We’ve all heard cholesterol levels should be low, but many don’t know exactly why. Although cholesterol is necessary for our body, high levels can become a massive threat to our health and cause numerous heart problems. The resulting fatty deposits can jeopardize the blood flow to our arteries by accumulating in the blood vessels.
Fortunately, you can keep cholesterol levels under control by adjusting your diet and adopting healthier habits. This article reveals what you should refrain from if you want to lower your cholesterol.
Fats have an essential role in our health. However, not all of them are beneficial. Saturated fats can jeopardize our health and increase our cholesterol levels, thus potentially causing numerous health conditions. To prevent this, avoid consuming foods rich in saturated fat, such as cakes, pastries, chocolate, bacon, or sausage. Unhealthy foods will only harm our digestive system and have various detrimental side effects.
Instead, try to eat a plant-based diet. Antioxidants from fresh fruits and vegetables are highly beneficial and decrease LDL cholesterol levels, often called “bad cholesterol.”
Keep in mind not all vegan or vegetarian foods are healthy. Avoid pre-packaged foods that often contain unhealthy amounts of sodium and other harmful ingredients.
Base your diet on these foods:
- Fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
Too Much Alcohol
Occasional alcohol consumption isn’t harmful to our health. In fact, it can actually be beneficial. However, excessive amounts of alcohol will significantly harm our health in dozens of ways.
The connection between alcohol and cholesterol is very complex. Although scientists are still researching it, one thing is sure: too much alcohol isn’t healthy. One drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is labeled as moderate consumption. Anything over that is considered excessive and harmful.
Processed or Refined Foods
Doughnuts, fast foods, white sugar, pasta: most people enjoy them, but unfortunately, they aren’t good for us. Highly processed foods are stripped of their nutritional value, meaning they don’t contribute to our health. Quite the opposite, they carry numerous side effects.
People who eat a diet high in refined foods often see increased triglyceride levels. High triglycerides can clog the arteries, increasing the chances of a stroke, pancreatitis, heart attack, and numerous heart conditions. Plus, refined foods consumption leads to a decrease in HDL cholesterol, often referred to as “good cholesterol.” HDL cholesterol collects the extra cholesterol in your body and carries it to the liver, which then expels it. Ultimately, optimal HDL levels protect your heart.
While processed foods do contain carbohydrates, which are necessary for maintaining good energy levels, these are simple carbs that cause a spike in blood glucose. They only provide a short amount of energy, commonly called “sugar rush,” which can quickly dissipate.
Instead, focus on whole foods that contain complex, nutrient-dense carbs. Since they take longer to digest, complex carbs will keep you energized for an extended period. These foods include:
- Sweet potatoes and other kinds of vegetables
- Whole grains
- Bananas and other types of fruits
These foods are also rich in fiber, which effectively reduces cholesterol levels.
Most people are sitting at their desks every day and can’t wait to finish work and relax. Although rest is essential for our bodies, staying physically active is crucial for fighting high cholesterol.
The benefits of exercising are twofold: it increases good cholesterol (HDL) levels while decreasing bad (LDL) cholesterol. Of course, “exercising” doesn’t mean you should need to run marathons to stay active. Activities like walking, jogging, or riding a bicycle are excellent options. Additionally, you could also start going to the gym several times a week. If you don’t like exercising by yourself, take up Zumba or any group classes.
It’s recommended to exercise at least three times a week, but it’s even better to do it five to seven times.
Although this is much easier said than done, you should avoid stress to keep your cholesterol under control. High cortisol levels from long-term stress can lead to increased cholesterol and heart disease.
Additionally, stress often leads to an unhealthy lifestyle, alcohol consumption, or inactivity, which all affect cholesterol.
Learning how to manage and reduce stress is beneficial for your cholesterol and overall health.
Fight Bad Cholesterol
It’s hard to stay healthy in a fast-paced world. Nowadays, high cholesterol has become one of the biggest health concerns worldwide and should come as no surprise. Highly processed foods, which are readily available, and unhealthy lifestyles cause not just increased cholesterol but many other disorders as well. Fortunately, you can prevent this by making small lifestyle adjustments.