Are you worried about your cholesterol levels?
Maybe high cholesterol runs in the family and you’re worried it could be genetic?
Perhaps you’re already taking cholesterol lowering medication and have concerns about side effects?
Well did you know that evidence is now showing that high ldl cholesterol, known as “bad cholesterol” isn’t necessarily bad for heart disease?
In fact studies show that people with higher LDL cholesterol often live longer and are less prone to infections.
Some experts are now saying that it's not how high or low your LDL is that matters, but rather what condition it's in.
In other words you can have healthy and unhealthy LDL.
We’ll get to why this is in just a moment.. Plus uncover 5 incredible ways to create healthy ldl cholesterol. Including how eating certain foods can help remove excess cholesterol which is prone to causing damage.
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First it’s critical to understand that cholesterol is made in the liver and plays an important role for:
- keeping the brain functioning optimally
- absorption of fat soluble vitamins
- bile acid production for digestion
- cell regeneration
- nerve regeneration
- and hormone synthesis
The brain and nerves are made up of nearly 25% cholesterol.
Plus our hormones are made from cholesterol. If we don’t have enough this can cause hormonal issues.
This leads to the question why would anyone want to lower it when we consider the many vital roles it plays in the body.
For years physicians believed that high ldl cholesterol leads to cardiovascular disease. However recently it has become apparent that high ldl levels don’t always correlate with increased risk of heart attacks.
Research shows that approximately 50% of people hospitalized with heart attacks have normal levels of ldl cholesterol. In fact, one large study looked at 541 hospitals with 136,905 admissions for heart attacks. It found that 75 percent of those people had “normal” LDL cholesterol, with 50 percent having optimal LDL levels.
So what is it about cholesterol that could be linked to heart problems?
Cholesterol has many functions, one is to heal damage to blood vessels.. If a wound occurs on a blood vessel wall the body sends cholesterol to help patch it up.
If your cholesterol is healthy the body can do this efficiently and keep your arteries in good shape. However not all LDL cholesterol is created equal.
Studies have shown that larger fluffy ldl cholesterol is better, whereas smaller more dense LDL is not.
Small dense LDL particles are more prone to being damaged by being oxidized.. When this happens they are more likely to create dangerous plaques on the blood vessel walls.
A review published in 1999 stated
“ the presence of small, dense LDL particles is associated with more than a three-fold increase in the risk of Coronary Heart Disease”.
So the obvious question is, what makes LDL become small and dense, which we’ll discuss next.
One of the key giveaways that ldl cholesterol is not in its optimal state is high triglycerides. High triglycerides are caused by a diet high in sugars which leads to elevated blood glucose.
High blood sugar isn’t simply caused by eating cakes and candy but it’s also caused by consuming processed flour based food like breads. In fact 2 slices of whole wheat bread can substantially raise blood sugar levels.
Whether from eating pasta, bread or candy, a process called "de novo lipogenesis" occurs. This is basically the turning of carbohydrates to fats in the blood.
And through a series of steps high levels of triglycerides make LDL cholesterol particles triglyceride rich. This leads to formation of small ldl particles. When the particles are small they are more likely to become oxidized and damage arteries, leading to blockages.
So how can we improve the particle size of LDL cholesterol?
First off let’s look at the A to Z weight loss trial. This trial looked at 311 overweight participants over a 12 month period.
The researchers compared 4 weight-loss diets. The diets represented a spectrum of low to high carbohydrate intake for effects on weight loss and related metabolic markers such as blood lipids.
Interestingly the low carb high fat diet out performed all the other diets.
- The participants lost twice as much weight.
- Increased their HDL cholesterol
- Lowered their triglycerides
- And as for their LDL cholesterol it actually went up slightly but it changed from small dense particles to larger, light and fluffy ones.
Interestingly, a 2021 meta-analysis of studies across 6 electronic databases found that a low carb diet increased LDL particle size and decreased the numbers of total and small LDL particles
Furthermore studies have shown that those with the highest intake of sugar have 275% increased risk of heart attacks. And when we consider that high sugar diets lead to high triglycerides which then cause small dense LDL particles, it comes as no surprize.
Conversely in 2015 two of the worlds’ leading researchers on lipids reviewed all the latest data on fats. In an article titled
“Saturated Fats versus Polyunsaturated Fats versus Carbohydrates for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Treatment”
They found no link between total dietary fat or saturated fat and heart disease. So it seems that eating fat isn’t the problem, but rather a diet high in sugar or food that turns into sugar when digested, is the real issue.
This leads us on to our top 5 incredible ways to create healthy ldl cholesterol. Including how a special substance found in certain foods can help keep cholesterol healthy.
But first if you’d like to learn more about improving your heart health then why not download our free ebook The Surprizing Truth About Fat and Cholesterol
And if you’d really like to understand the full picture for fighting and preventing heart disease, check out Episode 1 of The Untold Story of Heart Disease. Documentary series.
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Number 5 Exercise
Many studies show that moving your body on a regular basis helps improve your cholesterol profile.
Plus it reduces risk of heart disease.
As we already mentioned one of the key giveawaythat small dense ldl is present is the levels of triglycerides. A 2001 clinical trial showed that exercising can help reduce triglycerides.
Reducing triglycerides of course means it’s less likely that ldl cholesterol will become small and dense.
Another way exercise can help improve ldl cholesterol, is that the muscles use up cholesterol when we exercise. Hence you have less excess cholesterol circulating in the blood. It’s important to note that excess cholesterol is more prone to becoming small, dense and damaged.
So find something you love and be sure to move your body.
Number 4 Cut out sugar.
We’ve discussed the role triglycerides play in increasing small dense ldl particles, therefore it’s crucial to lower triglycerides.
A great way to do this is to cut out refined and added sugars.
Top of the list when it comes to sugar is soft drinks. This ranges from fruit juices to soda, and includes any drink with added sugar.
When we consume soft drinks there is no fiber to slow down the effect of the sugar. It therefore goes straight into the bloodstream causing a dramatic increase in blood glucose and triglycerides.
Other offenders are any products with high amounts of sugar. These include candy bars, cake, ice cream or even certain breakfast cereals.
A good way to tell if a product is too high in sugar is by reading the nutritional panel. If it contains more than 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams then be sure to stay away. There is one caveat here and that is real fruit.
Yes, certain fruits can be high in sugar. But it’s important to note that they also contain fiber, which slows down the digestion of the sugar. Plus fruit provides a whole spectrum of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can all play a crucial role in well being.
A simple way to look at is, foods that aren’t nutrient dense should be avoided and that leads me to ...
Number 3…Remove processed carbs.
Much like added sugar, processed carbs significantly spike blood sugar. Thus leading to higher triglyceride levels and the creation of small dense ldl particles.
Removing these from your diet is critical for improving your LDL particle size.
Processed carbs include:
- And basically any products made with grain based flour.
As we've learnt, avoiding high carbs can not only help with weight loss but also with improving blood lipids. Being overweight is merely a visual symptom of what is going on inside the body.
Hence why obesity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.
Next up let's get to what foods to ensure you include to avoid the formation of unhealthy cholesterol.
Number 2: eat a variety of leafy green vegetables.
These may range from broccoli to kale and from cabbage to swiss chard. Vegetables provide a wide array of nutrients that will help support a healthy lipid profile. Thus improving your cardiovascular system.
A vital thing to understand about leafy greens is that they are anti-inflammatory. Furthermore studies have shown that for every 10 grams increase of fiber there’s a 29% decrease in cardiovascular disease.
An important thing to understand is that excess cholesterol circulating in the blood is a problem. This is because it is normally triglyceride rich due to excess sugar. It then easily becomes small, dense and oxidized or in other words damaged by free radicals.
However our bodies are intelligently designed and have a removal process. This is called reverse cholesterol transport.
This process takes the cholesterol that’s not needed away from cells and blood vessel walls before it creates problems.
In order for this to occur the body needs a substance called phosphatidylcholine or PC for short.
This is obtained from the diet from foods such as; eggs, fish, broccoli and brussel sprouts. Including these types of green vegetables in your diet is critical. They will help your body remove damaged cholesterol that could be atherogenic.
As you can see, eating eggs and fish are also helpful in the process of removing excess ldl. Interestingly both eggs and fatty fish are an important source of fat soluble vitamins.
Therefore this leads me on to my next point
Number 1 Eat healthy sources of fats…
As we already mentioned how high fat diets improve lipids by:
- Lowering triglycerides
- Improving hdl cholesterol levels
- And creating larger more buoyant ldl particles.
It therefore makes sense that we would be sure to eat a diet with plenty of healthy fats.
If you’re worried that eating fat causes heart disease then take heart (excuse the pun), as we look at one of the largest reviews on over 72 studies that looked at saturated fat and heart disease.
This review included 60000 people and concluded that there was no link between total fat, saturated fat, and heart disease.
Further to this a 2013 study on the Mediterranean diet found that people who ate nuts had a significant decline in small LDL particles and an increase in large LDL particles, as well as “good” HDL cholesterol levels
Additionally a 2009 Study found that high fat diets improved the health of blood vessels walls.
So be sure to include plenty of healthy fats in your diet from sources such as:
- Fatty Fish
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Nuts and Seeds
I can’t talk about fats without mentioning which ones to avoid and the number one fat to never consume is man made trans fats. These contribute to small dense ldl and create inflammation within the body. They can be found in margarine, microwaved popcorn and certain store bought baked goods. wherever possible check labels before you eat. If they contain hydrogenated oil then be sure to avoid them.
So there you have our top 5 ways to keep your cholesterol healthy. Let our community know in the comments below if you have had results improving your cholesterol.
And make sure to stay tuned to Heart Disease Code to discover more wonderful nutrition and wellness insights. And once again, don’t leave without grabbing both of your two free gifts – just click that link below.
Thanks for watching, have a heart healthy day!