Cholesterol is a lipid or a fat-like substance that the body needs for several processes. The absence or excess of it can cause an imbalance in the body.
The Importance of Cholesterol in the Body
Cholesterol is responsible for several functions in the body. Here are some of them:
1. It is used to make vitamin D. Vitamin D is synthesized using sunlight and cholesterol. This process takes place under the human skin.
2. It absorbs the fat and fatty acids from the human intestines.
3. The body produces steroid hormones using cholesterol.
There are two kinds of cholesterol that exists in the body. These are the LDL, and the HDL forms of cholesterol. LDL is used by the body to perform the above-mentioned functions. HDL, on the other hand, is used by the body to clean up the excess cholesterol in the bloodstream and tissues so that it can be disposed of.
You might wonder now, if cholesterol is actually an important part of the body, why is it linked to heart complications and disease? In the Quaker Oats commercial, it is touted to contribute to a healthy heart by removing the cholesterol in our bloodstream so it will not clog and cause heart diseases. Why is there a need to do so when cholesterol is actually needed for some bodily functions?
Causes of High LDL
In reality, LDL does not directly contribute to heart disease as we are sometimes led to believe because of misleading advertisements. The problem can only arise if the LDL levels in our blood go way beyond the norm. An excess of LDL can cause a condition known as atherosclerosis, in which cholesterol as well as other dangerous substances in the body start to build up inside the arteries. When this happens, you are mostly likely going to suffer a heart attack or a stroke.
LDL build-up in the blood can be caused by a high saturated fat diet. This happens when you consume too much butter, cream, cheese and other full-fat dairy products. Some meats and many baked, fried and snack foods also high amounts of saturated fat. It can also be found from palm or coconut oil, so it is important to note that having vegetable oil as one of the ingredients in a product does not necessarily mean it is a low fat product.
High LDL levels can also be hereditary, which means you inherit it from your family. There is nothing you can do about this, except to watch your saturated fat diet so the LDL in your body does not have to rise higher than it already is.
Ways to Lower or Maintain a Low LDL in the Blood
Obviously, we have to lower our saturated fat diet in order to maintain a low or optimal level of LDL in the body. How can we do this?
First, it would be helpful to switch to reduced-fat or low-fat diets rather than full-fat dairy foods. You should also replace solid cooking fats with unsaturated cooking oils like sunflower, soybean or olive. When eating snacks, avoid as much as possible biscuits, cakes, pastries and fried snack foods.