There are a lot of misconceptions out there about cholesterol. Read on to learn the truth - the good and the bad.
Cholesterol is a type of fat found naturally in our bodies. Despite its bad rap, cholesterol plays many important roles, including the production and repair of cell membranes and the maintenance of hormone and vitamin D levels. Without cholesterol, we would actually be in a pretty tough spot.
But too much cholesterol in the blood is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol is a major component of the plaque that can build up on the inside of our arteries, slowly reducing blood flow to important tissues and organs.
Types of cholesterol
We often hear talk of good and bad cholesterol. In reality, there is only one type of cholesterol, but there are different proteins that carry cholesterol around in the blood. These protein carriers are referred to as lipoproteins, and the two main types that are most often discussed are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is often called the bad cholesterol, because it transports cholesterol to the tissues and organs of the body and is the type found in arterial plaques.
HDL is known as good cholesterol; it helps to carry cholesterol away from artery walls and brings it back to the liver for processing and removal from the body. High levels of HDL are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition to LDL and HDL, you may also have heard of triglycerides, another type of fat that can be measured in the blood. High levels of triglycerides are also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
So be wary of how much saturated fat you are eating, and minimize your intake of fried foods, fatty meats, high-fat dairy products, and other sources of saturated fats. Trans fats, which can still be found in some fast foods and packaged/processed foods, have no known use in the body and should be avoided altogether.