Top 5 Ways to Get Great Cholesterol Levels

August 09, 2019

"Since high cholesterol shows no symptoms, it is vitally important that you take measures now to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level."

Understanding cholesterol is important because almost 100 million Americans have high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease, the number 1 killer in the U.S. In today’s show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist learn, the difference between the good and the bad, plus find out her top tips on how to boost good cholesterol naturally.

Video Highlights

  • 05:17: Clearing Up Cholesterol Myths
  • 11:55: More Cholesterol Facts
  • 16:49: What Exactly Is Cholesterol
  • 20:51: High Cholesterol Risk Factors
  • 25:27: Top Ways to Boost Good Cholesterol
  • 37:23: Wrap-Up

A little background on why you should care about cholesterol to begin with. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 95 million American adults have high cholesterol. And what makes that statistic super dangerous is that high cholesterol can be a silent killer, since it doesn’t show any symptoms. 

Clearing Up Cholesterol Myths

The lower your cholesterol level, the lower your risk for heart disease — True or False?

This is a bit of a trick question, since the answer is both True and False. According to the statistics, your risk for heart disease is lower when you have low total cholesterol and low LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the fatty substance that is most related to arterial blockage — or the “bad cholesterol”.

However, because total cholesterol and LDL alone do not determine all of your risk. HDL plays a role too. Your risk for heart disease is actually higher if you have a low HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol level. HDL is the "good" cholesterol — it carries fat out of the coronary arteries.

If a product's package reads "low cholesterol," the product is also low in fat — True or False?

This one is false. Fat and cholesterol are two different things. A lot of foods marked "low cholesterol" contain oils that may be high in saturated fats, which we know can be just as bad for you as cholesterol. 

Remember, fat is high in calories — 1 gram of fat has 9 calories. Proteins and carbohydrates each have 4 calories per gram. It's true that we all need some fat in our diets. But when you add fat, select monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Monounsaturated fats do not increase blood cholesterol when included in a low-fat meal plan. 

Women rarely get heart disease, so they don't need to worry about cholesterol — True or False?

Answer: False. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men… but is also the leading cause of death in women. As a matter of fact, nearly 300,000 women in the US die each year from heart disease. But statistics also tell us that in general women tend to have higher levels of HDL, the high density lipoprotein cholesterol that helps protect the heart, than men. 

There's no cholesterol in peanut butter — True or False?

Answer: True. Cholesterol is found only in animal products. Foods from plants do not contain cholesterol. So nuts and nut butters, which are high in fat, do not contain cholesterol.

More Cholesterol Facts

  • Lowering your cholesterol level by 1% lowers your risk for heart disease by 2%.
  • For some people, losing excess weight will lower total blood cholesterol levels; for others, cholesterol is hereditary and can be high no matter how healthy your weight is.
  • Egg yolks and organ meats, such as liver, are the foods highest in cholesterol — In fact, one egg yolk has 213 mg cholesterol (that’s a lot). Cheese, shellfish, steak, sardines, and full-fat yogurt are also high in cholesterol.
  • The American Heart Association recommends limiting dietary cholesterol to no more than 300 milligrams a day.

High cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease and stroke. We already discussed that heart disease-related deaths rank #1, and deaths due to stroke rank #5 as leading causes of death in the United States.

Since high cholesterol shows no symptoms, it is vitally important that you take measures now to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level. Don’t worry, you’ll learn some ways here, including one slightly controversial (but highly effective) method you won’t want to miss.  

What Exactly Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a lipid, or a type of fat. In the body, it’s made in the liver before it is released into the bloodstream where it is then transported to the tissues throughout the body. Cholesterol also comes from the foods you eat, and different foods have either good cholesterol or bad cholesterol. 

Bad cholesterol is known as LDL, which stands for low-density lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are what cholesterol travels on as it makes its way through the body. Cholesterol in your body is made up primarily of this LDL. It doesn’t take much, then, to make that bad cholesterol, or LDL, creep into a danger zone that could lead to more serious issues like stroke or heart disease. That’s because LDL can form plaque on the walls of your blood vessels, and that can cause the blood vessels to narrow to the point that they can eventually become blocked, thus stopping the flow of blood to your heart and other vital organs.  

Good cholesterol is known as HDL, which stands for high-density lipoprotein. HDL absorbs cholesterol and transports it back to the liver where it is flushed and eliminated from the body. HDL can work to actually lower your risk of stroke and heart disease. 

It’s a delicate balance, but you want to make sure to keep your LDL low and your HDL high. 

A healthy overall cholesterol level should be below 200 mg/dL, meaning you should have less than 200 milligrams per deciliter of cholesterol in your blood. A healthy LDL level should be below 100 mg/dL, and a healthy HDL level should be 60 mg/dL or above. 

High Cholesterol Risk Factors

A few things factor into your likelihood of developing high cholesterol: 

Diet 

Eating a diet high in saturated fat, processed foods, and refined sugars, puts you at a greater risk for developing high cholesterol. Eating these types of food can also lead to obesity and inflammation — two additional factors that play a part in developing high cholesterol. To lower bad cholesterol levels and give good cholesterol a boost, eat foods that are:

  • High in monounsaturated fats. This includes olive oil, avocado oil, nuts like almonds, and seeds like ground flax or chia.
  • High in fiber like berries, and grains like brown rice.
  • High in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, albacore tuna, and mackerel

Many people who have high cholesterol transition their diet so they are eating a Mediterranean diet because people living in Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece have been found to have lower rates of heart disease. While most of the Mediterranean diet is great, we recommend a slightly modified version that cuts out gluten, dairy, and other inflammatory foods. 

Genetics 

High cholesterol is hereditary. Yes, you can actually be born with high cholesterol. High cholesterol at birth is a hereditary condition known as familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH. If you have FH, your body is unable to remove LDL (that's that bad cholesterol) from your blood, which puts you at risk of having a heart attack or a stroke at a very young age. FH originates from a genetic mutation and can be passed down from generation to generation. 

Fortunately it’s not very common. Now, we don’t want to give cholesterol too much of a black eye, because it actually serves many vital roles within the body — specifically, it helps make hormones like estrogen, testosterone, as well as hormones in the adrenal glands. It’s also responsible for regulating metabolism and blood pressure

This is why it is so important to make sure your good cholesterol gets a boost and stays in that 60-mg/dL range. 

Top Ways to Boost Good Cholesterol

Get physical! 

Doing up to 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least 5 days a week will definitely give your good cholesterol a boost. Cardio exercises like walking, swimming, going for a bike ride, or even jogging all work to help you lose weight, lower blood pressure, and regulate blood sugar. Doing these types of exercises, where on a scale of 1 to 10 of intensity you’re working in the 4 to 6 range, will also work to tip the scales of bad cholesterol vs. good cholesterol in your favor.   

Eat foods rich in magnesium 

This is another excellent way to improve good cholesterol. Lower levels of magnesium are associated with elevated levels of bad LDL. This is because cholesterol relies on a specific enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. The body needs this enzyme in order to make cholesterol. Magnesium regulates the enzyme so cholesterol doesn’t get out of control in your system. Foods that are loaded with magnesium include:

  • Dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Avocados and guacamole are a great way to get a healthy dose of magnesium!
  • Salmon
  • Leafy greens, especially turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, spinach, and chard. 

You could also take a magnesium supplement to help control bad cholesterol. In fact, chances are, if you are low in magnesium, you are probably low in other essential minerals including boron, calcium, and zinc. You can get mineral support daily by taking a multi with all the minerals that come from organic food sources, such as the Smarter Multi. The magnesium we use comes from natural ingredients like fresh okra, spearmint, sesame, dill, and sunflower seeds.  

Start using Ginger

That’s right — ginger has been proven to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. It does this by activating an enzyme that helps the body use cholesterol more efficiently, and, as a result, lowers bad LDL and raises good HDL. Ginger has so many incredible health benefits, you guys. You should really make it a pantry staple. You can put some in hot water to make a tea, or you can use it as a spice to flavor meals. 

Pick Purple Produce

Say that 5 times fast! Produce that is purple in color, like blackberries, blueberries, red cabbage, and even black raspberries, all contain something called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that have been proven in several studies to boost good cholesterol up to 20%. They do so by fighting inflammation, which can be a contributing factor in high cholesterol, and they also protect cells from free radicals that elevate bad cholesterol levels. So, integrate more purple foods onto your plate! 

Following a Keto Diet will help boost good cholesterol

This one is surrounded with a bit of controversy, because some experts believe following a ketogenic diet for long periods of time can cause you to lose muscle and force the body into starvation mode, which can then actually make you gain weight. Following the Keto Diet for short periods of time and under the supervision of your doctor or nutritionist can help give your good cholesterol the boost that it needs. 

For those of you who are not familiar, the Keto Diet is a low-carb diet that forces the body into ketosis. Typically, the body grabs for the glucose found in carbs and uses that for energy. When you eat a low-carb or no-carb diet, the body can’t find any glucose because it isn’t there, so it turns to burning fat for energy. This is called ketosis. 

A Keto Diet has shown incredible results in people who are overweight or severely obese. But a Keto Diet can work for anyone who has high cholesterol, as it’s been proven to increase good cholesterol levels in a number of studies. What you need to watch out for, however, is not substituting carbs for fat. A lot of people who eliminate or reduce the amount of carbs they’re eating tend to replace them with foods that have a high fat content. That won’t give your good cholesterol the boost it needs… in fact, it could increase your cholesterol levels. This is why following a Keto Diet should be done under the supervision of a professional so you know how to eat the right balance of foods to help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. 

Wrap-Up

Let’s recap:

  • 95 million adults living in the United States currently have high cholesterol, which can lead to heart attack and stroke, both of which are in the top 5 leading causes of death in the U.S. 
  • Cholesterol is a form of fat found in the body’s tissues. It comes in two forms: HDL and LDL. 
  • Cholesterol is measured by milligrams per deciliter in your bloodstream. HDL, the good cholesterol, should be at a level of 60 mg/dL or above. LDL, the bad cholesterol, should stay below 100 mg/dL. An overall cholesterol level above 200 mg/dL is considered high. 
  • High cholesterol is caused by either poor diet or a genetic disposition. 
  • Eating foods high in saturated fats and foods that are overly processed can contribute to high LDL cholesterol levels. 
  • Eating foods that are high in magnesium, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats can work to lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Taking a magnesium supplement or eating foods rich in magnesium have been proven to boost HDL cholesterol levels. 
  • Following a low-carb diet like the Mediterranean Diet of a ketogenic diet have also been proven to elevate HDL cholesterol levels. Any time you are choosing to go on a diet, especially one like the Keto Diet, should be done under the supervision of a doctor or licensed nutritionist.

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