Cholesterol Demystified

Once we reach “a certain age” the dreaded “C” word crops up more and more in conversation. For some, it is something to keep an eye one, while for others it may be a life-long battle. But what exactly is Cholesterol, and why is it so bad? Understanding the ins and outs of cholesterol can definitely help keep it under control.

The first think to understand is that there are two types of cholesterol – the good and the bad. Good cholesterol helps build healthy cells in the body and keeps the bad cholesterol level in check. Good cholesterol is call HDL, or high density lipoprotein. Bad cholesterol, or LDL (low density lipoprotein) is sticky and waxy –too much bad cholesterol results in clogs, which we know can lead to blood clots and heart attacks.

How do we keep an eye out for the types of cholesterol? Here is a rough guide:

-          HDL (good cholesterol) is unsaturated. You’ve probably seen a lot of “contains 100% unsaturated fat” etc. when grocery shopping. Generally HDL is found in plants, nuts, and seeds, as well as fish. Because HDL removes LDL from the blood stream, increasing your intake of HDL foods can actually lower your overall cholesterol levels.

-          LDL (bad cholesterol) is saturated. This type of cholesterol is found mainly in meat and dairy. There are also a few plants that produce saturated fat, so try to avoid coconut and palm products.

Of course, it is nearly impossible to completely avoid LDL foods, but wherever possible it is a good idea to try to limit them. While there are many prescription medications that can lower cholesterol levels, it is better for your body to try to keep cholesterol levels low so you don’t need to take medication.

So now you know – HDL is good, LDL is bad. Hopefully knowing the difference can help you make a few dietary adjustments so you can live a long and healthy life in Walnut Creek!