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7 min

Good or bad cholesterol: we tell you everything

You have probably already heard about cholesterol and perhaps even received some friendly warnings like: “ Be careful of your cholesterol!

But is having cholesterol really that bad? Isn't there a story of good or bad cholesterol ? 🧐

In this article, we will enlighten you on the mysteries of cholesterol and explain to you who is the good guy and who is the bad guy in the story, if there is a good guy or a bad guy!

good or bad cholesterol

I. Once upon a time… Cholesterol!

Cholesterol is a lipid substance (or natural fat) found throughout the body.

In the blood and to reach our cells, cholesterol is transported by two types of lipoproteins. These are what will constitute what we will call good or bad cholesterol.

- LDL (low density lipoprotein), which can be called "bad cholesterol", is the cholesterol transporter responsible for the distribution of cholesterol to the tissues (cells). It is the same one which, when present in excess, can have serious consequences on our body.

- HDL (high density lipoprotein), defined as "good cholesterol", transports excess cholesterol from our cells to the liver for its elimination. HDL acts as a guardian, preventing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques on the walls of arteries.

Where does cholesterol come from?

Cholesterol does not only come from cooking with butter!

It is our body, and more precisely our liver, which produces ¾ of the cholesterol present in our body, from acetyl-CoA and a series of enzymatic reactions. The remaining ¼ will be obtained through diet, mainly from foods of animal origin such as meat, dairy products and eggs. 🥩🥚

Cholesterol in the body:

Too often demonized, cholesterol nevertheless overflows with good intentions! It is even downright essential to the body because it participates in the construction and maintenance of numerous structures.

Without cholesterol, our body would be a bit like a house 🏠 without walls. Unimaginable, right? But then, if it is so important, what really is its role in our body?

1/ It participates in the constitution of the membranes of our cells:

It helps maintain the fluidity and stability of cell membranes, which is essential for normal cell function.

2/ It participates in the production of hormones:

Cholesterol is used to synthesize certain hormones, including steroid hormones such as sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone) and stress hormones (cortisol).

3/ It participates in the production of vitamin D:

Cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D which plays an essential role in calcium absorption and bone health.🦴
Cholesterol also participates in the digestion of fats since it is necessary for the formation of bile salts.

So you see that good old cholesterol is not the villain of the story!
Well, it depends on which one...

II. What is good or bad cholesterol?

“Cholesterol is bad for your health” Hop hop hop, minute butterfly!

The effects of cholesterol actually depend on the type of cholesterol it is. LDL, HDL, good or bad cholesterol… Let’s take a closer look. 🔍

HDL cholesterol:

In the school of cholesterol, HDL is very clearly top of the class 👩🏽‍🎓. Described as " good cholesterol ", HDL has a protective action in the body.

LDL cholesterol:

This time imagine LDL cholesterol as the class dunce.
It's a little too obtrusive and takes up more space than it should. Indeed, although it also has an important function to play in the body, we need it in smaller quantities. So, for a healthy body, your doctor will ensure that your LDL cholesterol level is much lower than that of HDL cholesterol.

And for that, we will give you some dietary advice right after :)

Its role is to transport cholesterol from the liver to cells, which is necessary for various bodily functions.

III. Cholesterol dosage

At this point in the article, several questions may come to mind:

When was my last blood test ?” “ Have I had my cholesterol measured? ” “ What is the ideal cholesterol level?

We answer all your questions!

What level for my cholesterol?

The so-called normal values ​​of total cholesterol in the blood have evolved over time. Previously, total cholesterol levels up to 250 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) were considered acceptable. However, nowadays the recommendations are stricter, with a recommended total cholesterol amount of less than 200 mg/dl.

This rate is measured via a simple blood test. 🩸

Blood analyse

The attending physician orders a blood test to assess total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

Once the blood test has been taken (phew the injection is over), the results still need to be interpreted:

  1. Total cholesterol : This represents the sum of your HDL and LDL, plus other lipoproteins. A total value less than 200 mg/dl is generally recommended.

  2. HDL cholesterol : A high level of HDL is desirable because it is beneficial, especially for our heart. Levels above 45 mg/dl are considered beneficial.

  3. LDL cholesterol : Values ​​vary depending on individual risk, but generally, less than 160 mg/dl is recommended .

These values ​​may vary depending on age and other factors. It is therefore recommended to consult a health professional for appropriate recommendations.

Risk factors :

Several factors are associated with high LDL levels.

First of all, diet plays a key role (don't worry, we'll come back to that a little later). In addition, lack of physical activity, being overweight and smoking are also risk factors. Family history or age are also taken into account.

By understanding these factors and adopting a healthy lifestyle, it is possible to kick high LDL to the curb. This may involve dietary adjustments and increased exercise, for example. 🏃‍♀️🥗

Focus on triglycerides:

Okay, now that you know how to differentiate good cholesterol from bad cholesterol, it's time to quickly tell you about triglycerides, another type of fat present in the blood.

High levels of triglycerides can disrupt cholesterol metabolism and increase related risks.

IV. How to limit cholesterol and triglycerides on my plate?

As Hippocrates wisely said: “Let your food be your first medicine.” And yes, to maintain cholesterol and triglyceride levels within healthy limits, diet once again plays a fundamental role.

Balanced diet = controlled cholesterol:

No, we're not asking you to eat salad every day to keep your LDL cholesterol levels under control. The secret always lies in diversification: eating a little of everything in reasonable quantities.

But if your LDL cholesterol level is already on a bad slope, some changes to your diet are necessary:

  1. Diet rich in soluble fiber : Choose foods rich in soluble fiber, such as avocados, nuts, potatoes, flax seeds, oats...Why? Because soluble fiber acts on cholesterol by reducing its absorption and promoting its elimination. 🥑🍏

  2. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acid : They help reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and are therefore beneficial for cholesterol and de facto for your pretty heart. Speaking of foods that are good for the heart, we wrote an entire article on this subject. Where can we find them? Mainly in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines for example.

And to make everyone agree (vegetarians, carnivores), we can also count on good vegetable oils: linseed, walnut or rapeseed oil. Chia and flax seeds, as well as oilseeds (walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc.) can also be added to your shopping list to stock up on omega 3. 💪🏼

Foods high in cholesterol

Fried foods, pastries, biscuits, fatty meats… These are the enemies to banish when trying to reduce your cholesterol level.

To put it simply, all foods high in saturated fat are a NO!

It will also be necessary to slow down the consumption of foods rich in added sugar and alcohol. 🍔🍰🍺

Omega 3 supplementation

As we have seen, omega 3s are our well-being’s best friends. However, if you're constantly on the move, prefer to eat out every day, or you and cooking are 4 😂, it can be complicated to ensure a diet rich in omega 3.

The good idea? Omega 3 supplementation !

This is an attractive option for those who struggle to get enough essential fatty acids from their diet.

Taking a supplement therefore makes it possible to guarantee a precise and constant dose of omega 3. Practical and easy to integrate into a daily routine, omega 3 capsules today replace liquid fish oils to drink (mhh the spoon of Does cod liver oil mean anything to you?).

We advise you to choose omega 3 capsules composed of ultra-pure fish oil, concentrated at 90% in triglycerides (using triglycerides as a support, omega 3 are more easily absorbed by the body).

Each dose contains 800 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 600 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

Confused about EPA and DHA? Come take a look at our article , we’ll explain everything to you!

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Good or bad cholesterol: The final word

So, can we talk about good or bad cholesterol ? The answer may not be as clear-cut as it seems.

Ultimately, cholesterol is neither a hero nor a villain, but a key player in our well-being. So, it’s time to stop demonizing him, but continue to keep an eye on him 😉

Eloise Dubois-Gaché - Naturopath

Naturopath and FENA certified

Thanks to her solid experience in different herbalists, Eloïse includes, if necessary, complete and precise advice in phytotherapy, aromatherapy, gemmotherapy and micro-nutrition when setting up a personalized and adapted lifestyle program to everyone.

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