Cholesterol – The Misunderstood Molecule and its role in Heart health
CHOLESTEROL sounds more like a threat call than an important molecule in the body. “Chole” come from a Greek word for Bile and Sterol are a collective group of molecules.
We all Have Liver and Liver produces about 1-2 grams of cholesterol daily based on our intake of cholesterol. In case the intake of cholesterol rich food is less than the production increases and vice versa. Cholesterol is important for the production for Vitamin D, Hormone production, bile juice, cell membrane.
Cholesterol being a fatty molecule it cannot mix with blood hence a transport agent in the form of Lipoproteins is used by the body to travel in our blood. These lipoproteins are what we call the HIGH-DENSITY LIPOPROTEINS_HDL AND LOW-DENSITY LIPOPROTEINS_LDL. The HDL brings the excess cholesterol to liver from all over the body for disposal hence its termed as GOOD CHOLESTEROL. On the other hand, LDL transports cholesterol and fat from Liver to all over the body and we call them BAD CHOLESTEROL. The LDL has the bad name as its associated with plaque formation and heart diseases. However another group of Lipoproteins called LP(a) are responsible for plaque formation on damaged artery sites (due to oxidation- when we breath air).
Cholesterol has several metabolic functions, high cholesterol is equal to muscle growth, muscle repair and it’s a precursor for reproductive hormones. So, cutting it down does not really help. For people on plant-based diets the potassium manganese ratio can alter the blood cholesterol and low levels of sodium can increase LD. What would help is lifestyle changes that help bring a balance in the levels of cholesterol.
1. Reduce stress- More the stress more cholesterol
2. Eat at least 1 cup of whole grains a day- More fiber less cholesterol
3. Eat at least 1/3 rd cup of nuts and seeds- Good fat kills bad fat
4. Include herbs and spices in your cooking- Aids in Digestion of the fat
5. Aim for 45 mins of concentrated activity or exercise everyday
6. Avoid processed foods-Anything that has a shelf life longer than natural foods
7. Eat at least 5 -7 servings of fruits and raw vegetables a day
8. Improve sleep quality by practicing yoga nidra - Sleep is an excellent healer
9. Use cold pressed oils for cooking- Groundnut, coconut, mustard or sesame oil
Change of lifestyle can bring a balance, reduce the levels of LDL. Fats can help us stay full and focused for longer time compared to carbs and proteins. Do not shun them in the name of cholesterol. Instead they will help you maintain a balance in the levels. Since it’s naturally produced by the body, we now know that its not harmful but beneficial in the moderate amounts.
Go ahead and keep your heart healthy!! Stay Happy and Healthy!!
Contributed by Anitha Narayamurthy, Dietitian and Clinical Nutritionist