The Sugar - Cholesterol Connection

You’ve heard for decades to avoid foods high in saturated and trans-fats in order to lower your bad cholesterol, but that is only a small part of the story. Most of your blood cholesterol is made inside of your body, not ingested. Therefore your intention should be to avoid foods that trigger cholesterol to be made.

Simple carbohydrates like sugar, pastries, ice cream, candy, cookies, soft drinks, alcohol, chips and processed foods made with refined grains like bread, pancakes and pasta are the most common culprits. They are stressful to the body, contain no fiber and increase inflammation. Inflammation and excessive free-radicals are the two culprits behind most diseases. Inflammation is the main cause for hardening of the arteries when excessive LDL cholesterol accumulates.

After eating these foods your blood sugar and insulin level rises. The end result is that LDL, the unfriendly form of cholesterol increases and HDL, the beneficial form, drops*. This is the opposite of “heart healthy”. If you consume more simple carbs and fats than can be stored in your muscles and liver the excess will be converted into triglycerides, a type of blood fat converted from the excess calories you do not immediately use.

Having high triglycerides (over 150 mg/dL) is one of the symptoms of dangerous risk factors called metabolic syndrome (Syndrome X). The rest of the symptoms are abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and low HDL cholesterol (below 40 mg/dL) **. Any combination of at least three of these symptoms should be taken seriously and everything you can do naturally should be done to reverse them. Having any combination of these risk factors can double your risk of heart attacks and strokes, and can increase diabetes risk by five times!

You can’t medicate your way out of these symptoms since drugs come with their own dangerous side-effects. The only way to reverse these problems is through dietary changes, exercise and smart supplementation. Where to begin?

Limited refined carbohydrates. Replace them with whole grains, beans, legumes, raw nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and veggies that are naturally high in fiber. Focus on making your meals plant-based whenever possible.

Minimize meat and dairy products. Due to modern factory farming there are problems with consuming these foods regularly besides their cholesterol content.

Supplement daily with a formula composed of soluble and insoluble fiber. Studies prove that supplementation makes a bigger difference in lowering cholesterol than only eating high fiber foods.

Here’s why it’s so important: fiber causes our body’s bile acid, which is made from cholesterol, to be eliminated as waste. To make up for this loss LDL cholesterol is pulled from the blood to make new bile acid. This causes cholesterol levels in the blood to go down.

A low fiber diet rapidly increases inflammation in the gut. It leads to increased blood sugar levels, increased LDL and weight gain, because chronic inflammation causes more of the calories we consume to be stored as fat instead of being used for energy. A daily fiber intake of at least 25 g for women and 38 g for men is a starting point—more is better. People on low carb, paleo, ketogenic and other restricted diets, as well as people with chronic loose bowels or constipation, will especially benefit from fiber supplementation.

  • Focus on foods, beverages and supplements that are high in antioxidants including turmeric/curcumin. Turmeric lowers LDL cholesterol, increases metabolism, improves liver function and reduces inflammation.
  • Consume only small amounts of healthy fats from nuts, seeds, small ocean fish, pure extra virgin olive oil and avocados. Avoid hydrogenated oils, trans-fats and vegetable oils completely.
  • Go for a brisk walk, dance or do some other type of cardiovascular exercise for at least 20 minutes every day. Mix it up and make it fun. Avoid sitting down if you can stand or move around instead. If you must sit for long periods get up every 30 minutes and move around

The best news is that it is within your power to reverse the risk factors, improve your health and live longer. Just a few simple changes are all it will take.

*HDL clears cholesterol from arteries and delivers it to the liver. Levels over 60 mg/dL are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

**For more information on how to control high blood pressure please read our recent article HERE