Cholesterol the Good and Bad

October 31, 2012

Cholesterol is necessary for many of the body’s functions, find out the good and bad about this essential molecule

Cholesterol is one of those, gotta have it, but don’t want to have too much, or the wrong kind, of nutrients. Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for the formation of hormones and essential for many other basic cell functions, including cell repair. It is estimated that American’s daily dietary cholesterol intake is about 300-500 mg, and the oxidized version (will touch on this later) could account for up to 10 percent of this. American Heart Association recommends no more than 300mg cholesterol from dietary sources, and also reminds us that the body, particularly the liver, produces its own cholesterol.

Cholesterol from eggs, pasture raised, grass-fed meats, and dairy foods, when consumed within a whole foods based diet, in moderation is not harmful. The oxidized, or overcooked, oils and other products are where we can run into trouble. A study from the Chinese University in Hong Kong isolated oxidized cholesterol in foods and found that it both increases total cholesterol levels and promotes atherosclerosis; the hardening of the arteries.

Oxycholesterol, or oxidized cholesterol, is generally formed when foods of animal origin are heated and cooked at very high temperatures. When heated, cholesterol is oxidized (forming free radicals!) forming the new, dangerous union of oxygen and cholesterol. It is a well-known fact that high cholesterol indicates a major health risk; The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 20 percent of all strokes and over 50 percent of all heart attacks can be linked to high cholesterol.

There has been little research comparing oxidized cholesterol with non-oxidized cholesterol.  The Chinese study involved feeding hamsters either a diet high in oxycholesterol or non-oxidized cholesterol; those in the former displayed total blood cholesterol increases of up to 22 percent versus the non-oxidized eaters. As well as a significant increase in blood cholesterol; the oxy-eaters also demonstrated a greater deposition of cholesterol in the lining of their arteries - possibly due to the damaging free radicals formed from oxidized cholesterol – and the cholesterol coming in to repair the damage.

For those watching their cholesterol, choosing meals can be a challenge. Here are some tips to keep you on track and your cholesterol levels health.

Avoid trans-fat.
Stay away from items that list “partially hydrogenated” oil on the label. Reading all food labels is essential, even if the nutrition facts states 0 trans fats. 

Use fresh garlic when cooking.
Garlic has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.

Brew some green tea.
The antioxidants in green tea help lower cholesterol and prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

Stock up on soluble fiber.
Fiber, specifically soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol by binding with it in the digestive tract and helping it pass through the body. Choose beans and lentils, apples, oats, barley, carrots and freshly ground flaxseed.

Snack on almonds.
Studies have demonstrated almonds ability to lower LDL cholesterol as well as blood sugar levels – yes a 1-2 punch.