The Truth about Cholesterol

Suppose you just got the results of blood tests that you have decided to do to see how things are going... First of all, you should not panic when you see the indication “Total Cholesterol” which might be slightly up. This is because total cholesterol is the sum of two terms that may be familiar to you, i.e. “bad” and “good” cholesterol. On the results of the microbiological tests you will see it written up all scientific and probably in English as LDL (the “bad”), HDL (the “good”) and the total as “Total Cholesterol” or “TC”. It is well known that the “good” cholesterol should be at a high level.

Regardless of the level of “bad” cholesterol which may be low, the level of “good” may elevate our total of cholesterol. It’s a small trap and there is no need to fall into it now that you know. 

So What Does Cholesterol mean and what is its role in our body?

Let’s start at the beginning. Cholesterol is one of the steroids which are lipids that are essential components of all the cells of our body and brain. Some of its most important functions are to contribute to the production of our hormones and the energy we need every day; it also plays a major role in regulating blood sugar, in the digestive process, in the health of our bones and muscles. Each of our cells -except brain cells- produce their own cholesterol, the liver manages it according to the needs of our body, it gets rid of the excess and also sends part of it in our brain cells that absolutely need it for all their functions. Cholesterol is so important for our survival that we can’t do without it!

Another important function of cholesterol is that of healing internal wounds in the artery walls. If there is an injury in the artery walls, Cholesterol (LDL) together with other therapeutic agents produced by our body sits on the wound to create scar tissue (plaque), a procedure similar to the one that happens in external injuries. Cholesterol has a therapeutic effect like our immune system. Yet precisely for this role it has been accused of clogging the arteries. Let’s see if this charge has any base so we can form our own opinion on the matter.

So our cholesterol is deposited on the arteries if there is an open wound, like for example when there is a high level of homocystein or blood sugar. Essentially it is affixed like a “patch” in order to heal the wound/s but many times it does not work because inflammation develops at the wound due to repeated injury in the same spot; you will see below the perpetrators of multiple injuries. So Cholesterol is called upon to heal wounds by continuous deposition, resulting in the so called atheromatous plaque which creates stenosis in the arteries and possibly clogging with time. While its motives are pure, it appears as the cause of evil. Appearances can be deceptive, however, because hiding behind cholesterol are the real causes of repeated injuries that actually stem from our modern lifestyle and consequently create inflammation in the walls of our arteries. Among the most important is cortisol or the stress hormone, which is secreted excessively nowadays, high blood homocysteine, smoking, alcohol, as you already suspect, hydrogenated fats like margarine and saturated fats, coffee, sugar, low levels of antioxidant vitamins, bioflavonoids and other protective substances in the body and various infections.

Meanwhile, the so-called “good” cholesterol or HDL moves the “bad” cholesterol from the arteries and leads it to the liver where it is metabolized into useful products for our body, like bile, the main detoxifying essence of the body.

Foods that act as “accomplices” to the increase of cholesterol and how to fight.

You’ve probably heard about the main food groups: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. If you were asked what food group contributes to increased cholesterol in our body would you answer “fats” with certainty? This is what you hear and read frequently from authoritative sources, after all. You will perhaps be impressed to learn that all three food groups contribute. Each has its own share and even more impressive is the fact that increased consumption of sugar and sugar substitutes from sweets and from “hidden” sources such as various sauces and yogurt desserts can be featured in the increase of Cholesterol!

Specifically, refined carbohydrates like white flour, fatty meats, manufactured trans fats (see Table 1), high-fat dairy like cream, prepared juices, alcohol, sugar substitutes that may not be as “innocent”, breakfast cereal among others can work together to increase your cholesterol.

Does all this talk about potential “accomplices” sound strange? 

If so, get over it and think differently next time that instead of eggs with sautéed mushrooms you eat a bowl of milk with processed cereal for breakfast.

-A few words on how to “fight”:

There is a way to get our daily carbohydrates and make them be nutritious: by eating whole fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-wheat and multigrain breads and pasta, legumes, natural nuts.

Eating protein often contains a percentage of fat; it can be of good quality, such as lean meat lightly cooked, fish, egg (see below), uncooked and unsalted nuts, legumes, milk or plain yogurt. Fats can be in our diet for example from the consumption of olive oil, natural butter, nuts, Omega 3 from oily fish and/or from quality nutritional supplements.

Important tip 1: All foods should be consumed in moderation like our wise ancestors said. Let me add that if you do not know what moderation is the nutritional therapy practitioner can set it for you, since each person has different needs.

Important tip 2: Check for possible food allergies which may be involved if needed.

And another... important tip: Along with new and healthy eating habits you should work out as much as possible; you do not need to exaggerate. A daily 20 minute walk, 10 minutes of jumps in the mini trampoline, using the stairs instead of the elevator every chance you get can make the difference.


Types of Fat



Effects on our lipids

Saturated fats                               

Fatty meats, butter, full fat dairy, coconut milk, palm oil, chocolate





Trans fats or hydrogenated fats

created by the food industry for longer “shelf life”

Contained in many processed foods such as chips, cookies, pastries, cakes, crackers, some bread, strong fried or low-fat foods, margarine, ready sauces






Unsaturated Fats

Olive oil, avocado, seeds, nuts, sunflower, corn, fish, flaxseed

↓ LDL  ↑ HDL

Omega 3 : ↓ TG

LDL: low density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol - HDL: high density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol - TG: Triglycerides

SOURCES: Mauger F., Lichtenstein H., et al., 2003 & Schaefer J., 2002 & Etherton K., Daniels R., et al., 2001

Triglycerides (TG), the heart’s health indicator

What are triglycerides? They are lipids our body sends directly to our fat storages for future use, and if it needs them they are mobilized in order to produce energy. But when found in increased levels in our blood they are a risk to the heart. Foods that can raise triglycerides are the same as those that elevate cholesterol.

Apolipoprotein or Lp(a). The independent factor - indicator of heart health

It is a blood lipoprotein similar in structure and formation with “bad”, LDL cholesterol, but it contains a protein with “adhesive” properties so it can be affixed on the arterial walls with great ease. Many studies have shown that high levels of Lp(a) in the blood may be 10 times more dangerous for cardiac problems that high LDL; it is simple when you consider that the Lp(a) sticks with great ease on the arteries, unlike the LDL that is milder. But when both are increased it is probably not the best combination! Research suggests that increased Lp(a) is primarily a hereditary phenomenon and the same regulation measures such as for high cholesterol and balanced diet seem to help.

Hypothyroidism, a hidden cause of increased cholesterol

Studies have shown the relationship between hypothyroidism and coronary heart disease due to elevated LDL cholesterol and low HDL. Even in cases of light hypothyroidism LDL can be very high and so are triglycerides and apolipoprotein-Lp(a). It is very important to consider the function of the thyroid in case of high cholesterol. Along with medical care where it is deemed necessary there should be a nutritional plan for the support and the proper function of the thyroid and the general hormonal system.

Let us make a start towards regulating cholesterol

You probably already know that for some years now there are drugs for lowering cholesterol. Remember again the role and the reason of existence of cholesterol and as for drugs... let’s be thoughtful and knowledgeable. Let us recall for example that cholesterol is the basic structural element of our hormones like cortisol which is secreted in order to handle all the stressful situations in our life, like when you need to run to escape a fire or, as so often happens in everyday life, to handle a very stressful affair at work. What will happen if this hormone does not support us in the hour of crisis? It is very likely that valuable organic functions or even organs like the heart will suffer the consequences. Let us therefore improve the quality of our food so that we have multiple benefits even if we inherited high cholesterol; we do not need to immediately “surrender” to the easy solution that comes with side effects and contraindications like all medicines, without participating in the information battle. Fortunately, this battle has now become easier, thanks to the vast internet that can provide us with knowledge in a very high scientific level ... as long as we “surf” on the internet!

So is there “bad” cholesterol or a “bad” or perhaps unknown to many nutrition and general lifestyle?


ADVERSE lipid levels


 ↑ LDL

1. Limit saturated fats to 7% of total calories 2. Avoid trans fats 3. Increase fiber intake 4. Weight Management

↑ TG 150-500 mg/dL

1. Weight Management and Exercise 2. Limit sugar, including “hidden”, sweet drinks, alcohol 3. Moderate consumption of carbs, 60% overall calories

TG >500 mg/dL

1. Limit saturated fat consumption to 10-15% of overall calories 2. Avoid alcohol 3. Weight Management and Exercise


1. Weight Management and Exercise 2. Moderate consumption of unsaturated fats & carbs 3. Avoid very low fat diets

LDL: Low density lipoprotein orbadcholesterol - HDL: high density lipoprotein orgoodcholesterol - TG: Triglycerides

SOURCE: Rakel D., 2007


Nutrients (foods)


Vitamin B3
Foods: legumes, unsalted and raw nuts, tuna, roast chicken, brown rice, potato, wheat bran, leafy vegetables, whole barley


1. ↓ LDL ↓ TG ↑ HDL
2. Improves blood circulation and prevents sedimentation of cholesterol in the arteries. 3. Accelerates tissue healing. 4. Promotes longevity and reduces plaque



Vitamin C & bioflavonoids
Foods: onions, broccoli, peppers, apples, oranges, red grapes, blueberries, cherries, lemons



1. Pullscholesterol from plaque. 2. Tends to repair metabolism and to lower lipids. 3. Accelerates the healing of tissues.



Vitamin B6
Foods: banana, pepper, spinach, garlic, celery, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, roast chicken, salmon, tuna

1. Plays an important role in the regulation of lipid metabolism.



Omega 3
Foods: oily fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, cod; walnuts, flaxseed


Significantly reduce cholesterol and triglycerides



Foods: Green pepper, apple, banana, spinach, wheat bran, beef, liver, eggs, oysters, butter


It can help break down fats



Foods: beef, lamb, pork, liver, fish, nuts, wheat bran, uncooked-unsalted nuts, spinach, broccoli, egg

It can help lower cholesterol and stabilize the walls of the arteries as an excellent antioxidant



Vitamin E
Foods: the oil from wheat bran, almonds, sunflower seeds, olives, spinach

Excellent antioxidant for cholesterol which when oxidized is deposited on injured arteries




Foods: Egg yolk, whole grains, cauliflower, lettuce, liver, legumes, meat

1. Increases the solubility of cholesterol and it is not deposited with ease. 2. Removes cholesterol from atherosclerotic plaque



Amino-Acids: Taurine, Cysteine, Arginine, Glycine, Lysine, Proline, Dimethylglycine (DMG), Carnitine & NAC

Foods: shellfish, meat, eggs, dairy, brown rice, seeds, fish, beans

The combination of amino acids reduces LDL and triglycerides and increases HDL, none other than the structural elements of proteins



All the nutrients listed in the table also exist in the form of nutritional supplements and researchers suggest that you choose ones of natural origin, without additives or yeast. Supplements with Omega 3 oils should be free of any toxins such as mercury and in safe packaging. The dosage is determined by the special nutritional scientist artisan depending on the needs of the inpidual and taking into account any side effects when combined with medication.

SOURCES: Murray M., 2001 & Hoffer A., Saul A., 2008 & Braverman E., 2003 & Clayton P., 2004.

The poor egg!

Fresh eggs contain ingredients that boost the levels of “good” cholesterol or HDL in our body, if cooked in mild temperature for a short period, such as poached or “soft-boiled” as we say. However, with “hard” cooking such as frying, “bad” cholesterol can be produced. Let me remind you the “premeditated” title of the text you have just read: “Cholesterol and Reality”.

Plants in our diet: Research and Reality

1.Pectin is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and tangerines, in apples, potatoes, green beans, green bananas, strawberries.

Action: It increases the excretion of fat and cholesterol as it is mixed with them in the intestinal tract.

2. Plantain seeds contain mucous substances and swell with water.

Action: They reduce the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and thus a larger proportion of it is eliminated.

3. Fennel seeds

Action: They work just like pectin in our gut.

4. Hawthorn berry + cayenne pepper are a great combination for heart health and the circulatory system.

Action: It reduces cholesterol and relieves from high blood pressure.

5. The root Cimicifuga racemosa.

Action: Invigorates blood circulation, experimentally showed reduction of high blood pressure among other actions.


Clayton P., 2004. Health Defence.

Murray M., Pizzorno J., 1997. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.

Rakel D., 2007. Integrative Medicine.

Hoffer A., Saul A., 2008. Orthomolecular Medicine For Everyone.

Murray M., 2001. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements.

Braverman E., 2003. The Healing Nutrients Within.

Mark K., 2008. Fat Doesn;t Make You Fat.

Schaefer J., 2002. Lipoproteins, nutrition and heart disease.

Mauger F., Lichtenstein H., et al., 2003. Effect of different forms of dietary hydrogenated fats on LDL particle size.

Etherton P., Daniels R., et al., 2001. Summary of the scientific conference on dietary fatty acids and cardiovascular health.

Mowrey D., 1986. The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine.







The British Association for Nutrition & Lifestyle Medicine


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