When most people think about cholesterol, they don’t think happy thoughts; there is usually a negative connotation around it and some serious discussion around good versus bad cholesterol.

While cholesterol has many important roles in the body such as hormone production, cell structure and function, as well as vitamin D production, we do have to be careful and maintain healthy cholesterol levels within the normal range. Here’s what nature has provided us to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels in healthy individuals.

What is considered a healthy cholesterol level?
According to the The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, total cholesterol should be less than 4.0mmol/L, LDL cholesterol should be below 2.0mmol/L, HDL cholesterol should be greater than 1.0mmol/L and your triglycerides should be less than 2.0mmol/L.

This is not to say your body doesn’t need cholesterol – in fact, your liver produces all the cholesterol you need to maintain health and wellbeing. This healthy level of cholesterol travels around the body through blood vessels and can help produce essential hormones, aid neurological function and even digest fat. Around 75 per cent of the cholesterol in the body is made in your liver, and the rest comes from dietary fat. This why it is also important to have a healthy balanced diet.

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Cutting down on saturated fat and eliminating trans fats is beneficial for heart health

Good cholesterol vs. bad cholesterol
Not all cholesterol is created equal. When health professionals talk about ‘good’ cholesterol they are actually referring to high density lipoprotein, also known as HDL cholesterol. This type of cholesterol helps keep the LDL bad cholesterol moving through the arteries back into the liver for excretion. On the other hand, bad cholesterol, called low density lipoprotein, commonly known as LDL cholesterol, is easily oxidised by free radicals.

Boosting good cholesterol and lowering the bad
Below we list some natural ways which may help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, make sure to see your doctor for individual advice.

Choose your fats wisely
According to the CSIRO, your cholesterol can fall by 10 per cent if you shake up your diet. The most effective dietary change is reducing the amount of saturated fat and eliminating trans fats.

Avoid: Deep fried foods, limit cakes, biscuits and pastries, opt for lean cuts of meat and remove fat from the meat where you can. When it comes to packaged food, avoid products containing more than 20g total fat or 5g saturated fat per 100g of food. 

Try this: Increase your intake of good fats, such as fish (150g twice weekly), olive oil, nuts and seeds. Fresh is best, but if you are purchasing packaged foods, look for products containing less than 3g total fat or 1g saturated fat per 100g of food.

Opt for heart-healthy foods
Foods containing fibre are not only beneficial to gut health but are also good for your heart health. Soluble fibre in particular may help to maintain healthy LDL and total cholesterol levels by binding to the cholesterol particles in your digestive tract and removing them from the body before they are absorbed. Flavonoids, which are the natural compounds found in some plant-based foods, have also been shown to help support cardiovascular health and normal cholesterol levels in healthy individuals. 

Try this: Aim for 30g or more fibre per day. Apples, bananas, oranges and strawberries all have around 3 to 4g of fibre. One cup of frozen mixed vegies contains 8.6g of fibre. Lentils, beans and nuts are also good choices – 25 almonds, for example, contains 3g of fibre. Wholegrain bread and cereal, brown rice, barley, wild rice and buckwheat all contain more fibre than their white, starchy counterparts.

Foods rich in flavonoids include most berries especially blueberries, cranberries and blackberries, citrus fruits including grapefruit, lemon and bergamot, as well as bananas and apples. A citrus fruit, bergamot may be hard to source in your local supermarket, but healthy individuals can try taking a bergamot supplement for help in maintaining normal cholesterol levels. 

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60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week can make a difference

Find ways to be active with or without exercise
Help your good HDL cholesterol levels by being more active. According to the Mayo Clinic, as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week can make a difference. But exercise isn’t the only way to get moving. The Heart Foundation says we should be aiming for at least half an hour of moderate intensity physical activity each day of the week. What is considered moderate intensity physical activity? Basically any activity that gets you moving fast enough to burn off more energy (at least three times more) than you would if you were sitting down.

Try this: Brisk walking, cycling with light effort, and playing doubles tennis are examples of moderate intensity exercise. Vigorous cleaning (such as vacuuming and mopping), mowing the lawn, carrying heavy shopping bags for a longer distance, also count as moderate intensity activity.

If you would like to learn more and see the special offer Australian NaturalCare is extending to WYZA members on Bergamot, click here.

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