One of the big bad wolfs of modern food is none other than – cholesterol. We hear about it from lifestyle magazines, the fitness industry, and most importantly, from medical professionals. Cholesterol plays a few essential roles in our bodies, but as far as everything health-related goes – too much is good for us. Besides the fact that there are two types of cholesterol we need to be careful about, I would like to talk about how you can affect cholesterol levels through the food you ingest, and by extension through juices.
I will try my best not to get too medical, and as always – diet and juices are not a substitute for medication. If you have a medical issue (or you suspect you have one), going to the doctor’s should always be the first thing to do. Now, without further ado, let’s dig into the topic of cholesterol and how you can affect it.
Before We Begin
High cholesterol is considered a medical condition, and an issue that needs to be resolved. In the following article, I will tackle the subject from a dietary point of view. This means that your doctor always calls the shots. You should not use diet and juices as a substitute for medication.
A healthier diet is only there to complement a prescribed therapy, never replace it. Make sure to inform your physician about your diet. Also, double-check if you are allergic to some juice ingredients because the last thing we all want is to get hurt by a glass of juice. Now, let’s get into it!
What is Cholesterol?
I’m sure that you’ve heard about cholesterol every time fast food pops up as a topic. Until only a few decades ago, the whole planet thought that fat was bad for your health, no matter the source. This belief was there thanks to cholesterol.
However, the mainstream caught on, and now we know there’s good and bad cholesterol, also known as HDL and LDL (more on that later). A significant cholesterol quantity is produced by our liver, but we also take it in through the food we eat every day.
So, in short, cholesterol is a fat-like substance that plays a vital role in several metabolic processes. Most of it is created by us, and we take it through fatty foods. What are those vital roles, you ask?
1. What Does it Do?
Cholesterol thanks to its nature as a substance, cholesterol plays more than one role in our bodies. The liver can provide about 75% of the cholesterol we need to function, but we also need to supplement that amount through diet. Without going too much into the biochemistry of metabolic processes, let me paint you a picture of the basic functions of cholesterol.
Our organs communicate through hormones. Almost every bodily function needs hormones to exist. Now, cholesterol is the key ingredient to making those hormones. The point here is – even though cholesterol is essential, excessive amounts of it become dangerous.
Cholesterol also plays an integral part in making bile – the substance that helps with moving the fat through the bowels. Bile is an important part of our metabolism and the way our bodies deal with food, with a focus on vitamins.
1.3. Cell Building Blocks
Whenever structural damage happens on a cellular level, proteins come and fix it. Well, cholesterol helps with protein delivery, and then goes back to the liver to be metabolized.
2. LDL – the Bad Guy
Low-density lipids cholesterol, aka LDL, is considered bad because it can do us harm. Once LDL serves its purpose, it starts accumulating in the arteries, which raises the risk of clogging and clothing. When people say “I have high cholesterol” they usually refer to the LDL, also known as the “bad cholesterol”.
Now, in terms of food, high LDL cholesterol is treated with a diet and lifestyle change, and if necessary, medication. Because high cholesterol leads to serious heart issues, if you have any doubts about this topic from a medical point of view, remember – your doctor knows best.
The diet changes mainly include eating more from the low LDL food groups. This translates to eating more:
- oats and whole grains
and many more. To make things better (and tastier), a lot of low LDL ingredients have juice potential. In a nutshell, you get rid of the excess cholesterol by cutting it out from your diet to a degree.
3. HDL – The Good Guy
High-density lipid cholesterol, aka HDL, is the substance that clears our arteries and delivers the “waste” to the liver, to be metabolized and sent to the bowels. So, having a healthy amount of HDL cholesterol is the goal here.
When we translate this info into practical stuff like food and ingredients, we get a familiar list:
- Whole grains
- High-fiber fruit
- Fatty fish
Can Dieting Affect Cholesterol Levels?
Yes! It absolutely can. As I’ve mentioned above, one of the main methods to combat high cholesterol levels is a diet change. This also includes getting physical and doing exercises, as well as drinking more water, and a whole lot more – you get the idea.
The downsides of such a diet are, well, nonexistent. These foods are rich in all sorts of nutrients that will nourish your body better, making you healthier.
And, to make things better, a lot of those fruits and veggies have the potential to turn into a healthy liquid snack – a glass of juice.
Can Juicing Affect Cholesterol Levels?
Even though I am always a fan of eating the fruit raw (if possible), making a glass of juice can also be a legit way to ingest those cholesterol-friendly ingredients. So, similarly to a new diet, juicing can help you combat high cholesterol levels.
If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know that I stand by the principle of moderation. Sometimes, even we don’t know how our bodies react to certain foods. So, I would like you to start with baby steps when it comes to the new stuff you are about to implement into your diet. No matter how cliché it sounds, the phrase “listen to your body” applies here 100%. Slowly, you will learn how to recognize the ingredients that do not sit with you well.
1. Ingredients to Include
Ok, so, let’s say that you want to start working on your cholesterol levels, tackling the issue from a few different angles. The first and the main method is, of course, going to the doctor’s and following his advice and the therapy that he prescribes. Now, the second line of defense is the diet. Here’s a list of things to include and why:
Grapes are delicious, there is no doubt about that. You can eat them raw, dried as raisins, or juice them into a healthy liquid snack. The polyphenols in grape skin are a good ally in combating the damage caused by LDL cholesterol. So, if you decide to add grape to your juices, remember to add the pulp too.
Some people call this fruit the queen of juices. Apple juice has been a staple flavor for decades thanks to its flavor and the benefits it brings (I’m talking about the non-sweetened version, of course). Apples, besides vitamins and sugars, have a soluble fiber (pectin) that helps with clearing out the cholesterol deposits, thus helping your body get rid of them. The same story goes here – after you juice the apple, remember to return some pulp to the juice mix. Additionally, the best thing about apples is that they can also be juiced using a smaller machine like a travel juicer.
Besides being one of the tastiest summer snacks, watermelon is also super healthy for us. The very feature it brings is none other than – hydration. But the reason it ended up on this list is the watermelon’s ability to lower the high cholesterol levels in our blood. The active substance that helps us battle high cholesterol levels is called lycopene, and watermelon has lots of it to offer.
Cabbage is actually a great filler and an ingredient that won’t affect the taste that much, but it will bring along a lot of useful nutrients. The two main benefits of adding cabbage to your juices are:
- High vitamin C quantities – this vitamin plays a crucial role in blood vessel maintenance, among other things
- High sulfur-based amino acids – this compound helps our bodies get rid of excess LDL from our bloodstream.
Avocado, historically speaking, became popular pretty recently. The whole world used to think that avocados are too fatty for our bodies to digest normally, but that is far from the truth. In moderation, avocado can help you with two things – getting your LDL cholesterol levels down, while raising the amount of the “good” HDL cholesterol at the same time. Just be careful of the amount you use, because it is quite calorie-rich.
Maybe not the best juicing ingredient, but worth mentioning nonetheless – onions are a powerful ally in combating high LDL cholesterol levels. The flavonoids lower the “bad cholesterol” levels while not affecting the “good” HDL cholesterol. Some people make salty shakes with tomatoes and onions. While I’m not personally a fan of those, why not give it a try? That’s the beauty of combining flavors – there’s something for everyone.
1.7. Cacao and dark chocolate
Just a few decades ago, a discovery was made – cacao and dark chocolate are good for the health of the heart. Yes, it does sound a bit counter-intuitive to eat chocolate to make lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, but it also makes the fact awesome in a sense. However, do not overdo it with the amount you decide to eat. Also, make sure that the dark chocolate you choose has at least 60% of cacao inside.
1.8. Citrus fruit
Lastly, citrus fruit deserves a spot on this list thanks to having a bit of each feature. Grapefruit, lemon, oranges, etc. – they all help with lowering LDL and raising HDL cholesterol levels. Citrus fruits are also rich in vitamins and electrolytes, and above all – they are TASTY!
2. Lifestyle Changes Are Due as Well!
After all, prescribed medication and diet changes only work if you change your lifestyle a bit too. My advice is to dig around the web a bit and find an exercise regimen that suits your daily habits. You’d be surprised by the health improvement 15 minutes a day can do. Going to the gym would be ideal, but that is not the only form of exercise out there. Long walks, jogging, yoga, calisthenics, group sports, cycling. You see the point.
Our sedentary lifestyles can get the best of us if we let go of the fact that we need to move every day, for at least an hour.
If you want to start exercising regularly, building a habit is not easy. Here’s a way to do it. Start by doing it 5 minutes a day in the first week. No matter how confident you are about doing more (which you probably could), keep it at 5 minutes for the whole week. After that go with 8 minutes, or 10, but do not rush forward.
By rushing, you risk entering the “burn out” phase. This is the opposite of making a habit. Start slow, and slowly progress. After all – you are going on for the long run, because, let’s be real – it is worth it!
What to Avoid?
When it comes to high cholesterol levels, if you want to work on prevention (which I wholeheartedly encourage), there are a couple of things to avoid, or at least moderate better:
- Excess calories and refined sugars – your body doesn’t quite know what to do with excess calories you ingest unless you are into hardcore exercise. This easily turns into high cholesterol if you’re not careful. Avoid eating refined sugars. It gets easier if you decide to get your sugars from fruit juices you make at home – you get to control the intake.
- Processed meat and animal products – getting those proteins in are important, yes, but not at any cost. Processed meat has a lot of salt, trans fats, and LDL cholesterol sources inside. So, try to lower (or completely eliminate) the consumption of products like sausages, ham, jerky, deli meats, salami, hot-dogs, canned meat, etc.
- Dehydration – your blood thickness is directly related to how much water you drink. To help your heart and arteries do their job better, make sure to drink enough water. This habit, similarly to exercise, should be built slowly.
As someone who made a 180° turn when it comes to lifestyle choices, I can tell you one thing – it is easier than you think. When I look back at the things I ate, and the ingredients I used, I get mad at myself for not starting earlier. Eating raw fruits and veggies, and making healthy snacks in the form of juices is something that anyone can get used to. Your body will thank you, trust me!
High cholesterol is the disease of the modern era, there’s no doubt about it. But here’s the kicker – you can prevent it for the most part for free, just by changing your habits. Think about it – you get to sleep better, feel better throughout the day, perform better (mentally and physically), and ultimately you get to save yourself from illness in the future. The real question here is – what are you waiting for?