Happy February friends! February is usually associated with flowers, chocolate, and red and pink hearts floating everywhere, but did you know it’s also associated with our literal hearts? February is National Heart Health month, so let’s focus on steps we can take to keep our hearts beating and thriving. Read on to learn about cholesterol and steps you can make to keep your heart healthy.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a structural compound part of cell membranes, steroid hormones like testosterone and estrogen, and even the sunshine vitamin – vitamin D. Cholesterol is also part of other cellular processes that occur in the body.
What is “good” and “bad” cholesterol?
You may have heard of or completed a lipid panel test, that was followed by a conversation about “good” and “bad” cholesterol. The “bad” cholesterol is LDL-cholesterol which is responsible for transporting cholesterol from the liver to other tissues in the body through the blood. Excessive deposits of LDL-cholesterol will lead to plaque formation, narrowing, and thickening of the blood vessels which greatly increases risk for heart disease. The “good” cholesterol is known as HDL-cholesterol, which is responsible for the opposite, transporting cholesterol from our tissues to our liver for creation of bile, and other compounds.
Will high-cholesterol foods increase my blood cholesterol?
Foods high in cholesterol are no longer thought to have a strong impact on blood cholesterol levels. Foods high in saturated fat show a much stronger negative impact on heart health. For example, butter, fried foods, and high fat cuts of meat are high in saturated fat. Eggs and shrimp are high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat, and can serve as excellent, lean protein sources.
Supplements that can help lower cholesterol
As an additional effort to lifestyle modifications, Cholestoff supplements by Nature Made offer a potential mechanism to reduce LDL-cholesterol levels. Cholestoff supplements include 1.8 grams of both plant sterols and stanols, naturally occurring plant cholesterols that together have similar structures to human cholesterol and therefore compete with cholesterol absorption in the small intestine. Plant sterols and stanols show antioxidant effects. In the standard American or Western diet, about 150-400 mg of plant sterols/stanols are consumed, but this is inadequate to exert any effect on blood cholesterol levels. Therefore, supplementation may be a tool to increase plant sterol/stanol intake. Research findings observe 1.5-3g/day intakes of plant sterols and stanols as favorably decreasing LDL-cholesterol concentrations by 7.5-12%.
Overall takeaway: Supplementing with 1-3 grams of plant sterols/stanols a day may be an effective and feasible practice to reduce blood cholesterol concentrations in addition to dietary and weight loss interventions.
Food naturally containing sterols: olive oil, pistachios, almond butter, macadamia nuts, sage, paprika, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, wheat germ oil, sesame oil, mayonnaise
Foods naturally containing stanols: brown rice, legumes, peas, beans, lentils, peanuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, apples, dill, avocados, blueberries, tomatoes, vegetable oil
Content Submitted by Jessica Roy, MS, RD, LDN and Edeljoyce Gelilang, Nutrition Intern
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- Foods to choose to lower your cholesterol. Department of Health and Human Services. https://dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/Foods%20to%20Choose%20to%20Lower%20Your%20Cholesterol.pdf