People often talk about cholesterol... but do you actually know what it is? Cholesterol is a lipid that circulates in the blood and plays an essential role in the human body.
It is in fact a component of cell membranes. It is also the precursor of bile acids and certain hormones. In addition, cholesterol enables vitamin D to be synthesised on the surface of the skin and forms part of our body fat.
Cholesterol is transported in the blood by proteins:
Let’s explore a few simple measures that can help you lower your level of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
A high-fat diet is definitely to be avoided, especially if you already have high cholesterol levels (2). You can easily reduce the amount of fat in your diet by preparing your meals yourself:
Sport or exercise plays an important role in reducing ‘bad’ cholesterol (3). Try to engage in physical activity on a regular basis. This could take the form of running, playing a team sport or simply walking. Whether alone or with others, walking is the easiest activity to adopt.
Just a short period every day is enough, making sure your activity is suited to your fitness level and ability. If you’re put off by bad weather, you could always invest in an indoor exercise bike and notch up the kilometers while watching TV, for example. It’s definitely preferable to being a couch potato!
Linoleic acid is a fatty acid which helps to maintain normal cholesterol levels(4). It’s found in certain vegetable oils, some of which are good for cooking, while others are best consumed cold, in a salad dressing, for example.
It can be difficult, however, to increase your intake of linoleic acid while reducing your consumption of dietary fats. To help, you can take a supplement containing conjugated linoleic acid (such as the product CLA).
You don’t need us to tell you: fruits vegetables can and should be eaten in abundance. A diet high in fruit and vegetables significantly reduces lipid risk factors for cardiovascular problems (5).
If you’re feeling peckish, instead of reaching for a biscuit or piece of chocolate, choose some seasonal fruit. It will almost certainly be high in fibre and vitamins, and most importantly, low in unhealthy fats.
Pectin is a natural substance found in apples and citrus fruit, and is often used to set jams and marmalades. But did you know that it has also been shown to help fight bad cholesterol?
This compound actually helps to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels(6). You can boost your pectin intake by taking a natural concentrate of hydrolyzed pectin (such as the product PectaSol®).
Obtained by fermenting red rice, this yeast contains a beneficial substance called monacolin K which helps maintain normal cholesterol levels (7).
To benefit from its properties, you could take a red yeast rice supplement standardized in monacolin K (such as Red Yeast Rice Extract). But be sure to check with your doctor first as it is contraindicated for those suffering from liver problems.
Smoking is an important factor to consider. One American study involving 1500 smokers suggests that cutting down on smoking, or stopping altogether, leads to an increase in levels of ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol (8).
If you find it too difficult, there are various aids that can help:
You can also seek help from specialists, so don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3 fatty acid which helps to maintain normal cholesterol levels (9). It’s therefore important to make sure you consume enough.
ALA is found naturally in various foods, but a particularly good source is sea buckthorn oil. Sea buckthorn is a thorny shrub native to Europe and Asia, with red-orange berries. A good way of ingesting sea buckthorn oil is to take a supplement with a high content of active ingredients(such as Sea Buckthorn Extract).
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Elevated cholesterol can put you at risk. Choose natural, safe solutions to reduce the impact of cholesterol on your body and maintain your health.