Fact Checked By Christine VanDoren NSCA-CPT, ACE
August 26, 2021
Nearly one in every four deaths links to cardiovascular disease.
More often than not, these tragedies blame cholesterol.
While cholesterol is very misunderstood by many people, eating healthy and following the ketogenic diet can help you feel like you control your health and take the proper preventative measures.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a word that confuses many people (1).
Overall, it has been considered a bad thing that leads to a variety of cardiovascular diseases.
However, this is only partially true, as there are different forms of cholesterol, both good and bad.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can be a problem when its levels are too high in the body.
However, it still serves a vital purpose, as it helps build cells.
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Technically, the liver creates all of the cholesterol you need, but you still consume additional amounts through the foods you eat.
Animal foods such as poultry, meat, and dairy products contain fats that cause your liver to produce cholesterol beyond the amount it normally would.
This cholesterol circulates through your bloodstream while attached to proteins called lipoproteins, and it can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol in your system.
Excessive amounts of LDL can join with other substances to form hard, thick plaque that clogs your arteries.
A variety of health issues come with blood clots and blockages.
If there is simply a slight blockage, chest pains are the result.
However, a heart attack or stroke can occur if a blood clot completely blocks blood flow to the brain and heart.
In addition, arteriosclerosis, which entails the arteries narrowing and becoming less flexible, is a common issue caused by unhealthy cholesterol levels.
What are HDL, LDL, and triglycerides?
Cholesterol can be a scary word, but not all types of it are harmful to you (2).
There is HDL (the good form), LDL (the bad form), and triglycerides.
Solely fats make up triglycerides, while HDL and LDL are combinations of fats and protein.
The attachment of the two components is necessary, as circulation through the blood cannot happen otherwise.
High-density lipoproteins are a good form of cholesterol, as they help remove LDL from the bloodstream (3).
A healthy adult’s desirable amount of HDL is 60 milligrams per deciliter of blood (60 mg/dL).
It is good to have as much HDL in your blood as possible until you reach 100 mg/dL; at this point, your risks for heart disease heighten.
It is yet to be determined if genetic factors play a role in this.
A healthy HDL cholesterol level can protect you from strokes and heart attacks and lower your risk of heart disease.
The purpose of HDL is to carry LDL away from the arteries.
They travel to the liver, where they break down and are eliminated.
While it doesn’t completely erase LDL from your system, it does get rid of one-fourth to one-third, which is a significant amount.
Low-density lipoproteins are what people are thinking of when they claim that cholesterol is bad (4).
LDL is responsible for the fatty buildups and narrowing of the arteries that leads to heart attack, stroke, and artery diseases.
The optimal level of LDL is less than 100 mg/dL.
When extra LDL cholesterol is in the bloodstream, you are at a higher risk for coronary artery disease because as blood flow to the heart slows down or blocks, arteries harden.
Therefore, it is crucial for these levels to be regulated, whether you are a healthy individual or not.
Triglycerides differ from HDL and LDL because they are a type of fat that doesn’t need to attach itself to a protein for transportation (5).
When you eat more calories than you burn, the body converts them into triglycerides, and hormones release them later as energy in between meals.
Because of this simple conversion, triglycerides tend to be the most common type of fat in the body.
Similar to LDL, it is vital to keep your triglyceride levels low.
Normal, healthy levels tend to be less than 150 mg/dL and are an essential measure of heart health.
The more often you eat, the higher your levels will be.
It is crucial to regulate how much you eat and engage in regular physical activity, as high levels signify obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Similar to low HDL and high LDL levels, high triglyceride levels can increase the risk of arteriosclerosis and heart disease.
Pancreatitis is also a significant concern because the increased amounts of fat in your blood can cause acute inflammation in the pancreas.
What foods are good and bad for your cholesterol levels?
Diet is a great way to regulate and improve your cholesterol levels. There are many foods that you should and should not eat if you are concerned about your cardiovascular health. Take a look at the lists below to figure out what is ideal to have on your grocery lists (6)!
Foods that will improve your heart health:
Foods that encourage poor cardiovascular health:
Why is the keto diet one of the best methods for cholesterol management?
While you could simply note the lists above to learn how to best eat for cholesterol management, the ketogenic diet can provide structure and guidance.
Many studies have been done on the relationship between the low-carbohydrate diet and HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels.
They have shown improvements in many cardiovascular risk factors.
One study had multiple participants utilize the ketogenic diet for 24 weeks.
The results were very optimistic, and there were drastic decreases in overall obesity (7).
In every participant, HDL levels increased significantly, and LDL and triglyceride levels decreased an incredible amount.
Another study conducted in 2010 found that keto dieters who made vegetable-based sources of protein and fat were at a lower risk for heart disease by 23 percent (8).
Some examples of these sources are nuts, nut butters, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados.
Because the keto diet has its users eat particular amounts of the three macronutrients, all food sources must be healthy and densely nutritious.
As a result, there is not much room to fit in unhealthy foods such as pastries, cakes, and fried foods that the American diet otherwise contains.
As a result, staying within the optimal cholesterol levels becomes more manageable, and the widespread impact of weight loss that naturally comes with the keto diet encourages heart health.
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is very important, and the ketogenic diet has helped many people achieve them.
Eating whole and nutritious foods prevents blood clots and artery blockage by providing the body with optimal high-density lipoproteins levels that take care of the low-density lipoproteins.
Anyone concerned about keeping cardiovascular diseases and obesity at bay should follow the keto diet and regular exercise.
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