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Cholesterol certainly has a bad reputation. It is talked about a lot, and many fear it, yet often its characteristics are not fully known (especially those that make it useful), as well as not all the habits to be adopted to keep it at the right levels.

Let's start by debunking some myths about cholesterol that are not entirely correct, and then let's see some tips on how to modulate blood levels.

Cholesterol is bad, anytime and anywhere

This is not quite the case. Cholesterol is essential for the body, in fact it performs important functions: for example, it is one of the substances that make up cell membranes, it also serves for the synthesis of important hormones and functional molecules of the body. It is therefore not an a priori enemy!

When it comes to cholesterol, a distinction must be made between "bad" cholesterol (LDL), particles that if in excess could be deposited along the arterial walls, and "good" cholesterol (HDL), made up of corpuscles responsible for transporting cholesterol to the liver, which will eliminate it from the blood.

It is the cholesterol we take with food that raises cholesterol

In reality, the cholesterol in the circulation depends only in small part (15-20%) on the cholesterol coming from the diet; otherwise, it is cholesterol synthesized by the body. It is therefore right to limit foods that in themselves contain cholesterol, but we must also pay attention to foods and factors that stimulate the production of endogenous cholesterol, such as excess calories.

How to control cholesterol

We can adopt healthy habits to maintain good blood cholesterol levels, or to lower them if they are too high. Here are some tips on our lifestyle:

1. Power supply

Nutrition plays an important role both as regards the supply of cholesterol and for the stimulation of its synthesis by the body. One of the first steps you can take to control your cholesterol levels is to pay attention to what you eat.

• Allied foods

To keep cholesterol levels at bay, one can focus on the intake of unsaturated fats. These, in addition to decreasing the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood, also help increase HDL cholesterol levels. They are found mainly in oily fish, vegetable oils and dried fruit. Another trick can be to consume foods rich in fiber: these help to reduce the absorption of fat by the intestine.

• Food at risk

The foods richest in cholesterol are red meat, shellfish, and dairy products. Experts advise not to exceed two eggs per week, while for cheeses it is useful to focus on lean ones, such as parmesan or ricotta. Better not to eliminate them completely, because they contain many very useful substances: virtue is always in the middle!

Also pay attention to the intake of saturated fats, which can cause an increase in LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Sources of saturated fat are foods of animal origin, such as offal, dairy products, butter.

2. Natural substances

Many plant extracts can help the body to lower cholesterol, when its levels do not yet require the intervention of drugs.

Some of the most effective substances are:

  • Fermented red rice. When the Monascus purpureus yeast ferments the rice, in addition to giving it a particular reddish color, it produces a precious substance: Monacolin K. It is a completely natural compound, which hinders the production of cholesterol by the body, thus lowering its levels in the blood.

  • Chrysantel. It is a plant that grows in Central America and Africa, and which is very useful in limiting the production of cholesterol and in promoting liver function.

  • Milk thistle. By detoxifying the liver, it facilitates the regulation of cholesterol levels by this organ.

  • Chitosan. In the intestine it hinders the absorption of fatty substances, including cholesterol, taken from the diet.

3. Physical activity

The first piece of advice a doctor should give to anyone who needs to monitor their cholesterol levels is to exercise. Movement helps decrease LDL cholesterol values and increase HDL values.

In any case, be careful: physical effort must not exceed everyone's abilities, otherwise there is the risk of obtaining a negative effect on the cardiovascular system equally. For those who are not very trained, even a relatively quiet discipline such as yoga, practiced consistently, can be useful.

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