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How to have the right amount of cholesterol

When it comes to cholesterol, the Goldilocks principle applies: we want to have the right amount. So, if cholesterol and other fats in the blood (in particular, triglycerides) start to increase and/or the ratios change comparative to previous levels that were normal for us, this can be a sign from the body that some support is needed.

In particular, I view this as a sign that the liver needs some support.

Here’s why.

The liver is responsible for most of the cholesterol in your blood—the cholesterol that we consume directly actually has very little effect on blood levels for most people. Our liver is like a traffic controller—it helps to direct how much cholesterol is being sent out in the blood to other places in the body, and how much is being received back, processed and eliminated. This impacts the numbers we see on a blood test for cholesterol.

The problem is, things can start to go awry when the liver (traffic controller) isn’t getting the support it needs to do its job efficiently. And this is very much impacted by our daily choices.

So, what can you do?

  1. Amp up your intake of vegetables—add more colourful plant foods, particularly plenty of leafy greens and Brassica vegetables (the liver especially loves these!).
  2. Include nourishing fats—think foods like avocado, olives and extra virgin olive oil, oily fish, the fats from grass-fed meat and some nuts and seeds.
  3. Minimise alcohol—this adds to the liver’s workload and pushes other tasks to the bottom of the priority list. When we consume alcohol, the liver has to prioritise detoxifying this right away.
  4. Reduce your intake of highly processed foods—not only do these tend to contain ingredients that can add to the liver’s load (such as poor-quality fats and excessive amounts of added sugars), they are also typically missing the nutrients that support the liver to work efficiently.
  5. Fibre is your friend—not all fibre is the same, so remember to include a variety of plant foods for a variety of different dietary fibres. You definitely want to up your vegie intake, but remember that legumes, pulses, and wholegrains like brown rice and oats (if you digest them well) are also rich in fibres—many of which help to move old cholesterol out of the body, increasing its elimination.

It’s important to support the liver regardless of whether you are taking medication to lower your cholesterol or not. It’s not one or the other. The liver plays such an important role in your overall health and vitality so if there are signs it needs some support, give it some extra love.

Sometimes problematic levels of cholesterol can occur with other health challenges, such as thyroid dysfunction. So, if you are experiencing ongoing or unexplained symptoms, it is wise to consult with your healthcare professional.

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