Cholesterol: the good, the bad, the ugly

Health food or junk food?

Do you know your cholesterol levels? Do you know what your cholesterol levels mean to you and your health?

Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood, with animal food products as the typical source. While you need some cholesterol, too much can raise your risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, Kern County suffers from some of the highest rates of chronic disease, including heart disease, in the state.

Kern County is one of the worst counties in California for deaths due to heart disease, only behind Stanislaus County.

Diet, weight and lack of physical activity contribute to your cholesterol levels. Some of the main food products containing cholesterol are meat, eggs, fish and dairy products. Plant-based foods like spinach, almonds, grapes, citrus and avocados do not contain any cholesterol and Kern County is a top producer of many of these delicious plant-based foods.

Your liver is responsible for regulating cholesterol distribution throughout your body. However, it does not travel easily in the bloodstream. It must attach to lipoproteins in order to transport. Cholesterol packaged in low-density lipoprotein is often called “bad” cholesterol because too much LDL in the blood can lead to cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries. LDL carries most of the cholesterol in the blood.

Another type of cholesterol package is high-density lipoprotein, often called “good” cholesterol. HDL helps transport cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver, which helps remove it from the body, preventing it from piling up in the arteries.

A proper diet can have a tremendous effect on good and bad cholesterol levels in the body. Because of this, it is important to know what foods can have a positive impact on cholesterol levels.

Lean meats, such as skinless chicken breast, fish and tenderloin-cut meats are ideal animal protein sources for a low- cholesterol diet. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are essential for a healthy diet and contain no cholesterol.

Some foods that can be incorporated into your diet to increase good HDL cholesterol levels are olive oil, beans, legumes, whole grains, fibrous fruits, fish, flax, nuts, chia seeds, avocado and soy. These foods contain healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, that promote HDL cholesterol in the body.

Also, remember all plant-based foods do not contain any cholesterol so these types of food positively benefit cholesterol levels as well. A healthy, nutritious diet can be a critical step in reducing and preventing cholesterol issues in the body.

Now that you know what cholesterol levels mean for you and your health, know your cholesterol levels. Visit your doctor and ask for a cholesterol level screening. 

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