2. Avoid refined vegetable oils. These include any seed or vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, canola, safflower, cottonseed, and grapeseed oil. These are high in omega-6 fatty acids which have been shown to increase LDL “the bad” cholesterol. This is problematic because not only do these oils increase LDL cholesterol, but also the particle shape. These types of oils make the LDL particles small and dense which are more likely to stick to the walls of our arteries and clog them.
3. Choose healthy fats. Eat coconut oil which is high in saturated fat, but specifically lauric acid and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride which is more easily absorbed by the body and increases HDL cholesterol. Among women, high HDL cholesterol is an important marker for decreased heart disease risk. Other healthy fats to opt for: extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and grass-fed pasture-raised butter (I like Kerrygold brand the best. You can find it at Costco as well as many other popular grocery stores!). It is better to use coconut oil and butter for high heat cooking because these are more stable fats and won’t break down at a high heat. When we use olive oil at a high heat it actually changes the fat composition into omega-6 fats instead of the monounsaturated fats it usually contains and this is unhealthy.
4. Eat whole grains. Eat whole grains such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat or rye bread if your digestive system can tolerate it. Whole grains bind to the fat in our bodies and help eliminate excess fat, thereby lowering our cholesterol.
5. Exercise! Working out has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol levels. In addition, exercise helps us sleep better and improves our overall mood. Even a simple walk each day or a short weight lifting session is better than nothing.
These are my 5 tips for improving cholesterol although there are many other ways. It is also important to know what to look for when you go to the doctor. Make sure that you get your overall cholesterol level, HDL level, and LDL level screened. You want high HDL numbers and low LDL numbers.
In addition, if you have had high cholesterol in the past it is important to look at your triglyceride level (the amount of fat circulating in the blood- we want a lower number) and the particle size of LDL. If your LDL cholesterol is small and dense, as I discussed before, this is a sign of inflammation. If it is large and buoyant, however, there isn’t as much cause for concern even if the levels are a little high because this means that the fats are floating through the body instead of sticking to the arteries.
Finally, I would suggest getting your C-reactive protein level checked. This is a good indicator of overall inflammation in the body and will let you know if you should actively work to improve cholesterol, but also other markers of health to decrease chronic stress and the subsequent inflammation in the body. More on stress in another post! Happy living! Don’t forget to smile and laugh today :)