We all tend to have the same misconceptions when it comes to cholesterol. It is produced by your body and the food that you eat and there are both "good" and "bad" kinds. But does all that really help us get any closer to understanding cholesterol? Knowing why maintaining cholesterol is important, the difference between "good" and "bad" as well as the lifestyle changes needed to achieve the adequate levels of it within your body are the only ways to comprehend the significance of cholesterol.
Why watch your cholesterol?
If you were holding cholesterol right now in your hand, you would be carrying a fat and waxy substance resembling the aftermath of a candle burning. Putting cholesterol into this perspective can help understand why having too much of it in your arteries and bloodstream is not a healthy idea. This is not to say that you don't want cholesterol in your body. We use it in a variety of ways:
- To produce testosterone, estrogen and vitamin D
- To strengthen the outer coatings of cells
- To help break down food and nutrients during digestion
The thing to remember is that your body produces all the cholesterol it needs by itself, which is approximately 1,000 milligrams a day to effectively function. When you start to add up all the cholesterol you obtain through eating food, the levels can get a little crowded. Too much of this fatty substance being ingested will produce too much plaque to start building up between layers of artery walls, which in turn makes it more of a challenge for your heart to circulate blood to the rest of your body. This is why you are constantly being bombarded with urgent messages to lower cholesterol.
Good versus bad
First thing to remember with this battle between good and evil is that HDL (high-density lipoproteins) cholesterol is the "good" kind and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) is the "bad" type. According to Harvard Health Publications, 60 to 70 percent of the body's cholesterol is carried in LDL particles. While these LDL specs work to take cholesterol to parts of the body that need it, eventually they will continue to build up excess cholesterol in arteries when you are consuming too much of the substance. HDL on the other hand essentially works as the opposite of LDL, by sucking up extra cholesterol and taking it to the liver so it can in a sense by recycled for other usage in the body. If you're trying to get more HDL in your system than LDL, it's important to note that lifestyle factors have more of an impact than dieting does.
Factors that lower cholesterol
When it comes to finding a cholesterol-effective diet, there are a few solid suggestions that can make an impact on limiting LDL and raising HDL. First off, eliminating trans fat from your diet is an effective measure toward reducing total cholesterol. This means being able to distinguish the difference between "fat-free" and "trans fat-free" on the product labels. Consuming nutrients that are found in whole-grain foods is another key source for limiting cholesterol intake, and eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids will help lower LDL cholesterol. While you might think that exercise is easier said than done, there are plenty of simple ways to get a sufficient workout in that doesn't require a gym membership. Changing your morning commute is one of the easiest ways to get the 30 minutes of daily exercise you need. Instead of making that drive, why not ride your bike or rollerblade to work? When you're on your lunch break, don't just sit on the computer or watch television while chowing down. Instead, pack a light lunch and go for a quick walk around town while you finish your meal.
When you make a few simple adjustments to your lifestyle, the affects can do wonders for your cholesterol levels. Thirty minutes of exercise each day can not only help you lose weight, but help stimulate HDL cholesterol in your body to work harder to remove unwanted fatty substances from your arteries. Other lifestyle choices that are attributed to raising cholesterol levels are smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. According to the Mayo Clinic, your blood pressure decreases after just 20 minutes of sustaining from cigarette use, which also improves your HDL levels. The Mayo Clinic also recommends that those who are under the age of 65 should never exceed two drinks a day.
It seems like we are bombarded with health information reminding us of the importance of maintaining low cholesterol levels, but it's seldom understood which types of cholesterol should be monitored and which need to be sustained. Our bodies need some cholesterol to efficiently function, and while most cholesterol is naturally produced, it is what we consume that causes good versus bad cholesterol. Here is an overview on why good cholesterol is key, the proper levels and some nutritional ways to eliminate unnecessary cholesterol:
Consequences of poor cholesterol
This waxy, fat-like substance is found in all cells of our body and works to make hormones, produce vitamin D and other substances that help us digest food. Because we are essentially able to produce all the cholesterol we need on our own, monitoring our food intake is the most effective way to retain healthy cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is moved around through your body in small bundles called lipoproteins, compiled out of fat on the inside and protein and the outside. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are the two types of lipoproteins, with HDL often being referred to as "good" cholesterol and LDL as "bad."
While HDL helps collect excess amounts of cholesterol throughout your body and send it to your liver for disposal, LDL carries cholesterol to all parts of the body, especially the arteries that supply blood to the heart. When too much LDL is developed, the walls of your arteries become built up with cholesterol, which can slow down blood flow, disrupt cardiovascular activity and elevate your risk of heart disorder.
The right levels to maintain
The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that everyone aged 20 and over should get their cholesterol levels checked at a minimum of every five years, with more frequent check ups as you age. When you get your levels examined, the doctor will test for your lipoprotein profile, which consists of four components that include total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides, which are another form of fat in your blood.
A healthy level of cholesterol is determined to be the following:
- Total cholesterol should be under 200 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood
- LDL cholesterol should be under 100 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol should be slightly above 60 mg/dL
- Triglyceride levels below 150 mg/dL
If your total cholesterol levels are found to be at 240 mg/dL or higher, that is when finding a way to lower cholesterol should become a top priority for your health. In addition, any LDL cholesterol levels found to be above 160 mg/dL is also considered to put you at risk for artery blockage.
Tips to lower cholesterol
While nutrition is essential for keeping healthy cholesterol levels stable, there are plenty of lifestyle modifications that can be made to help get your number lower. Receiving frequent physical activity, losing weight and avoid tobacco use can easily make a positive impact on your cholesterol levels, on top of a healthy diet. As for eating habits, try consuming foods that are rich in soluble fiber, which help absorb cholesterol from the intestines and reducing the amount of LDL in your body. If you are eating a lot of meat in your diet, try switching your entrees out for some fish, which can lower the amount of your LDL-boosting saturated fats intake and boost your omega-3 fatty acid levels, which can help reduce triglycerides in your body. Fruits can also do wonders for your cholesterol levels, and are typically loaded with pectin, a form of soluble fiber that works to decrease LDL build up in the body.
Naturade Total Soy can help you reduce cholesterol
Over 40 clinical studies on Soy Protein and cholesterol reduction led the Food & Drug Administration to declare that "25 grams of Soy Protein daily, in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease." Just one delicious 8 oz. shake of Naturade Total Soy supplies more than half of the suggested amount of Soy Protein daily. With just one serving per day, you receive 50 percent of your daily protein recommendations, and the soy protein could assist in decreasing your total and LDL cholesterol, as well as your risk of cardiovascular complications.
When it comes to evaluating the amount of sodium needed for a healthy diet, there are plenty of qualities to consider. It is important to remember that the body needs sodium, specifically for controlling blood pressure and volume while also helping our muscles and nerves work together properly. However, the biggest concern with sodium is that because it is commonly found in a variety of regularly consumed food we tend to ingest too much of it, which can lead to a variety of potential health hazards.
According to the American Heart Association, 9 out of 10 Americans are consuming too much sodium on a daily basis. The average recommendation for sodium is estimated at 1,500 milligrams or less, while it is projected that the average American is eating more than 3,400 milligrams. This consistent excess of the element is one of the main attributes to the statistic that 77.9 million American Adults have high blood pressure, and cutting your sodium intake levels in half can also help lower cholesterol. The abundance of this element is a health risk that continues to negatively impact the overall quality of life for people all around the world.
There are a few subtle and obvious indicators that you are potentially ingesting too much sodium on a day-to-day basis. Besides high blood pressure, these symptoms also include:
- Frequently feeling thirsty
- Sensations of bloating or feeling uncomfortable within the stomach
- Decrease in bone strength and/or density
The biggest reason you are loading your body with sodium is due to ingesting too much salt in your diet. Here are a few commonly used foods that secretly are packed with high levels of sodium and could also be the main component to your dietary abundance of sodium:
Cold cut meat sandwiches
Sandwiches are generally the quickest and simplest recipe to create when it comes to packing a lunch, but they can also be filled with the most sodium. By adding approximately 2 ounces of cold cut meats, which roughly translates into six thin slices, you are already receiving half of your daily sodium needs. Now tack on the fact that a slice of bread generally has around 120 milligrams of sodium, a slice of cheese can possess well over 300 milligrams plus any other condiments required for a tasty sandwich and you will be pushing closer and closer to your full-on daily recommendation. Always look for low-sodium options when it comes to sandwich ingredients, and use all of them sparingly.
Nothing may warm up the soul like a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup, but many people are unaware that canned soups are packed with salt preservatives to help boost their taste. While these products are often advertised as providing great sources of vitamins and minerals, they also can contain upwards of 600 milligrams of sodium or higher per can. Like most food items, checking the labels to see whether they are promoting a sticker claiming to be low-sodium is the best way to know the contents of the element.
Cereals are another food item that you need to keep an eye out for their labels. While the levels of sodium between all different types of brands fluctuates, some popular choices can easily contain up to 250 or more milligrams of sodium per serving. To put that into further perspective, a serving of cereal is generally a ½ cup, which often needs to be multiplied to effectively determine the correct amount of sodium in your bowl. Always look at the nutrition facts and you will find that there are plenty of low-sodium options for breakfast cereal.
Much research has shown that omega-3s are an essential nutrient for various body systems. Omega-3s are important for heart health because they can reduce the bad cholesterol in the body and lower bad fats called triglycerides. Other research has established that these essential fats can improve joint health by reducing inflammation throughout the body, which is especially important for our bodies as we age. Finally, omega-3s can improve cognition, learning and memory in both adults and children. Thus, it's vital that we try to include omega-3s in our daily diets because they aren't produced naturally by our bodies. Here are foods packed with this important fatty acid:
- Various fish and seafood are great sources of omega-3s, including rainbow trout, wild salmon, canned albacore tuna, scallops, crab, cod and the small but mighty sardines and anchovies, both of which are also excellent sustainable options. However, when choosing fish for your diet, it's important to do some research first and balance the need for omega-3s with the fact that some fish could be high in mercury, which is especially dangerous for pregnant women.
- Ground flax seed is another great omega-3 source. Add it to your morning smoothie, yogurt, oatmeal and even at dinner in pastas. Its subtle, nutty flavor will be easy to incorporate into many dishes, and it add a major kick of heart-healthy fatty acids to boot.
- Walnuts are another good source. Eat a handful for a snack, add crushed walnuts to a salad or even top your oatmeal with them. They're also packed with protein.
- Cook with soy or canola oil, or use them in your salad dressings.
It's recommended that everyone eat one omega-rich food per day, but if you have food allergies or can't for other reasons, there are more ways to get omega-3s in your foods. Try enriched eggs, available at most grocery stores, or a fish oil supplement.
Golfing is a great social sport to do with friends, family and colleagues. The sport is relaxing for a lot of people because of the concentration and focus needed to play. And now, the best – and perhaps most underrated – season for golf is upon us! Say goodbye to waking up at unbearably early hours to get a tee time before it's sticky hot outside. Aside from being generally fun, playing golf has many health benefits as well. Though it's not a high-energy sport and no one typically thinks of golf as requiring abundant endurance or strength, research has shown that the physical activity required is associated with a decreased risk of injury and even less risk of death in middle-age adults.
According to a small-scale study by Finnish researchers, which was published in The American Journal of Medicine in August 2000, mostly sedentary middle-aged men who golfed had lower cholesterol and less risk of injury than mostly sedentary men who did not golf. In another study by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, which was published in the June 2009 edition of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, they analyzed data from more than 300,000 male and female golfers in Sweden. The researchers found that, compared to standard mortality rates, those who golfed had a 40 percent reduction in risk of death, which means their life expectancy was about 5 years longer than the average in Sweden. So golf definitely has some important health benefits.
If you're ready to hit the links this autumn, here are the top five courses for basking in resplendent fall foliage:
- Boyne Highlands Resort, Harbor Springs, Mich.
- Stowe Mountain Golf Club, Stowe, Vt.
- Lake of Isles, North Stonington, Conn.
- Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wis.
- Sunday River Golf Club, Newry, Maine
When talking about what a vegan can eat (answer: a lot of things), it's probably better to first talk about what they can't – or choose not to – eat. Without getting into the various moral or health reasons that people choose to eat vegan, here's some basic information on what vegans do and do not eat to help you if you're debating whether to meatless or not:
What vegans avoid
Basically, vegans do not eat any animal products, including products derived from animals. Most obviously, this means that vegans avoid eating beef, chicken, pork, fish and everything in between, as well as dairy products and eggs. However, many other foods contain animal products, though we often don't realize it. Here are some other items that people who are vegan often attempt to avoid and why:
- Honey: Bees are living things and they make it.
- White sugar: PETA asserts that it is made with bone char.
- Marshmallows and gummy bears: These sweets are made with gelatin that is derived from animals.
- Breads and baked goods made with butter, eggs, white sugar or whey – a dairy product.
- Beer: Believe it or not, some beers are filtered using egg whites, seashells or gelatin from fish bladders.
- Salad dressing: Many dressings use lecithin, a product from animals, to keep vinegar and oil from separating in the dressing.
- Additionally, many vegans avoid other animal products, including leather, wool, cosmetics and certain types of soap.
Though vegan diets are often low in cholesterol and fat and high in nutrients, it's good to keep in mind that not all certified vegan products, like certain junk foods, are healthy for you. Here is an idea of what vegans often eat to get important nutrients:
- Protein: lentils, peas, chickpeas, soy milk, almond milk, nuts and nut butter, whole grains, tofu
- Calcium: dark green vegetables, soy milk and orange juice fortified with calcium, tofu made with calcium sulfate
- Iron: dark green leafy vegetables, black and kidney beans, bulghur wheat, lentils, beet greens, black-eyed peas
- Vitamin B12: nutritional yeast
- Zinc: legumes, nuts and grains
- Vitamin D: fortified rice milk and soy milk
Though vegans are able to find some good sources for important nutrients, it takes a lot of time and effort to plan a well-rounded meal. Many vegans make sure they get enough B12 and calcium – two important ingredients that are often lacking in their diet – by finding a supplementary method like the VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake, which is gluten, dairy and soy-free and provides 20 grams of non-GMO protein per serving.
Achieving and maintaining healthy weight and cholesterol levels is essential to your overall health and well-being and helps sustain optimal heart function, creating a foundation for healthy aging.
Tips for Achieving & Maintaining Health and Well-Being
The key to success starts by making modifications to your diet to ensure you are eating right. Start by cutting out foods that add unnecessary and hollow calories to your diet, and increasing consumption of Soy Protein and Fiber. This is easier to do than you may think when you follow the Naturade Total Soy 4 Easy Steps® plan.
- Consume 25 grams of Soy Protein daily. Over 40 clinical studies show that Soy Protein, in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Replace a meal. Have a delicious Naturade Total Soy shake in place of one meal daily for weight maintenance. Replace two meals daily for weight loss.
- Eat right. Increase intake of Soy Protein and fiber but reduce intake of sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat. Drink plenty of water.
- Exercise weekly. Just 30-60 minutes of light exercise 4 days a week is all that is needed to boost HDL (good) cholesterol and enhance weight loss.
Learn more about our Healthy Meal Plan for Success