How to kiss cholesterol and your overwhelming fear of it goodbye.
During the 1340s, there was the Bubonic Plague. Approximately six and one-half centuries later, it was the bird flu. Today, everyone runs scared of one arch nemesis: cholesterol. As scared as people are of this substance, many people don’t even know what it is.
How can you reduce the amount of cholesterol in your body and calm your cholesterol fears?
Cholesterol is a sticky, waxy substance. And as you know, cholesterol is in some of your favorite foods. But did you know that your body also produces cholesterol? That’s because cholesterol actually serves a good purpose, as it is required for your body to produce vitamin D, help your body digest fats, and build the walls to your body’s basic element – the cell.
While your body creates cholesterol on its own and is found in many different foods, cholesterol in excess can be very dangerous. When you have too much cholesterol stored up in your body, it can stick to the walls of your arteries and prevent adequate blood from flowing from the heart to the rest of the body. If enough clogging occurs, the end result can be heart attack or stroke.
The good news is that you can take control of the amount of cholesterol in your body. A good first step is to lower the amount of cholesterol you introduce to your body through different foods. This means increasing your intake of low-cholesterol foods and reducing your intake of cholesterol-heavy foods.
Fruits and vegetables are always good bets if you’re trying to avoid cholesterol. You can also go with fat-free or low-fat dairy products; nuts; beans; and skinless, lean poultry or meat. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid foods high in cholesterol. This list includes baked goods made with egg yolks; sausage, bologna, and other processed meats; fried foods; and whole milk.
Because your body produces cholesterol, you will never be cholesterol free. Instead of attempting to rid your body and your diet of every bit of cholesterol, you should aim for a more noble (and possible goal): eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
In order to ensure your diet remains low in cholesterol, use the following tips when cooking:
- cut off as much fat as you can from meats before cooking
- find ways to cook using only egg whites (not egg yolks)
- boil or broil your food instead of frying
- go with low-fat versions of ingredients
- cook more low-fat, filling foods and fewer high-fat foods
Remember – you can’t cut all of the cholesterol out of your diet, but you can do your part to get it to a healthy level.
What’s the Good Stuff?
Making cholesterol even more confusing is the seemingly new revelation that all cholesterol is not created equal. As you probably know, there is “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. But which is which?
“Good” cholesterol is the lay term for high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol actually protects against heart attack. Therefore, maintaining a healthy level of HDL (40 mg/dL or higher) is essential to good overall health.
“Bad” cholesterol is another name for low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Responsible for the artery clogging that cholesterol is known for, LDL should be avoided whenever possible. The ideal level of LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL. When high LDL is coupled with low HDL cholesterol levels, being overweight, or smoking, you are at a substantial risk for heart disease and stroke.
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