We’ve all heard of cholesterol, and immediately think of our heart health when we hear this word. Is it always bad? Are there foods that can help to keep cholesterol levels in check, and if there are, then how?
Cholesterol can be both good and bad for the body. It can keep our cells healthy, or like having too much of anything, an excess of cholesterol will cause disease. While the body can both create and process out some cholesterol, it is best kept in a good balance with food. Certain foods in particular are really good at maintaining healthy cholesterol levels because they contain monounsaturated fats. Knowing this, you’re probably wondering what some of these super-powered cholesterol balancing foods might be…
Introducing, hazelnuts! Keep reading to learn how this nut can take your heart to healthy land.
What Is Cholesterol?
So we know that cholesterol can be good or bad for the body and that it can be balanced out with food. But what is it?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid that falls into the sterol category and is a waxy and insoluble substance. It’s made by and also processed through the liver. It is the primary substance that is synthesized by animals, and so we hear about it often.
Our bodies need cholesterol to make bile, vitamin D, and hormones which are all essential to a well-balanced, healthy body. People need to maintain a good balance of cholesterol levels to maintain healthy bodily functions that cholesterol impacts, but if left unchecked cholesterol can lead to many life-threatening issues.
Cholesterol Levels: Good vs Bad
Approximately 30% of all animal cells are constructed with cholesterol… which means humans, too! This is what moderates the consistency of cell membranes, which is why it is important for humans to monitor their cholesterol levels. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein is the type of cholesterol associated with keeping membranes at the right consistency is considered the ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL will take cholesterol to the liver to be processed out of the blood. We need this to happen to keep that pesky high cholesterol at a level that won’t cause heart disease or more.
The type that is considered bad will flow in the blood, and cause plaque to build in the vessel lining of the arteries. Arteries that become clogged will elicit many dangerous symptoms, such as heart attack or stroke. What we call ‘bad’ cholesterol is actually Low-Density Lipoprotein, or LDL.
Good Cholesterol Levels
HDL is known as the good type of cholesterol and will contribute to healthy levels because it returns the excess cholesterol to the liver to be broken down and processed out of the body. A good cholesterol level for an adult that doesn’t have heart disease is less than 200mg/dL. For HDL alone, having 60 mg/dL and above is considered a healthy level for both men and women, as it is protective against heart disease.
Bad Cholesterol Levels
LDL travels through the bloodstream and delivers cholesterol to the cells that need it, however, if there is too much LDL then it will cause plaque to form in the arteries, narrowing them. If the plaque builds up in the arteries it can cause heart disease, which is why too much LDL can contribute to bad cholesterol levels. Having a total level of 60 mg/dL for LDL is considered dangerous, or a total cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL or higher.
Hazelnuts: One Of The Best Foods To Lower Cholesterol
One of the best foods to lower cholesterol is hazelnuts. Hazelnuts contain a type of phenolic compound known as a monounsaturated fat, which when replacing saturated fat can drop the bad cholesterol, or LDL, by levels up to 10 percent! This will impact the total cholesterol level because of the drop in LDL levels but doesn’t actually affect HDL levels, or good cholesterol levels, at all.
How to Make Hazelnuts Work For You
The best way to add more nuts to your diet without having too many calories is to replace them with another portion of some other fatty foods you may eat throughout the day, such as eggs, meats, or certain kinds of fish like salmon.
How can you benefit from these cholesterol balancing benefits of hazelnuts yourself, you’re wondering? Well, a recommended amount of nuts is only about 2 oz., or one handful a day, as they are high in calories and too many can become detrimental to your health. It is so important to eat the correct amounts of food to achieve a healthy, balanced diet!
Just because they’re healthy doesn’t mean they’re boring, though. Hazelnuts are a wonderfully flexible food. They don’t have to be eaten raw! They can be crushed and worked into a nice breading, added as a salad topper, roasted whole, baked into bread, or even made into a nut butter spread.
Hazelnuts are a wonderfully versatile food. They can be prepared in so many different ways for consumption, but the most important thing to remember about hazelnuts is that they help to lower cholesterol. The next time you’re thinking about adding a healthy nut to your diet, consider our flavorful 2 oz. snack packs!