When we think of cholesterol, usually one thing comes to mind: heart attack. But, there’s more to it.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all the cells in your body. We need some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest food. Though your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, it is also found in foods from animal sources such as egg yolks, meat, and cheese.
However, if you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can combine with other substances in the blood to form plaque. Plaque sticks to the walls of your arteries and buildup is known as atherosclerosis. It can lead to coronary artery disease, where your coronary arteries become narrow or even blocked, causing a heart attack or stroke.
Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol to and from cells. One is low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. The other is high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. LDL is the “bad cholesterol” because it contributes to fatty buildups in arteries. HDL is the “good cholesterol” because it acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where the LDL is broken down and passed from the body.
So high levels of HDL cholesterol reduces LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke. To avoid increasing LDL cholesterol levels, avoid eating saturated fat, which is found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods. To increase HDL cholesterol levels, we recommend consuming olive oil, following a ketogenic diet, exercising regularly, eating fatty fish, and beans.