The Good, The Bad, The Cholesterol

What many of those who consume animal products do not understand is that just because a piece of rotting flesh in the grocery store is labeled as “organic”, “free-range”, “antibiotic free”, “hormone free”, or “USDA approved”, doesn’t necessarily indicate that it is healthy. Consumers often overlook or simply neglect to understand how animal products are digested, and what the human body actually absorbs during the process. While the cascade of events during digestion aren’t exactly enticing, and I’d rather not put you to sleep, I find it absolutely necessary to understand cholesterol, and the truth behind its role in our bodies.

I’m sure at one point or another you’ve heard that having high cholesterol is bad, but what  is cholesterol? Where does it come from? Why is it bad? According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, cholesterol is simply a waxy substance that is found in the lipid bilayer of all cell membranes.

cell_basic_partsHere is a quick little science lesson for all of you: To the left is an image of a cell. You have tons of cells in your body, and the outside layer of a cell is called a cell membrane or lipid bilayer. Cholesterol is imbedded in the lipid bilayer, and it allows the cell to be fluid, as seen in the image below. cell20membrane20with20cholesterolBasically, cholesterol helps your cells produce membranes, hormones and Vitamin D, and is therefore vital for survival. There are two different kinds of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL), and low density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL is the bad kind of cholesterol because it is mostly composed of fat, hence the term low density lipoprotein. (low amount of protein, more fat) Get it? According to WebMD, since fat is sticky, when this type of cholesterol moves through the blood stream it can stick to the sides of your arteries. This action can be fatal as it can cause arteries to completely clog up, allowing absolutely no blood to pass through and get to where it needs to go. On the other hand, HDL is considered to be good cholesterol because it is composed of a higher amount of protein and a lower amount of fat, hence the term high density lipoprotein.

So why do we care? Well, as I mentioned before high levels of bad cholesterol can be fatal, especially when combined with smoking, high transfat intake and vitamin C deficiency. All cholesterol consumed comes solely from animal products. That’s right, plants have absolutely no cholesterol. I know what you’re thinking: How am I going to get enough cholesterol if I don’t consume any animal products? Don’t worry there is good news. Believe it or not, your body makes ALL of the cholesterol it will ever need, therefore, there is no need to consume any extra. If you consume a little extra here and there, your liver will get rid of it, but a high intake of cholesterol filled foods can lead to serious health implications such as heart failure, obesity, diabetes and even cancer.

I understand that reading things such as this blog post often send people into panic mode about their health, similar to the way FOOD INC. or Cowspiracy convinces people daily to save the planet by no longer consuming animals. (if you’d like to check out these awesome documentaries by the way click the links) However, there is hope when it comes to saving your health. What many people don’t understand is that your body will stop at nothing to protect you. It is an extremely powerful and well designed machine that when fed the proper fuel will work its hardest to purify itself. It is never to late to change your life around.

Think you may need to lower your cholesterol? According to HealthAliciousNess, foods rich in monounsaturated fat are the most efficient in lowering bad cholesterol levels. Some examples include, garlic, avocados, olives, peanuts, extra virgin olive oil, chia seeds and walnuts. I will be posting a recipe incorporating chia seeds very soon.

With everything I write, please take the time to understand that I am not trying to make you feel bad about eating meat or dairy products. I am simply sharing my ideas, and some facts that I’ve come across about healthy diets. Take everything with a grain of salt, and take a moment to decide whether the lifestyle you are currently living is truly healthy. If not, try something new. It will only be the veganing.

 

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