This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclaimer for more info.

variety of cholesterol pills

Cholesterol is made naturally by the body, but we can also get it from foods. How is that possible? About 75% of the cholesterol we find in our bloodstream comes from our liver. This is a good thing.


Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 500 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.


You may wonder how it’s possible that cholesterol can be good for us at all! Without getting too scientific, cholesterol actually acts as a transporter in the body. You remember that Jason Statham movie “The Transporter“? The film’s title makes it painfully obvious, but Statham’s character was hired to transport precious cargo from one mobster to another. Imagine cholesterol is your personal Transporter. The precious cargo in this case: fat. We need cholesterol to transport fat around the body and in some cases, out of the body.

Using the Statham Transporter analogy, cholesterol grabs onto fat, sticks it in its trunk and moves it along the highway (our bloodstream). This is why the liver has to make cholesterol–to support this very natural function.

Too Much Cholesterol

While cholesterol does have a specific and very useful function in the body, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. I said that about 75% of the cholesterol floating around in the bloodstream was made by the liver. The other 25% comes from the diet. Where in the diet, specifically, though?

Think of it this way: any time you eat something that had a liver (cows, pigs, chickens and their eggs, fish, lizards–basically other animals), you’re going to get some cholesterol. That’s because their livers make it, too! But the question is: does eating this chemical compound actually raise our blood cholesterol levels?

The American Heart Association used to think so, but recently, they changed their mind. The recommendation used to go something like this: don’t consume any more than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol each day. But now it seems that the cholesterol you get from food may not actually raise blood cholesterol levels as much as we once thought. Other factors seem to be more important.

Types of Cholesterol

What complicates things a bit is the fact that we have different types of cholesterol in our bloodstream. Some types of this chemical compound are more harmful than others.

LDL

The ones we know are most harmful are the ones labeled LDL or VLDL. An easy way to remember this is to think of the “L” in LDL referring to “lousy” or “lethal” cholesterol. You actually don’t get this lousy or lethal cholesterol from your diet; instead, our body makes LDL when we eat certain types of fat. Going back to the Transporter analogy, cholesterol’s role in the body is to act like Jason Statham and transport fat. What happens is this: when you eat certain types of fat, the liver says, “Hey, we need more Jason Statham’s to transport this fat around!” So it makes more transporters. Unfortunately, it makes more lousy or lethal transporters, LDL cholesterol, to do the job.

What types of fat cause the liver to make more of this lethal transporter? Saturated fat and trans fat, specifically.

Saturated fat is commonly found in animal products–particularly red meat. Trans fat is found in many processed or boxed foods like cakes, cookies, and crackers.

HDL

What does the happy, healthy HDL do? All health professionals will tell you that this is something you want more of in the body. This is because it actually helps our bodies get rid of too much LDL. HDL is also a transporter, but of the lousy/lethal LDL. HDL sends the LDL out of the body.

Lowering Cholesterol Naturally

What can you do from a diet perspective to lower your LDL cholesterol? Luckily, there are ways. Here are 5 tips:

  1. Be sure you’re eating at least 25 g of dietary fiber each day. Without even trying to track this, you can be sure you’re getting enough fiber by eating a diet that includes oats, whole grains, berries, beans, and nuts. Fiber is like HDL’s sidekick–it also helps the body get rid of LDL.
  2. Eat more omega-3 fats. These can be found in marine fish like salmon, mackerel, halibut, and trout. These types of fats lower LDL cholesterol in the blood. If you’re not a fan of these, consider purchasing a high quality supplement and checking with your doctor to be sure it’s ok to take given your health history.
  3. Exercise. High intensity activity seems to help increase happy/healthy HDL levels in the blood, which will then remove LDL from the bloodstream. Aim for exercising at a high intensity for at least 30 min, 3 days per week. Doing this up to 5 days/week is even better.
  4. Watch those added sugars. Too many of these added or simple sugars in the diet tells the liver to make more LDL transporters in the blood. If you’re a fan of regular sodas, candy, and desserts, think about consuming just a little less each day. Those little changes will start to add up over time.
  5. If you’re carrying excess body weight, losing just 5 lbs. can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

The great news is that even if your cholesterol numbers don’t look great right now, all hope is not lost. There is still plenty of time to keep those levels in check!

Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 500 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.

mm

Neal Malik

Dr. Neal Malik ("Dr. Neal") has a Doctorate in Public Health with emphases in disease prevention and nutrition. He is also a Registered Dietitian and Certified Health Education Specialist. He is currently an assistant professor at California State University, San Bernardino. Dr. Neal has published peer-reviewed scientific research and been featured as a nutrition and wellness expert in over 70 media outlets including Parade and The L.A. Times.Send in your health related question and Dr. Neal will answer it on the Optimal Health Daily show!
Minimalism Tips for Family Cheat Sheet

Minimalism Tips for Family Cheat Sheet

Enter your email to get our free PDF cheat sheet on minimalism tips for family members. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and life tips!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Join my weekly newsletter for life tips, quotes, and free tools to optimize your life (and make my day)!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Minimize Your Wardrobe: Inspiration File

Minimize Your Wardrobe: Inspiration File

Enter your email to get our free Inspiration File on minimizing your wardrobe. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and life tips!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Checklist: How to Declutter Sentimental Items.

Checklist: How to Declutter Sentimental Items.

Enter your email to get our free PDF checklist on decluttering sentimental items. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and life tips!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

5-Day Email Course - Get Started with Minimalism

5-Day Email Course - Get Started with Minimalism

Enter your email to join our free 5-day ecourse on getting started with minimalism. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Checklist-How to Declutter Paper

Checklist-How to Declutter Paper

Enter your email to get our free PDF checklist on how to declutter paper. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Checklist - How to Declutter Books

Checklist - How to Declutter Books

Enter your email to get our free PDF checklist on how to declutter books. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Checklist - How to Help Kids Learn to Declutter Toys

Checklist - How to Help Kids Learn to Declutter Toys

Enter your email to get our free PDF checklist on how to help kids learn to declutter their toys. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Checklist - Bare Minimum of Items for Moving

Checklist - Bare Minimum of Items for Moving

Enter your email to get our free PDF checklist on the bare minimum of items you need when moving. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Checklist - Why Personal Finance is Important

Checklist - Why Personal Finance is Important

Enter your email to get our free PDF checklist on why financial literacy is important. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Cheat Sheet - How to Overcome Money Fears

Cheat Sheet - How to Overcome Money Fears

Enter your email to get our free PDF cheat sheet on overcoming money fears. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Bonus - Debt Payoff Tracker PDF

Bonus - Debt Payoff Tracker PDF

Enter your email to get our free PDF debt payoff tracker. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Cheat Sheet - How To Stay Motivated When You Feel Stuck

Cheat Sheet - How To Stay Motivated When You Feel Stuck

Enter your email to get our free PDF cheat sheet on maintaining your level of motivation. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Cheat Sheet - What Should I Do After A Deep Tissue Massage?

Cheat Sheet - What Should I Do After A Deep Tissue Massage?

Enter your email to get our free PDF cheat sheet on what to do after a deep tissue massage. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Cheat Sheet - Tips for Sitting at a Computer All Day

Cheat Sheet - Tips for Sitting at a Computer All Day

Enter your email to get our free PDF cheat sheet on tips to counter sitting at a computer all day. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Cheat Sheet - How Do I Stick to a Budget?

Cheat Sheet - How Do I Stick to a Budget?

Enter your email to get our free PDF cheat sheet on tips to stick to your budget. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Expert Tips - How to Get Over a Breakup

Expert Tips - How to Get Over a Breakup

Enter your email to get our free PDF with expert tips on getting over a breakup. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Expert Tips - How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Expert Tips - How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Enter your email to get our free PDF with expert tips on how to stop comparing yourself to others. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Expert Tips - 10 Health & Fitness Quotes

Expert Tips - 10 Health & Fitness Quotes

Enter your email to get our free PDF with health and fitness quotes from Optimal Health Daily episodes. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Cheat Sheet - Toxic Relationships

Cheat Sheet - Toxic Relationships

Enter your email to get our free PDF with tips on how to spot -- and get out of -- a toxic relationship. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration, quotes, life tips, and more!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

OLD Podcast: Library

OLD Podcast: Library

Enter your email to get your password to access our handy library. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and life tips!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

5-Day Email Course - Get Started with Personal Finances

5-Day Email Course - Get Started with Personal Finances

Enter your email to join our free 5-day ecourse on improving your personal finances. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Journaling Worksheet - PDF

Journaling Worksheet - PDF

Enter your email to get a sample of our journaling worksheet PDF with quotes and templates based on Optimal Living Daily episodes. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

5-Day Email Course - Improve Your Health and Fitness

5-Day Email Course - Improve Your Health and Fitness

Enter your email to join our free 5-day ecourse on improving your health and fitness. You'll also get a weekly email with inspiration and tips to optimize your life!

You have Successfully Subscribed!