Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is something that w need to worry about at any age; this isn’t just a problem for the overweight and middle-aged. In fact the National Institutes of Health advises anyone 20 years or older to get their cholesterol measured every 5 years.
There are commercials promising that this cereal or that diet will help you lower cholesterol, but does that also mean that lowering your cholesterol will stop weight gain? Keep reading to find out if cholesterol makes you fat.
What Is Cholesterol?
Above all else cholesterol is a wax-like substance that your body needs to perform basic functions. Cholesterol is found in each and every cell within our bodies, and it is produced by the liver.
Eighty percent of the cholesterol found in the human body is made by the liver, and we get the remaining cholesterol from our diets. The major source of cholesterol in the human diet comes from saturated fat, found in products like margarine, meats, shortening and dairy. Plant foods like vegetables, do not contain cholesterol.
Why You Need Cholesterol
You cannot eliminate cholesterol from your diet, even if you think cholesterol makes you fat, because cholesterol helps our bodies perform important functions that include making hormones and vitamin D. Cholesterol is also responsible for maintaining healthy cell membranes and creating the acids that make it easier for us to digest fat.
Types of Cholesterol
Answering the question does cholesterol make you fat begins with a better understanding of the types of cholesterol that exist and which ones to look out for!
- HDL – High density lipoproteins are what you probably know as the good cholesterol. HDLs are made up mostly of protein and help rid your blood of fat to keep you nice and healthy. A higher HDL level can help reduce your risk of a heart attack.
- LDL – Low density lipoproteins are the bad cholesterol, mostly because they are made up of mostly cholesterol. A high LDL can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. If you have (or are at risk of) high cholesterol, this is the cholesterol you want get under control.
- VLDL – Very low density lipoproteins are made up of triglycerides, which are just another type of fat. If your VLDL number is high you may be at greater risk of a heart attack.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you should consume no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and no more than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol in your diet each day. Paying close attention to nutrition labels is the best way to find out about the foods you eat.
Does Cholesterol Make You Fat?
No, cholesterol in and of itself does not make you fat. However a diet filled with lots of saturated fat can make your body produce too much cholesterol. You see, our bodies can have too much cholesterol because the body makes too much or because our diets contain too many foods high in saturated fat. When there is an excess of cholesterol in the body, it circulates in the bloodstream, which can increase your risk of heart disease.
What can make you fat is consuming too much fat in your diet. Eating more calories than you burn is a surefire way to gain weight, but keeping your saturated fat intake as low as possible can help you maintain healthy weight loss.
How To Lower Your Cholesterol
The most important thing you can do to avoid high cholesterol and all the negative health effects of high cholesterol like heart attack and heart disease, is to consume less cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet.
Diet: The first way in which you can lower your cholesterol is to watch what you eat. Eat less animal fats, margarine and other fats. Instead, focus more on eating high fiber foods that include vegetables, fruits and whole grains. A well-balanced diet like this will keep the level of cholesterol in your blood at a healthy level.
Exercise: Including more physical activity in your life can help lower your cholesterol. More physical activity can help lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Inactive people are at a higher risk for high cholesterol, mostly because they are generally overweight.
Weight Loss: Losing weight is another great way to lower your cholesterol level. A healthy diet and exercise can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy cholesterol level. Taking steps to lose weight, like greatly reducing your saturated fat intake, can help you keep your cholesterol at a stable level.
Meds: Although not ideal, there are medications that can help you control your cholesterol levels. If other members of your family have high cholesterol and you’re having a difficult time lowering it through diet and exercise, your doctor my prescribe medication to regulate your cholesterol.
No Smoking: Smoking increases your levels of harmful cholesterol, so quitting smoking is a great way to help control your cholesterol!
Any major lifestyle change can’t possibly happen overnight, so its best to make incremental changes to make sure it sticks. For example, instead of starting your new exercise regimen with an impossible workout, start by going for a long walk or jog. Take up a sport or say yes to an activity you’d normally say ‘no’ to!
Start cooking your own low calorie meals a few days each week, and get most of your calories from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Toss out most of your processed foods with no nutritional value like cookies, cake, brownies and ice cream; these are high saturated fat foods that can spell trouble for your cholesterol. Limit your alcohol intake and reduce your smoking until you are a non-smoker!
These small changes will help you lower your cholesterol and your weight. By slowly integrating these steps into your life, you can continue to live a healthier life with a well-balanced diet that will keep your cholesterol at healthy levels.
If you find that breaking free of foods high in saturated fat is more difficult than you thought, read our review of Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat. Its help many dieters, it could help you too!