A while back I wrote on some of the misunderstandings surrounding cholesterol. While many are concerned with their regulating their levels in an attempt to prevent heart disease, some of those precautions do more harm than good. Surely cholesterol is associated with heart disease, however, it is not, by any means the cause. In fact, it is a repair substance sent to areas of inflammation (often arteries) to extend the life and prevent immediate cardiovascular problems. Like we all know, correlation does not equal causation.
The build up of cholesterol should not be attributed to high amounts of dietary cholesterol. Our bodies regulate levels and can manufacture cholesterol whether it is consumed or not. Rather, the cause of heart disease is inflammation in the body. Whether it’s a scratch on the knee, or an inflamed arterial wall, cholesterol is sent out as an internal band-aid, without which we could not survive.
So rather than worrying on how to regulate our cholesterol levels through prescription drugs, let’s focus on ways to avoid internal inflammation and reduce the need for high levels of cholesterol, so it can be used more efficiently in the brain.
Ways to reduce inflammation:
Some of these may be extremely basic, but understanding why the following foods should be avoided, gives more incentive to prioritise an anti-inflammatory diet. These simple dietary changes can be enough to avoid cardiovascular problems in the future.
Cut out sugar: Not only does it cause excess insulin secretion, but it is addicting and causes inflammation throughout the body. A small amount of raw, unprocessed fruit or honey isn’t problematic, but sugar filled drinks like vitamin water easily cause cardiovascular stress and damage.
Avoid caffeine: When consumed, caffeine immediately causes the secretion of cortisol and adrenaline which are two main stress hormones. It also raises blood sugar levels leading to the leaching of minerals ( including magnesium which regulates blood pressure) from our bones.
Avoid processed foods: Whether it’s microwave meals, McDonalds or granola bars, processed foods are inevitably filled with additives such as MSG, sugar, cheap inflammatory oils and refined grains, all which cause significant damage to the body.
The best way to avoid the following foods is simply to consume a whole foods diet. While some feel best avoiding certain foods like dairy or grains, it’s most important to do what works for you. Most importantly, make sure each food is eaten in its most natural state. If you want to include dairy, choose raw and organic. If you eat bread, choose organic, long fermented sourdough, and always avoid pesticide laden fruits and vegetables.
Foods to include:
Omega 3’s– It’s true that Omega 3’s are powerful at combatting inflammation, however most people don’t get enough of these essential fatty acids. When omega 3’s are consumed they go straight to the brain, immediately increasing dopamine (natural pain-killer and stimulant) by up to 40%. Because they are prioritised in the brain, and typically under-consumed, they rarely have a chance to strengthen the arterial walls and boast their cardiovascular healing properties. I highly suggest consuming cold water fish (salmon, sardines mackerel etc.) at least 3X a week as this provides the most easily absorbed form of Omega 3’s.
Saturated fats– Like Omega 3’s saturated fats such as cold pressed coconut oil and raw butter support brain health as well as clean arteries from plaque build up that restricts blood flow.
High quality minerals– Choosing a himalayan or unrefined sea salt, rather than a processed, bleached sodium chloride helps to support the adrenal glands and kidneys, and reduce blood pressure issues as contains all 84 trace minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and iodine. Minerals help the body to properly absorb vitamins from whole foods as well as reducing calcification of the arteries. Colloidal minerals can be a great addition to drinking water, and of course support bones and teeth as well.
Practice earthing– Possibly one of the most important and overlooked health habits is barefoot walking. Allowing your body to touch the earth whites filled with electors, significantly reduces our stress hormone cortisol, as well as neutralising free radicals in the body. It has been shown to quickly regulate blood pressure as well.
I fully believe that heart disease in regards to cholesterol is completely avoidable when a whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet is practiced. For more understanding of cholesterol numbers and the role it plays in the body, make sure to read When is cholesterol dangerous?