August 27, 2023

Why (Some) Fat and Cholesterol is GOOD For Us

Why (Some) Fat and Cholesterol is GOOD For Us

We all know how we should watch our cholesterol levels and that HIIT regimens, like Mojo Fitness, are a great way to do it. But did you know that a certain amount of cholesterol and fat is good for our health? According to the Cleveland Clinic, “We should no longer worry about cholesterol in our food”.
Confused? You’re not alone.
There is a bit of a war going on with the medical community regarding how carefully we should monitor the amount of cholesterol in our food. The popularity and success of the Keto Diet have forced science to take a closer look at the benefits of eating cholesterol-rich food. Research suggests that our fear of all high-fat food is misplaced and needs to be more carefully analyzed.

What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is essential to good health. If our arteries were a house, cholesterol is the “mortar”, that holds the bricks together. Cholesterol is one of the pillars that keeps our bodies healthy:
  • It helps produce cell membranes, which are the outer layer of cells. Without cell membranes, our cells would not be able to survive.
  • It helps produce hormones, which are chemicals that control many of the body’s functions, including growth, development, and reproduction. 
  • It helps us to absorb vitamins and nutrients, particularly Vitamin D, that our bodies need to function properly. 
There are two main types of cholesterol:
Low-density “bad” lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: LDL cholesterol is often called “bad”, because it can build up in the arteries and cause heart disease.
High-density “good” lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: HDL cholesterol is often called “good” because it helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood.

While some cholesterol is good for us, high levels of cholesterol is like a stream that is carrying too much sediment. When there is too much in the bloodstream, it can build up and form plaque, which can narrow the arteries and make it difficult for blood to flow.

Just like a stream can overflow its banks, a blood vessel can burst if it is clogged with plaque, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Pretty straightforward, right? This is where cholesterol gets complicated…
Up until recently, the sweeping recommendation was for everyone to limit their dietary cholesterol intake. But the latest guidelines are much less restrictive. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic’s article, Why You Should No Longer Worry About Cholesterol in Food, high-cholesterol foods like eggs, avocados, and shellfish are healthy for us and do not cause high cholesterol. However, people who have diabetes or are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol and heart disease should avoid cholesterol-rich food.

“Your genetic makeup – not diet – is the driving force behind cholesterol levels, says, cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD. “The body creates cholesterol in amounts much larger than what you can eat, so avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol won’t affect your blood cholesterol levels very much.”

What should we worry about?

There are three types of fat: saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat.

  • The BEST fat for our cholesteral health is unsaturated fat, which is found in plant oils, nuts, and seeds. It is also found in some fish. It can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, which can help protect us from heart disease.
  • So-so for our cholesterol health – Saturated fat is found in animal products, such as meat, dairy, and eggs. It is also found in some processed foods, such as pastries, cookies, and fried foods. Saturated fat can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • And the worst fat for cholesterol and overall health – Trans fat! Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat that is made through a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is used to make oils more solid and stable, which makes them more suitable for processed foods. Trans fat can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, which can increase our risk of heart disease ans stroke.

And the greatest danger for heart health is…Unsaturated fat is the best type of fat for our health. We should avoid trans fat as much as possible. Saturated fat should also be monitored, especially if you have raised cholesteral levels, but it is not as harmful as trans fat.

High cholesterol has been described as a silent killer because it has no side effects. So even if you are fit and trip, you can be genetically predisposed. It is important to get regular tests so that you can identify and treat high cholesterol early.

Looking to lower cholesterol levels naturally? Along with following a healthy diet, low in saturated and trans fat, regular sessions of moderate to vigorous exercise are the way to do it.
Imagine that your blood is like a dirty “cholesterol-splattered” floor. 
When we exercise vigorously, it helps to “mop up” the cholesterol and remove it from our blood.

  • It helps to increase your heart rate and blood flow. This helps to move cholesterol away from your arteries and into your liver, where it can be broken down and removed from your body.
  • Exercise helps to build muscle. Muscle tissue helps to use up cholesterol, so the more muscle you have, the less cholesterol will circulate in your bloodstream.
  • Finally, exercise helps to lose weight. When we lose fat, we also lose some of the cholesterol that is stored in our body.
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