Cholesterol is a type of fat or lipid, that is essential for life. Found naturally in the body, and in almost all the food we eat, cholesterol is the building block for vitamin D, hormones and cell walls. In addition, the body uses it to create bile salts to digest other fats.
Cholesterol combined with proteins, creating lipoproteins, to travel through the bloodstream. There are two types of cholesterol found in the body — low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, can build up in artery walls, which may lead to artery blockages, a contributing factor in heart attacks and strokes. HDL, or “good” cholesterol, is processed by the liver and sent out of the body. HDL also helps prevent arteries from becoming clogged.
The good news is that you can lower “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol by adding cholesterol-lowering foods to your diet. Heart healthy foods include those that are high in soluble fiber, anti-oxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Sources of lean protein, like soy and dark leafy vegetables that are low in saturated fats are also recommended for cholesterol watchers.