Health

Surprising Facts About Cholesterol, and Foods That Help Control It

With how cheap and convenient fast food is these days, it’s harder to find healthier options we should be putting on our tables. What’s even worse… Trista - June 28, 2019

With how cheap and convenient fast food is these days, it’s harder to find healthier options we should be putting on our tables. What’s even worse is that those unhealthy options, we’re increasing our levels of cholesterol every day.
What is cholesterol exactly? It’s a waxy, fat-like substance that clings to the cells and walls of your arteries, making it harder to get blood around your body. That puts extra work on your heart, which can lead to permanent damage.

A simple blood test can show what your cholesterol is like so that you can start taking the right steps to get healthy.
There are still some surprising facts, however, about cholesterol that many people don’t know. Some people think that cutting out fatty foods altogether is the best way to reduce cholesterol, but things are actually a lot more complicated than that. Here are some surprising facts about cholesterol and, more importantly, great foods to incorporate into your diet to keep it under control.

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High Cholesterol Can Be Genetic

Many people focus on their cholesterol levels and how to change them through diet and exercise. What some people may not know is that they might not be able to change anything about their cholesterol even after a lot of hard work.

The majority of your cholesterol levels are due to genes, which you can’t exactly change. If your family has a predisposition towards high cholesterol, then you’re going to fall into the same boat. However, that doesn’t mean you’re without a remedy — keep reading to see what you should eat!

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Eggplant

Eggplant is one of those wonderful foods that provide the body with soluble fiber. This vegetable is designed to reduce the bile acid that’s in your body. In turn, because the body needs bile, the liver will go into overdrive to produce more and uses the cholesterol in your body to do it.

This purple vegetable is often used as a joke in text messaging. Nevertheless, it is one of those yummy veggies that can be incorporated into any dish. You can cook it in a variety of ways so that you can have diverse meals every day.

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You Can’t Go Without Cholesterol

Even as babies, we’re born with some amount of cholesterol in our bodies. In fact, even nursing introduces a lot of cholesterol to the body. For something that’s supposedly so bad for you, you’d think that mother’s milk would be without it.

However, it’s an essential part of what makes up the structure of our cells and the production of hormones within the body. Cholesterol also helps the liver to produce acids that are needed to process fat within the body. To help with that process, you may want to incorporate the food from the next slide into your diet.

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Chickpeas

A great source of protein, chickpeas are also ideal for lowering your cholesterol. It reduces the LDL, and can even drop it as much as 5% if you’re eating chickpeas every day.

Most people think eating chickpeas for multiple times in one week would boring. However, you can have chickpeas roasted in some seasonings or mix them into other dishes like pot pies. Another option would be tossing them in the food processor with some seasonings to create humus.

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One in Three Adults Has High Cholesterol

Anyone over the age of 20 should do a blood screen test at least once a year to determine their good and bad cholesterol levels. It’s a concerning matter as many adults have very high levels of LDL that put them at risk for heart disease.

The best way to get an accurate picture of your cholesterol is to have your doctor perform two separate blood tests a week apart since cholesterol is affected by both stress and diet. Please keep reading to see what food can take your stress away while still giving yourself a nice snack; it is a yummy dessert.

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Dark Chocolate

Here’s a sweet treat that’s actually healthy, but keep the dark chocolate consumption to a minimum. Feel free to snap off a piece of dark chocolate from a candy bar, but try to go as organic and natural as possible.

In small amounts, dark chocolate is shown to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. That’s because it’s rich with flavonoids; these are antioxidants that aid the cells in resisting any kind of damage, including the ones in your heart.

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Children Can Have High Cholesterol

Adults are the usual targets for high cholesterol, which can lead to some children slipping under the radar. It’s best to start testing as early as you can to see what can be done to prevent it from getting worse. Most doctors recommend that you begin testing as soon as ten years old, but if there has been a family history of high cholesterol, heart attack or obesity, then you should start testing as early as age two.

Please don’t wait for this to become a problem for your children later on in life when you could have stepped in to start steering their health in the right direction. To do that, you can start with a beneficial fruit — keep reading.

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Pomegranates

Pomegranates are considered one of the “miracle” foods when it comes to getting healthy, not only because they’re good at lowering cholesterol but because you’ll spend many calories just trying to get out all of those seeds.

If eating the raw fruit isn’t your thing, you can opt for pomegranates juices instead to get the same cholesterol-fighting power. Over time, pomegranates prevent the buildup of cholesterol within the blood vessels too, helping you to fight off the risk of heart attacks in the future.

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Sweating Can Raise Good Cholesterol

Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to start lowering your bad cholesterol, but exercise is also a key factor. To get peak results, you should exercise at medium intensity levels with bouts of high intensity sprinkled; this action will definitely get your heart racing.

Research shows that this kind of workout routine, after only three weeks, can lower your triglycerides (the alcohol found in body fat) by about 18 percent. Think of how much more you can lose after a month or a year; even more if you start using a specific oil in your cooking.

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Olive Oil

Olive oil, just like avocados, is rich in monounsaturated fats. This fact makes it a healthy choice for those who still need oil in their diet but need a healthier source of it. You can sprinkle olive oil over your pan-roasted dishes.

If you are going to use some type of cooking or frying oil anyway, you might as well pick the healthiest option. Olive oil is a much better choice than other kinds of vegetable oils and is generally better or your health overall than just helping your heart.

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Supplements Only Do So Much

Please don’t misunderstand; supplements can help lower your cholesterol, but they work very slowly. Diet and exercise should be your first options when trying to reduce it. However, supplements are an excellent option for those who are at high risk for heart attacks. It does require taking pills every single day, and they don’t work overnight.

There are some medications known as statins that do work pretty quickly. Taking a pill one day can reduce your cholesterol by about 3 to 4 percent the next day. However, it does take a few months and other lifestyle changes for there to really be a difference. You can start by supplementing your diet with the food on the next slide.

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Soy

If you can, consume as much soy protein as possible in your everyday diet. It’s a much better source of protein than, say, red meats as you’re not jeopardizing the health of your gut and adding too many nitrites to your body.

Soy products have been shown to lower cholesterol overall, so it’s a good ingredient to replace your usual meat or poultry. Don’t worry; if you didn’t like soy before, you will become a brand new fan of this versatile sauce.

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More and More Statin is Being Prescribed

Medication designed to lower cholesterol was mostly prescribed to those who were at 20% risk of having heart attacks. However, statins are available for those who have at least a 7.5% chance of having a heart attack. This medicine significantly reduces the risk of one occurring.

Doctors prescribe medication to those who have had a heart attack or stroke in the past. You might also be eligible for the prescription if you have very high LDL levels, a family history of familial hypercholesterolemia, or are between the ages of 40 and 75 with diabetes.

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Red Onions

You wouldn’t think that red onions wouldn’t be good for anything more than adding flavor to meat and making you cry. Surprisingly enough, onions are actually rich in vitamin C and compounds called anthoxanthins.

These compounds are responsible for lowering your blood pressure and can speed up your metabolism so that your body isn’t holding onto fats as readily. You can cut up some red onions and toss them in your casseroles. On the other hand, eat a raw one on your next hamburger.

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Women’s Cholesterol Levels Fluctuate

It’s much harder for women to keep track of their cholesterol levels because of their constantly changing levels of hormones from year to year. In general, they tend to have lower levels than men, but they tend to rise during pregnancy for the production of breast milk.

These levels drop soon after giving birth, but once menopause hits, the LDL cholesterol goes way up while HDL cholesterol goes way down. This truth requires careful monitoring in order to prevent heart attacks or strokes from occurring in the future.

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Blueberries

Another food that’s rich in antioxidants, you’ll want to start incorporating these into every meal. Just one cup of blueberries has at least six grams of fiber, which is excellent for keeping you regular. The antioxidants are also great for fighting cancer, protecting your cells against damage, and lowering your cholesterol.

Grabbing a handful of raw blueberries will do the trick. You can also toss them in your whole-grain cereal or a smoothie. This fruit is delicious no matter how you make it and healthy so you don’t have to worry about feeling guilty for eating this sweet treat.

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Your Cholesterol Could be Borderline

On average, an adult over the age of 20 will have cholesterol that’s 192 mg/dl. This figure translates to 192 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood within your body. The borderline cholesterol level is 200 mg/dl.

So it’s essential to get checked out so that you can see where you stand and start taking measures to get your cholesterol at a healthier level. If you don’t even know where your cholesterol lies, how can you determine what type of diet will maximize your health?

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Whole Grain Cereal

There’s no time to skip breakfast, not if you want a great start to your day. You should jumpstart your morning metabolism with whole-grain cereals. If you aren’t a big fan of fruits and veggies, this option will probably be on your shopping list.

The fiber will keep you fuller for longer, and the whole grains will lower your cholesterol at the start of the day. That’s definitely putting some pep in your step first thing in the AM; you’re also in the right direction for optimal health.

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There is No Minimum for Cholesterol Levels

On its own, the liver makes enough cholesterol for the body to survive, so there is no set minimum for how much cholesterol you should be having per day. The vegan diet cuts out cholesterol altogether and those who invest in the menu are still pretty healthy.

The point, however, is to minimize your cholesterol as much as possible to prevent damage to your heart. Luckily, there are foods you can eat to help combat that issue. Keep reading to discover more items to add to your meals to help control cholesterol.

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Coconuts

It can be a difficult nut to get if you don’t live on or near a tropical island, but any amount you can get your hands on is better than nothing. Coconuts do possess higher levels of good fats and still reduce your bad cholesterol.

Add flakes to a salad or yogurt, drink coconut water, or use coconut milk instead of regular dairy in your recipes. Even coconut oil is good to use in cooking, just as long as you don’t have dried meals too often. The smell alone will have you dreaming of an exotic vacation.

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Focus on Saturated and Trans Fats

Lowering your cholesterol doesn’t mean you have to cut fat out of your diet entirely. Eliminate or reduce the amounts of saturated and trans fats in your body to maintain healthy blood cholesterol.

Saturated and trans fats can be found in poultry, meat, dairy products, and fried foods. They are also in crackers, recipes that contain butter, coffee creamer, and the majority of fast foods. Lean more towards foods that are baked or use healthier oils such as plant or nut oils in the cooking process.

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Walnuts

Nuts, nuts, and more nuts. They’re rich with protein and make tasty snacks throughout the day to stop you from feeling hungry. They’re rich in the oils that are good for you too, just as long as you don’t have too many throughout the day.

Eating a handful of nuts each day can lower both bad cholesterol and LDL cholesterol altogether, putting on the best path to getting healthy. If you don’t like walnuts, specifically, try pistachios instead.

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Low Cholesterol Can Be Bad For You

Keeping your blood cholesterol low is good, but you don’t want the level to be too low. Anyone who has cholesterol levels at 160 mg/dl is put at risk for certain kinds of cancers, problems with pregnancy, and a higher risk of depression.

It’s true what they say about having too much of good thing, or to low in this case. Finding the balance is what’s important. Don’t be too extreme with diets and get a decent amount of exercise each day to keep your body healthy.

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Kamut

It looks a lot like whole-grain rice, but it isn’t. Kamut is an ancient grain, but it helps keep your cholesterol in check. It can be cooked and served just as you would rice or quinoa and no one’s going to complain about having more whole grains in your diet.

If you’ve never tried Kamut before or even heard of it, that’s okay. It’s also a great way to add some variety instead of using the same ingredients day in and day out.

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High Cholesterol Can Affect Fertility

For men, having high cholesterol makes it challenging to attain and maintain an erection. This action occurs because the cholesterol blocks the blood vessels in the pelvic area and penis, making it much harder for blood to flow correctly.

This same problem affects women, but in terms of lubrication during the act of sex. If you discover these problems during your more intimate moments, it’s probably time you talk to your doctor to see if cholesterol is the problem.

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Plums

This purple fruit is a welcoming sight for those who don’t want to stick to leafy greens all of the time. Grabbing a plum as a snack is much better than reaching for that donut. It’s a sweet way to keep your cholesterol in check and still have a rich source of fiber and vitamin C.

Plums contain antioxidants that help out your heart and reduce your risk for cancer as well. Studies have shown that having at least three servings of plums each week can reduce your risk for heart attack by 34%.

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Cholesterol Is Important in Fetal Development

The development of the embryo within the woman’s uterus is mostly dependent on cholesterol. Because cholesterol forms the structure of the cells, a lack of cholesterol can severely affect this block-building stage of the fetus.

Research has shown that 1 in every 9,000 babies that are born with a congenital disability has been the result of cholesterol in some respect. This statistic could be from the mother’s lack of cholesterol or the fetus’ inability to make its own.

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Tart Cherries

We will have a bunch of cherries; hold the pit, please. All cherries taste pretty great, but the sourer, the better. That’s because tart cherries are filled with antioxidants that can decrease the risk of a heart attack in women.

You can have them dried as a snack or have them as part of a healthy fruit salad. Once in a while, treat yourself to a yummy, warm cherry pie. Tart cherries are also rich in fiber too, so you’re also keeping colon cancer away.

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Cholesterol Controls Brain Development

The development of the fetal brain is also dependent upon cholesterol, and without it, serious problems can occur. Those fetuses that fail to receive the right amount cholesterol never have their minds split into the two hemispheres. This action is a condition that is called HPE (Holoprosencephaly).

Most fetuses self-terminate within the pregnancy while those children who come to term and are delivered rarely live more than a year after birth with this condition.

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Avocados

Avocados are all the rage; who doesn’t like guacamole? Adding avocado to your diet can make it very easy for you to control your cholesterol. It’s been shown to improve your LDL while still having essential oils and fats in your diet.

Instead of having some butter or margarine on toast, mash up a slice of avocado and smear it on. It’s a much healthier choice and can be seasoned any way you like for a great taste.

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