Cholesterol – What, Who, How?!

After training a client today, and being told that Cholesterol isnt affected by your diet, I’ve decided to add this!!

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a soft waxy substance and is an essential body fat (lipid), that is carried around the body in the blood. Only a small amount of the cholesterol in the body comes from your diet, it is mostly made in the body by the liver. The dietary cholesterol is found in food that comes from meat, poultry, fish, seafood and dairy products.

Cholesterol is required by the body to keep itself healthy, but too much cholesterol circulating can be a health risk. As cholesterol is not water-soluble it must bind to special proteins before it can be carried via the bloodstream. Once bound they form lipoproteins, there are 2 main types of lipoproteins:

Low density lipoproteins (LDL), commonly known as bad cholesterol. LDL is the major cholesterol carrier in the blood. If there is too much LDL in the blood it can build up on artery walls. A high level of LDL cholesterol may give you an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

High density lipoproteins (HDL) commonly known as good cholesterol. HDL is actually good for maintaining the health of the heart and preventing the narrowing of the arteries as it carrie cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. This is why the ratio between LDL and HDL cholesterol is important. Usually the body maintains a balance of cholesterol, making more if it needs it and getting rid of any excess.

LDL levels can be lowered by eating a low fat diet and HDL levels can be raised by exercising.

What causes cholesterol to be high?

Generally too much saturated fat in the diet is the most common cause of high cholesterol. Saturated fat encourages the body to make more cholesterol than it needs or can get rid of. However, occasionally, high cholesterol levels can be genetic. If there is too much cholesterol in the blood and the body can’t get rid of it, the unused cholesterol can builds up in the artery walls, leading to the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. This narrowing of the arteries slows down the flow of blood to your heart, this condition is known as arteriosclerosis.

If the arteries become too blocked, it restricts blood flow and a heart attack can often occur. If an artery in the brain becomes blocked this can trigger a stroke to occur.

How can I reduce my cholesterol levels?

High cholesterol is a major factor of heart disease, but it can be treated through diet and exercise. The first step in lowering cholesterol levels is to change your diet, and reduce the amount of consumed saturated fat

Food to avoid or limit:

 Fatty meats but if you do eat them cut off all the visible fat.


Pies and pastries.

Fat or oil in cooking.

Prawns, shrimp and fish roe.

Fried foods Dairy products such as full milk, cream, cheese, butter and ice cream, egg yolks.

Cakes, crisps, biscuits, sweets and chocolate.

Better options of foods include;

Fish, especially oil rich fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, pilchards and trout. This type of fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids and they are thought to lower LDL cholesterol.

Poultry (chicken, veal or turkey) but remove the skin.

Low-Fat dairy products, use semi skimmed or skimmed milk, low fat yoghurts and mono or poly-unsaturated spreads.

Foods high in polyunsaturated (found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils) and monounsaturated (found in olive, rapeseed, walnut oil and avocado) fats. Fruit and vegetables, you should eat at least 5 portions every day.


Wholegrain breads Cereals

Baked beans and red kidney beans

Pasta and rice

Most things are avoidable, it’s whether you choose to limit or control them via exercise and good nutrition.

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