trans fats. Another word of caution, if the ingredients list 0g of trans fat there may still be 0.5g inside, as companies are allowed to round down. National Heart Assoication recommends that a limit of 2% of calorie intake to be trans fat, thats equivalent to 6g (0.2oz).
Saturated fats also increase LDL, and may seem that they should not even be in the diet, however they have shown to promote satiety, which prevent overeating. The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 10% of your diet should not be from saturated fats and that includes your 2% from trans fats. For men thats 28g of saturated fat for men and 22g for women.
Saturated fats can be found in these such foods;
- Some Dairy Products (unskimmed milk, butter, cheese, cream)
- Coconut Oil
- Fatty Meat
- Palm Oil
- Egg Yolks
How To Raise The Good Cholesterol.
Its vital to increase HDL cholesterol as it protects you from heart disease. Unsaturated fats increase HDL and come in two types; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats have one double bond in their structure while polyunsaturated fats have two or more. Foods that increase the good cholesterol;
- Fiber (we talk about the importance of fiber in our cereal bar post)
- Nuts (Omega 6)
- Fish Oils (Omega 3)
No more than 20% of your diet should come from unsaturated fats. For men that is equivalent to 55g (1.9oz) and 44g (1.5oz) for women of unsaturated fat per day.
Take Home Message
Final message, here at Mr and Mrs Nutritionist we want to help to reduce your bad cholesterol without medical intervention and todo that follow these simple steps
- Remove trans fats from the diet and limit saturated fats
- Be physically active
- Reduce alcohol intake
These simple 3 steps will help reduce your cholesterol in no time.
Please comment any questions you have on cholesterol, and share if you found this post informative
Chang, N. and Huang, P. (1998). Effects of the ratio of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acid to saturated fatty acid on rat plasma and liver lipid concentrations. Lipids, 33(5), pp.481-487.
Heart.org. (2016). Trans Fats. [online] Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Trans-Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp#.VucYdTaJabI [Accessed 14 Mar. 2016].
Mayoclinic.org. (2016). HDL cholesterol: How to boost your “good” cholesterol – Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/hdl-cholesterol/art-20046388?pg=2 [Accessed 14 Mar. 2016].