The foods we eat accounts for roughly 1/3 of the cholesterol in our body. The remaining 2/3 is made primarily by our liver and a small amount is also made by the lining of the small intestine and in individual cells in the body.
To maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, its best to consider our intake as well as how to support our digestive function.
1. Eggs are okay!- The Heart Foundation states that most people don’t need to worry about eating eggs and their cholesterol. The cholesterol in eggs has almost no effect on our blood cholesterol levels.
2. Try bergamot! - The citrus fruit extract contains a high level of flavonoids and flavonoid glycosides which have been shown to maintain healthy cholesterol and lipid levels in healthy individuals.
3. Look for phytosterols - Close in structure to cholesterol, phytosterols (plant sterols or stanols) are naturally occurring ingredients that compete with cholesterol for absorption, and can result in a decrease of LDL cholesterol. They are found in small amounts in: nuts, seeds and legumes, wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables.
Eating lots of sources of phytosterols can interfere with the absorption of beta-carotene, so it is important to include at least one serve of fruits or vegies high in beta-carotene each day. Think of sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, capsicum, spinach, apricots and rock melon – yum!
4. Cholesterol levels may be more influenced by the amount and types of fats that we eat - Luckily, we can adopt an easy traffic light system to remember what is good to go, and what we need to avoid.
- Avoid trans-fats completely - They have been shown to increase disease risk, even when eaten in small quantities. They are most commonly made from partially hydrogenated oils, and found in different processed foods including deep fried foods, commercially cakes, biscuits, pies and pastries.
- Saturated fats are best to eat in moderation - They are not deemed as harmful as trans-fats and also have some good qualities attributed to them. Some foods you may include (but not gorge on) are coconut products, cheese and yoghurt. Try to aim for less than a palm-size serving of these (combined) per day.
- Include good fats every day! - Foods high in omega-3 fats can help increase HDL cholesterol and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Foods high in these good fats include olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
5. Quit the sweet stuff - While watching different types of fat is important, so is your intake of sugar. High intakes of sugar, especially fructose, have been linked to extra strain on the liver and increasing cardiovascular risk factors.
6. Soluble fibre binds with cholesterol in the digestive system, helping it to be removed from the body - A diet high in soluble fibre keeps us regularly removing cholesterol. Meals will include plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, sprouted nuts and seeds and fibre rich wholegrains.
7. Eat to support liver health - Not only does this help to regulate cholesterol production, it also excretes cholesterol via bile. Try including some extra cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussel sprouts) and by drinking dandelion root tea and green tea.
8. Cook with garlic and onions - The sulfur found in these flavourful foods help support the liver, naturally lower cholesterol and support overall cardiovascular health.
9. Get the body moving! - Even moderate exercise can help improve cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is recommended. If you haven’t been on the treadmill for a while, start slowly with 15 minutes of walking a day and gradually increase the duration as it is comfortable with your body.