Cholesterol has a pretty bad reputation. The common belief is that foods that are high in cholesterol are bad for you, and that they compromise your heart health. Most people tend to avoid these foods because the assumption is that these foods will cause your cholesterol levels to spike, which in turn puts you at a greater risk for heart disease. However, most people are unaware of the importance of cholesterol. In fact, it plays a major role in supporting good health.
More findings suggest that the relationship between dietary cholesterol and heart health is a bit more complex than we thought. According to these findings, the link between diet and cholesterol is still there. However, when it comes to heart disease, sugar is the real culprit.
Let’s take a closer look at why cholesterol is good for you!
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol comes from two main sources. We naturally produce cholesterol in the liver. And cholesterol also comes from the foods that we eat. Cholesterol that’s absorbed from our diet is known as dietary cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a yellow, waxy substance that circulates through the body in the bloodstream. When people refer to cholesterol, it’s generally categorized as either LDL or HDL. Both LDL and HDL are lipoproteins, which is a compound of protein and fat.
Does Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease?
When there’s too much LDL in your bloodstream, plaque accumulates in the arteries. And as a result, the arteries harden and become more narrow. This accumulation of plaque comes in the form of fatty deposits which build up on the walls of the arteries. It’s made up of cellular waste products, fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium, and fibrin.
The plaque buildup causes the passageway in your arteries to narrow, and blood flow is restricted. This condition – called atherosclerosis, is dangerous because it reduces the supply of oxygenated blood that’s delivered to the organs and tissues, which is necessary for the body to function properly.
Another issue that comes from plaque buildup is the presence of blood clots within the bloodstream. They can easily break free and block the flow of blood which leads to stroke or heart attack.
The Connection between Sugar Intake and Heart Disease
That said, the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease is far more complex. In an effort to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, it’s absolutely essential to cut down on your sugar intake.
According to WebMD, we should be more concerned about how much sugar we’re eating, rather than avoiding high-cholesterol foods. When it comes to reducing your risk of heart disease, the issue isn’t the cholesterol that comes from our diet. Instead, the focus should be on cutting down on the foods that will provoke your body to produce cholesterol.
Your blood sugar level goes up when you eat carbohydrates. This happens because carbohydrates are absorbed as sugar. And your body releases insulin in an effort to help your body store this sugar. However, this process will trigger your body to go into storage-mode.
There’s a direct correlation between your insulin level and your LDL and HDL levels. When your insulin level goes up, your LDL level will go up and your HDL level will go down. Because, the storage form of cholesterol is LDL, and the non-storage form of cholesterol is HDL.
Why Cholesterol Is Important
As mentioned earlier, your body needs cholesterol to support and maintain good health. According to Natural News, cholesterol is essential to protect your body against heart disease and cancer.
Reasons why your body needs cholesterol:
- Cholesterol gives structure to your cells
- It operates as an antioxidant, helping to protect against the damage from free radicals
- The brain needs cholesterol! The serotonin receptors in the brain need cholesterol to function properly
- Cholesterol helps to heal damage in the arteries
It’s also suggested that cholesterol that’s damaged causes plaque to accumulate in the arteries. Cholesterol becomes damaged through exposure to heat and oxygen. For example, this happens when meat is fried (cooked at high temperatures).
How to Check Cholesterol Levels
How do you know if your cholesterol levels are high? Because there are no symptoms to indicate high cholesterol levels, it’s incredibly important to get your cholesterol levels checked regularly. The only way to do so if through a blood test.
A Healthy Diet and Regular Exercise Go a Long Way!
The main takeaway? Try to cut down your sugar intake. Aside from the connection between sugar and cholesterol levels, high sugar intake is also linked to inflammation, cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and many other serious illnesses.
Ultimately, the link between diet and health is undeniable. The key is to pay more attention to what you’re eating, and to make sure that you’re exercising regularly. Always remember that serious health issues don’t develop overnight.
Many major health issues are preventable. Committing to making better lifestyle choices is the easiest way for you to take control of your health. By making sure that you’re getting plenty of water, incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet, and exercising regularly, your quality of life will improve immensely.