Like many other things related to our health, we have been misled on the marketing efforts of certain fractions in the health industry. We have been conditioned to believe saturated fats are deadly, low fat products with artificial sweeteners are good for us, and GMOs pose no harm to the human physiology.
Although many of these myths are starting to be cleared up by those on the forefront of the natural health movement, one that has lagged behind is the truth about cholesterol, its role and effects on the human body, and how to lower it naturally.
The role and importance of cholesterol
Our blood vessels become damaged in a variety of ways, through irritations caused by free radicals or viruses, or because they are structurally weak. When this weakness occurs, the body’s natural defenses kick in and release a healing substance known as cholesterol. Cholesterol is a alcohol that is produced in the liver and in most human cells. It plays many vital roles in maintaining good health. Some of its important roles include:
- Cholesterol gives our cells necessary stiffness and stability. Due to diets that contain an excess of polyunsaturated fatty acids (particularly omega 6), the saturated fatty acids in the cell membrane are replaced, which causes the cell walls to become flabby. When this occurs, cholesterol is driven into the tissues to give them structural integrity.
- Cholesterol acts as precursor to hormones that help us manage stress and protect the body against heart disease and cancer.
- Cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D, an important fat-soluble vitamin needed for healthy bones, a healthy nervous system and immune system, good muscle tone, mineral metabolism, insulin production, and reproduction.
- Its needed for production of bile salts, which are vital for digestion and assimilation of fats.
- It acts as an antioxidant, which protects us from free radical damage that leads to heart disease and cancer.
- It’s needed for proper function of serotonin (“feel good” chemical) receptors in the brain. Low cholesterol levels have been linked to violent behavior, depression, and suicidal tendencies.
- Mother’s milk is very rich in cholesterol and contains a special enzyme that allows the baby to use this nutrient. Cholesterol rich foods are very important in the growing years to ensure proper development of the brain and nervous system.
- Dietary cholesterol plays an important role in maintaining the health of the intestinal wall. A vegetarian diet low in cholesterol can often lead to leaky gut syndrome and other intestinal disorders.
Unlike what we have been led to believe, cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease. It is a potent antioxidant that helps protect against free radicals in the blood, and it is a repair substance that helps heal arterial damage. However, cholesterol that is damaged by exposure to heat and oxygen becomes oxidized and can promote injury to the arterial walls as well as chronic build up of plaque in the arteries. Foods with damaged cholesterol include powdered eggs, milk, and meat that has been heated to high temperatures through cooking methods such as frying.
Interestingly enough, high serum cholesterol levels often mean the body is using high amounts of cholesterol to protect itself from high levels of altered, free-radical containing fats. Cholesterol is needed in a poorly nourished body to help protect the individual from things like heart disease and cancer.
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