Cholesterol is something we consider harmful for our lives and we learn ways to eliminate it entirely from our diet. We’ve heard that it causes many diseases and is a threat to our heart health, which is the reason we consider it dangerous. Don’t you agree with this?
It’s true that not all forms of cholesterol are good and in excess, it is definitely a threat to our health. But can we live with no cholesterol in our bodies? It is not possible, as cholesterol has an important role to play and is vital for our body to function normally. This post is about the functions, types, food sources contributing to cholesterol levels, and ways to manage the levels of cholesterol.
The functions of Cholesterol
- Cholesterol is an important component of cell membrane (a membrane that surrounds every living cell and protects the cell), and helps it to be flexible while still holding its shape.
- Cholesterol has an important role in the production of certain hormones in our body such as the adrenal and gonadal hormones.
- It is required for the formation of myelin sheath which covers(insulates) our nerve cells and is impotant for proper nerve functioning.
- It has a role in the production of Vitamin D and bile acids (aid in digesting fat) in our body.
- Cholesterol helps immune system in fighting infections.
The Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol in the blood cannot circulate freely and is carried by certain types of proteins called ‘lipoproteins’. The main types are:
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL )– They deliver cholesterol to the cells where it is needed. But high levels of LDL cause blocks in arteries and are therefore called ‘Bad Cholesterol’.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)-They carry less cholesterol and move the cholesterol away from the cells, back to the liver where it is broken down. HDL cholesterol is known as ‘good cholesterol.
Sources of Cholesterol
Most of the cholesterol in our body is made in our liver(80%) and the rest 20% of cholesterol comes from the food we eat.
Food sources contributing to high bad cholesterol levels are red meat, full-fat dairy products, processed meat, baked goods, fried food, eggs, shellfish.
Food high in trans and saturated fat contributes to bad cholesterol levels. Checking food labels is always helpful.
Managing cholesterol levels
- Eating a balanced diet provides essential nutrients to your body and promotes good health.
- Choose healthy fats such as nuts, seeds and olives.
- Use healthy oils for cooking such as sesame, peanut and soybean oil.
- Exercising regularly is beneficial.
- Avoid trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats/oils.
- Maintain healthy weight.
- Consult your doctor in case of high cholesterol levels.
Our lifestyle influences our health. Let us not ignore the importance of lifestyle changes for better health.