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Life 101: Cholesterol: the good, the bad and the ugly

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There's such a thing as good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Dr. Andrea Wick encourages readers not to be afraid of food, just to make sure and eat foods with the right kind of fat and cholesterol. PHOTO BY ISMAEL TREVINO ON UNSPLASH

By Dr. Andrea Wick EBS CONTRIBUTOR

When you hear the word cholesterol, do you automatically identify it is a bad thing? Cholesterol’s been given a bad rap throughout the years, resulting in a health concept that is highly misunderstood. In the 70s, eggs were given a bad name because they were thought to cause high cholesterol and heart disease. Coconut oil and coconuts were also thought to cause high cholesterol because of the saturated fat content. Current research now shows that these foods are some of the most nutritious ones that we can eat.

Cholesterol is vital for all cellular processes.  It is important for manufacturing cell membranes, cell lipids and is extremely important in helping our bodies produce vitamin D. Cholesterol gives strength and flexibility to our cells. It also helps our gallbladder produce bile, which helps our bodies digest fats. As we age certain hormones naturally decrease in our body, especially testosterone. As a result our bodies will naturally produce more cholesterol to help balance the lack of hormonal production.

Cholesterol and fats are extremely important for brain function. All of the nerve cells in our brain, especially the myelin tissue, need cholesterol to help transmit nerve cell signals. Dr. Joseph Mercola D.O., states that nearly 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body is in your brain. He also said that studies show there’s an inverse link between all-cause mortality and total cholesterol levels, meaning that mortality rate is actually higher when your cholesterol is low.

Cholesterol is transported through our blood using “lipo-proteins” these lipo-proteins are called “high density lipoproteins” and “low density lipoproteins.” HDL is known as “good” cholesterol while LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol assists in excreting excess cholesterol. So, what cholesterol is good to consume versus bad?

Poor quality animal products can be highly inflammatory. It’s always best to consume grass fed beef rather than grain fed beef. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, daily consumption of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, salami and hot dogs, increase the risk of heart disease and colon cancer by 42 percent.

Toxic oils, such as canola, soy and corn oil, can cause an increase in bad cholesterol. For this reason it’s also important to avoid fried foods. Eating too much dairy and milk products can increase bad cholesterol as well. However, more studies are showing that eating fermented dairy products such as kefir or organic, cultured yogurt are beneficial. A diet high in simple and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, tortillas, pasta, bagels and pastries increase higher, bad cholesterol. Additionally, consuming excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol triggers the liver to overproduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides.

Healthy high cholesterol foods include eggs, which can actually improve HDL levels. Grass fed beef and dark chocolate are also beneficial. Dark chocolate contains a high level of antioxidants that can help reduce arterial plaque—great news for chocolate lovers—and supplementing with omega 3s, such as borage and algae oil are the gold standard. Lastly, consuming salmon and sardines help to increase healthy cholesterol also. The message here is: Don’t be afraid of fat and cholesterol. Instead be sure to consume the right kind!

Dr. Andrea Wick is a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist. She graduated from Life University in Marietta, Georgia, and now practices at Healing Hands Chiropractic in Big Sky. She has a passion for holistic health care and being active in the outdoors.

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