You’ve just had your cholesterol checked, you get back a bunch of numbers and letters and you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking at. Your doctor says it’s a little high, but why? What is ‘high’ cholesterol? Your best friend mutters something about good cholesterol vs. bad cholesterol, and some guy on the bus is up on a soapbox about how cholesterol medication is uber bad for you.
Cholesterol is confusing. It has become a dirty word that people don’t entirely understand so let’s demystify it a little.
I first found out it could be ‘bad’ when my father came home, told he was going to have to ‘watch it’ or take some pills for it. I wasn’t the researching-addict that I am today, otherwise I would’ve figured things out a little sooner but when I asked what this meant I was informed it meant we were going to have to regulate our familial intake of saturated fats.
“Yay! Sure, great! Um…what’s saturated fat?” was my next question.
It’s a good question actually.
We’ve talked about transfats already, now we’ve got saturated, unsaturated, mono unsaturated, and polyunsaturated. It’s enough to do your head in. Here’s a website that’ll explain all the science stuff about what these fats actually do and how they react with hydrogen and stuff, but, let’s break it down into simple talk so we’re all on the same page:
Saturated Fats: usually in dairy and meat, because of its chemical structure it leads to a rise in bad cholesterol (LDL).
Unsaturated Fats: come in two forms, mono and poly, depending on their structure. They lower LDL and raise good cholesterol (HDL) by bringing the LDL to the liver to be broken down. You need to get poly unsaturated fats through your diet because your body can’t produce it.
So basically, saturated –bad, unsaturated – good. Simpler right? Good.
I’ve been tossing around HDL LDL, so many LLLLL! Let me explanify. It’s all cholesterol, and it tends to be split into two camps: good (HDL) and bad (LDL). Ideally, you’re going to be keeping all your numbers low, with your HDL higher than your LDL. Cholesterol is used by the body to, among other things, build cell membranes, make hormones (like estrogen, testosterone, and adrenalin), helps produce vitamin D and maintain a healthy metabolism.
LDL cholesterol stands for Low-density lipoprotein. This is the stuff that can potentially clog your arteries if you’ve got too much of it.
HDL cholesterol is High-density liprotein and acts a little like a clean up crew, removing LDL from your bloodstream.
Now, you don’t need to eat foods with cholesterol in them to get your poly unsaturated fats. Poly unsaturated fats contain Omega 3 and 6 which you can take either as supplements; it’s important that you limit your cholesterol intake, especially since high cholesterol foods often contain high saturated fats, and we’re avoiding those!
Hope that helps a little, if you need more information – or haven’t understood a word I’ve written (fair enough) check out this.