Successfully Regulating your Cholesterol
(by Steven Horne)
At the mere mentioning of the word cholesterol, you can almost hear the arteries clogging. But cholesterol is not really a bad thing. In fact, it is actually a necessity of life. Found dancing with the lipids in the bloodstream, this soft, waxy matter is an element essential to forming cell membranes, bile salts, hormones and some tissues. So, there are other factors that enter into the picture to turn cholesterol from being a useful nutrient into an artery plugger. Cholesterol and other fats, not being water soluble, must be transported through the body attached to lipoproteins, which make them water-soluble. These lipoproteins fall into two groups, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are the artery-damaging kind. This is the guy, carrying his backpack of cholesterol with him, that gets sluggish and settles into an artery lining. He gets comfortable and invites his friends (other substances in the blood) to come and join his little club. Their tight bond forms arterial plaque, so the appropriate name for their club is arteriosclerosis.
Sometimes, the club gets so many members that it blocks the flow of traffic (blood) to the heart causing a heart attack. If they block traffic to the brain we call it a stroke. Judging by the high incidence of these diseases in our society, it is clear that many of us regularly donate to the arteriosclerosis club through dietary abuse and inactivity.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are the good guys. This is the guy that comes along and wrangles up the excess cholesterol. He takes it to the liver for storage and elimination. Having too little HDL and too much LDL is detrimental to the body. Hence, many Americans are being urged to reduce their cholesterol and LDL levels, while increasing HDL, in order to prevent heart disease and strokes.
In this issue we shall explore ways of doing this naturally, with life-style changes and supplementation. Read on to learn how you can stop donating your health and well-being to the arteriosclerosis club.
The Cholesterol Story
Although dietary changes are important in balancing cholesterol, low fat diets don't necessarily mean lower cholesterol levels. Unknown to many, the body produces 2-3 times more cholesterol than is consumed. The liver manufactures approximately 1000 milligrams of cholesterol per day and we tend to consume another 500 mg. from our daily intake of food. The American Heart Association recommends that one try not to consume over 300 mg. of cholesterol per day. If heart disease runs in your family, it is a good idea to limit that number to 200 mg. However, it isn't just eating foods high in cholesterol that causes problems. Saturated vegetable fats, such as coconut oil or palm oil, do not contain cholesterol, but they still contribute to the development of plaque. This is why margarine is not necessarily better than butter.
Omega-3 oils, one of the essential fatty acids, emerged as a lifesaver when studies of the Eskimo diet noted their high-fat consumption and low rate of heart disease. These oils, also known as EPA and DHA, are found in fish, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.
MonoUnsaturated oils are also helpful in reducing cholesterol. Mediterranean peoples also consume high fat diets, but have low cholesterol levels and reduced heart disease risk. This is because oleic acid in olive oil actually helps reduce cholesterol.
The primary use for cholesterol is the manufacture of bile for digestion of fats. Thus, low fat diets actually tend to increase cholesterol because they reduce its excretion through the bile, while diets with reasonable amounts of beneficial fats like avocados, raw nuts and olive oil help to reduce it.
Cholesterol is Important
When lowering cholesterol, people sometimes think that the lower the cholesterol level, the better. This isn't so. Cholesterol is actually essential in prevention of depression, insomnia and other nervous disorders. Scientific investigations have proven that cholesterol levels were extremely low in attempted and successful suicide victims and those diagnosed with schizophrenia. There appears to be a direct correlation between the intensity of depression and lowered levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol has a lubricating effect on nerve sheaths and neurotransmitters in the brain. Roughly 20% of the brain is composed of cholesterol, so we need to have a reasonable level in our diets.
Some cholesterol lowering drugs, statins such as Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor and Prevachol, have contributed to cardiovascular disease, not in lowering cholesterol. No studies show benefit for women, and there is only minor evidence to indicate that they will help you live a longer or better life or reduce your chances of a heart attack.
These drugs limit the production of Coenzyme Q10, a heart-essential substance.
Because inhibiting cholesterol also limits hormone production, many individuals on statins will notice hormonal complaints: males with breasts and balding females. Unfortunately these drugs also have stimulated cancer growth.
Another allopathic avenue of lowering cholesterol is with bile acid sequestrants (Colestid, Prevalite). These only result in giving the liver more work. Theses "bile-blockers" also pull out fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D and K) from the system. (This is also the process by which Olestra, the new artificial fat, causes problems.) A shortage of Vitamin E is a direct cause of heart disease.
Hyperinsulinemia and Cholesterol
The focus on cholesterol and fats as the primary cause of heart disease has resulted in people being encouraged to eat less meat and fat and focus on high carbohydrate diets. The result - problems with diabetes and obesity, two major contributing factors to heart disease-have dramatically increased. The truth is that low-fat, high carbohydrate diets are bad for your heart and for your cholesterol. High carbohydrate diets cause an increase in production of insulin, which causes more carbohydrates to be stored as fats. It also clogs the liver and inhibits elimination of cholesterol.
The best approach is to maintain a healthy balance of good quality fats (like olive oil, flax oil, etc.), carbohydrates that don't trigger high insulin production (whole fruits and non-starchy vegetables) and good quality protein. For more information about eating like this, consult any of the "Zone Diet" books by Barry Spears.
So, if you want to control your cholesterol, start by going through your pantry and throwing out the bad stuff -no more lard, shortening, rancid oils or margarine. Fill those spaces with oils of extra virgin olive, grape seed, and flax.
Consumption of fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C, E and beta carotene can aid with their antioxidant action. Indulge in LDL fighting foods: apples, asparagus, alfalfa, berries, carrots, fish, eggplant, legumes, garlic, oat bran and soy.
Decreasing mental stress and increasing physical activity can lower blood cholesterol levels.
Stress management is essential to heart health since cholesterol is used by the adrenals to produce hormones that help one adapt to stress. If cholesterol is too low, so are the hormones, and the body fights to overcome stressful situations.
Realize that the goal of heart health is not as difficult to attain as the ads may suggest. Be conscious of your body's needs. Simple life style and dietary adjustments can keep you (and your heart) happy.
Notes from other sources
Carbohydrates are one of the main dietary components. This category of foods includes sugars, starches, and fiber.
Alternative Names: Starches; Simple sugars; Sugars; Complex carbohydrates; Diet - carbohydrates; Simple carbohydrates
The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. Your liver breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar), which is used for energy by the body.
Carohydrates are classified as simple or complex.
The classification depends on the chemical structure of the particular food source and reflects how quickly the sugar is digested and absorbed. Simple carbohydrates have one (single) or two (double) sugars while complex carbohydrates have three or more.
Examples of single sugars from foods include fructose (found in fruits) and galactose (found in milk products). Double sugars include lactose (found in dairy), maltose (found in certain vegetables and in beer), and sucrose (table sugar). Honey is also a double sugar , but unlike table sugar, contains a small amount of vitamins and minerals. (NOTE: Honey should not be given to children younger than 1 year old.)
Complex carbohydrates , often referred to as "starchy" foods, include:
Whole grain breads and cereals
Simple carbohydrates that contain vitamins and minerals occur naturally in:
Milk and milk products
Simple carbohydrates are also found in processed and refined sugars such as:
Syrups (not including natural syrups such as maple)
Regular (non-diet) carbonated beverages, such as soda
Refined sugars provide calories, but lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Such simple sugars are often called "empty calories" and can lead to weight gain. Also, many refined foods, such as white flour, sugar , and polished rice, lack B vitamins and other important nutrients unless they are marked "enriched." It is healthiest to obtain carbohydrates , vitamins, and other nutrients in as natural a form as possible -- for example, from fruit instead of table sugar .
Excessive carbohydrates can cause an increase in the total caloric intake, causing obesity .
Deficient carbohydrates can cause a lack of calories (malnutrition), or excessive intake of fats to make up the calories.
For most people, between 40% and 60% of total calories should come from carbohydrates , preferably from complex carbohydrates (starches) and naturally occurring sugars. Complex carbohydrates provide calories, vitamins, minerals, and fiber . Foods that are high in processed, refined simple sugars provide calories, but they have few nutritional benefits. It is wise to limit such sugars. To increase complex carbohydrates and healthy nutrients:
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Eat more whole grains, rice, breads, and cereals.
Eat more legumes (beans, lentils, and dried peas).
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