Understanding the effects of a high cholesterol diet is a bit tricky. The effects of a high cholesterol diet on high blood cholesterol are not completely understood and there are so many variables that the information can be very confusing. Let’s look at what cholesterol is, what high cholesterol means, what the effects are of a high cholesterol diet and finally, some super foods that can help you lower your high cholesterol.

To understand a high cholesterol diet, first you need to know more about cholesterol. Only foods that are derived from animal sources (including animal fat or lard) contain cholesterol. Cholesterol is synthesized in the body. It is used in cell membrane structure and also in the synthesis of steroidal hormones and Vitamin D. It does have some use; however, as it travels in blood through arteries attached to lipoproteins such as HDL and LDL, some of it sticks to the walls of the artery creating the condition known as atherosclerosis, a.k.a. clogged arteries. The higher the total blood cholesterol, specifically the LDL, the higher the incidence of cholesterol depositing on artery walls.

High blood cholesterol levels in individuals have been shown to increase cardiovascular disease rates. Total cholesterol in an individual should be less than 200 mg/dL. The total cholesterol is made up of LDL (low-density lipoproteins), HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and triglycerides. LDL, a.k.a. bad cholesterol, should be less than 100 mg/dL. HDL, a.k.a. good cholesterol, should be greater than 40 mg/dL and trigylcerides should be less than 150 mg/dL. If any of your cholesterol levels are outside these numbers, you’ve likely heard that you should avoid a high cholesterol diet, but why?

A high cholesterol diet is by name alone, high in cholesterol; however, studies are unsure as to whether or not dietary cholesterol is really the root cause of increased blood cholesterol levels. More importantly is the saturated fat intake that often occurs with a high cholesterol diet. High amounts of saturated fat have been shown to increase blood cholesterol levels in individuals. Food high in saturated fats are fatty meats and products produced using oils high in saturated fat such as potato chips, deep fried cuisine, and baked goods to name a few.

To muddy the waters a bit more, science isn’t clear on why one person can eat a high cholesterol, high fat diet and not have high cholesterol(they may, however have other health issues), and another person will end up with high cholesterol on the same or even a better diet. The bottom line here is that a large part of high blood cholesterol can be contributed to genetics. Some people with high blood cholesterol respond well to environmental changes like diet and exercise therapy while others need medication to control their high cholesterol.

There are some super foods that scientists are finding out may help reduce blood cholesterol. Some of these super foods can even be used to replace foods in a high cholesterol diet.

Oats in oatmeal and oat bran contain soluble fiber. A daily amount of 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber has been proven to lower LDL levels around five percent. Overall, the daily recommendation for dietary fiber is 25 grams. The remaining amount of fiber intake for the day beyond soluble fiber is 15-20 grams of insoluble fiber found in whole grains and other roughage such as celery. The best benefits from fiber are seen when both soluble and insoluble fiber are present in the diet.

Fish such as salmon, trout and sardines have high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids which not only lower LDL but raise the good cholesterol, HDL. Fish can easily replace the protein found in a high cholesterol diet.

Some nuts such as almonds, pistachios and pecans contain fiber, phytonutrients and Vitamin E. These nutrients have been shown to be beneficial in reducing cholesterol. Eat them in small quantities, though, because nuts are high in calories. Replace some of the protein in a high cholesterol diet with this super food.

Though the cholesterol in a high cholesterol diet may not be the culprit, the saturated fat almost always accompanies the cholesterol. So, ultimately, for optimum health, a high cholesterol diet should be avoided.

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