There’s an idea that’s popular right now that cholesterol is a bad thing and we should try as hard as possible to eliminate it completely from our diet.
Is that really true? Let’s look at the science behind cholesterol.
Did you know that cholesterol is in fact a necessary component in your body and that 80% of it is made internally?
That’s right, only 20% of your cholesterol level is thanks to the food you eat. Your liver produces the vast majority of cholesterol in your body all on its own.
For me, that’s a marker that perhaps producing cholesterol is a very necessary function if your body makes so much. The focus is then turned to the liver. Why is it producing so much cholesterol? Is it because of all the fat we eat and is that damaging our body?
Well, of course, that depends on the fats being consumed.
If you have your liver checked and it is functioning properly, then the next thing to look at to determine if your cholesterol level is a problem is the amount of inflammation in the body.
Stress is a huge contributor to inflammation in your body. Whether it is physical stress, emotional stress, or chemical stress, they all lead to a build-up of inflammation. You may be a person who thinks stress is not a big issue in your life because you’re pretty chill all the time. That’s just your emotional stress. Sitting at a desk for hours each day or working a physically demanding job, both of these extremes can cause physical stress to the body that can lead to inflammation.
Maybe you work or live in a building with a mold issue. This is a big destroyer of your nervous system. Plastics and other chemicals and toxins in our environment contribute to the stress that can lead to inflammation. This inflammation will drive up your cholesterol levels. Your LDL, your triglycerides, and your HDL will all be affected by this inflammation.
This means that even if you cut out all the animal fat from your diet, 80% of your cholesterol is still made inside your liver, and stress and inflammation will still have an effect on your cholesterol level.
Do you know what to look for when you get bloodwork done? If your doctor only tests for total cholesterol, LDL and HDL, then that’s not enough.
You want to get complete bloodwork done so you can know everything that’s happening with your health. In our office, we run an NMR with IR Lipid Panel, and two things it looks at is particle size and ratios. Cholesterol particles can either be small and dense or big and fluffy. Small dense particles are more likely to lead to blockage of your arteries.
However, you may have elevated cholesterol levels but they really are the large fluffy type of cholesterol floating around in your bloodstream that won’t settle in any grooves in your damaged arteries to create any issues as much as smaller particles would.
Triglyceride levels are also often overlooked when bloodwork is done. Make sure you ask for this to be checked when doing your labs. You also want to look at the ratios of your HDL to your LDL when it comes to total cholesterol levels.
Another thing to check is your C-reactive protein, or CRP. This will reveal your inflammation levels in your body, especially as it relates to your cardiac system. Your Hemoglobin A1C is another important marker to check, as an elevated A1C is a big way to predict heart disease or your risk of a heart attack.
An elevated A1C and CRP together signal a greater chance for heart disease. Otherwise, if you have an elevated cholesterol level but normal CRP, then this isn’t a big issue necessarily. Remember, your body needs cholesterol. It uses it to help repair itself, especially when it comes to supporting your brain function. LDL, in particular, is very protective against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
LDL’s function in your body is to take repair mechanisms to where you need them. If you fight to reduce your LDL, you lessen your body’s ability to repair itself. You need LDL. It’s not a correct blanket statement to say that elevated LDL levels in your body are a bad thing. It just may be what your body needs to heal.
To best protect your heart, enjoy a Paleo lifestyle with ample amounts of good quality fat. This means grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and wild-caught seafood, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and herbs. Add in raw nuts and seeds and organic berries, which are rich in polyphenols and antioxidants.
The key to a heart-healthy nutrition plan will be in the oils and fats. My favorite heart-healthy fat to consume is olive oil.
Now, not all olive oil is created equally. It’s important to look for organic, extra virgin olive oil that has been produced in the last year. The longer it sits on a shelf, the more it oxidizes and loses the health benefits touted. We use Kasadrino’s Olive Oil that’s shipped directly to our house within 3-5 months of harvesting.
Studies that confirm the benefits of olive oil usually see participants consuming up to three shot glasses of olive oil per day. So go ahead and generously add it on top of your salads or drizzle it over your foods!
To learn how to implement a Paleo, high fat diet, check out our Foundations of Nutrition course.
If you have a history of heart disease or if it is in you genetics, take 400mg per day of COQ10. If you do not have this history, take 200mg per day for preventative measures. There are several brands of COQ10 I recommend, which you can find at our online dispensary, Wellevate.
If your Vitamin D levels are low, take Vitamin D Supreme by Designs for Health, available here.
If you are not getting enough good quality fat in your diet, supplement with Pure Form Omega, available here. These are oils with perfectly balanced omega ratios that will support you on a cellular level.
Inflammatone by Designs for Health, available here, has rosemary, frankincense, curcumin, white willow bark extract, and lots of herbs that act as blood thinners, and antioxidants that will help to reduce the levels of inflammation in your body.
Lastly, CVO-r by Systemic Formulas, available here, is a good supplement for someone with heart issues. This supplement contains krill oil, which you can use to lower inflammation in your heart quickly.