The good and the bad about cholesterol


Although it often gets some bad press, cholesterol is an essential lipid involved in the structure and fluidity (moving about) of cell membranes. It is also needed for hormone production, bile production, nerve cell protection and the production of vitamin D.

It is both consumed through our diet and produced by the body in the liver and intestines. But there are 2 types of cholesterol:

  • high-density lipoprotein (HDL) termed ‘good’ cholesterol
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL) termed ‘bad’ cholesterol

So why the good and the bad?

Cholesterol is an insoluble, white, waxy substance that is carried around the body in two transport systems

  • LDL cholesterol – making up about half the cholesterol created by your body, it carries the cholesterol that is delivered to cells, and termed ‘bad’ because if the levels of this type get too high, it can clog your arteries
  • HDL cholesterol – helps to remove the excess cholesterol out of the cells, including from the arteries, and is therefore seen as ‘good’

So an excess of LDL and an imbalance in the ratio of LDL:HDL is what causes the health issues including the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The recommended cholesterol levels – tested via a blood test - are no more than 5.5mmol per litre if there are no other risk factors present. Risk factors include:

  • smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • pre-existing cardiovascular disease

If there are any of the risk factors mentioned above present, the recommended level of cholesterol is 2mmol per litre.

Diet plays an important role in healthy cholesterol levels

As our body produces enough of it’s own cholesterol, we don’t need to eat any. However, there are many foods that are part of our everyday diets that contain varying levels of cholesterol. The important consideration then is that we eat fewer of the foods that contain those higher levels.

Cholesterol lowering diets used to be about which foods to avoid, more recently, evidence has been emerging about the effectiveness of adding certain foods to your diet too.

Foods to eat
Soy– include soy products such as soy milk and tofu

Viscous fibre– add foods such as oats, barley, eggplants, legumes, apples, pears, psyllium, and prunes. Viscous fibre reduces the absorption of cholesterol from your food

Plant sterolsare found in small quantities in most fruit and vegetables. Eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes will supply plant sterols

Unsaturated fatscome from plant sources such as olives, nuts and seeds, and from fish

Nuts– 30g/day of almonds and walnuts has been shown to reduce cholesterol

Antioxidant fruits– adding strawberries to the diet has been shown to stop the cholesterol converting to the more damaging oxidised form

Foods to avoid

Saturated fats– should account for less than 7% of your total energy. Saturated fats come from meat 

and dairy products and contribute more to the production of cholesterol than unsaturated fats

Trans fats– Also known as hydrogenated fats, trans fats are produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid, less likely to spoil and feel less greasy. Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol, decrease HDL cholesterol, increase triglycerides, increase lipoprotein and increase inflammation, increasing the risk of heart disease by 25% with as little as 5g per day. Studies show that fast food, such as fries and nuggets, as well as some commercially baked goods contain trans fats, so it may be wise to try to limit your intake of these foods.

Lowering cholesterol

If your cholesterol level is already high, here are some natural considerations that may assist in lowering it to a healthier level

Nutrient Dosage What it does
Plant sterols 2g daily Reduces LDL by 10%, and has been shown to be more effective than doubling a statin dose
Taurine 250-3000mg/day Required for bile synthesis, so reduces cholesterol
EPA/DHA 500mg combined Reduces LDL cholesterol and is anti inflammatory
Garlic 2.5g daily Reduces LDL and increases HDL cholesterol
Acetyl-l-carnitine 400mg/day Reduces triglycerides, improves fatty acid oxidation, increases lipid transport

Improves liver function for cholesterol elimination

Selenium 100ug daily Antioxidant protection
Calcium 600mg daily Lowers cholesterol
Krill oil 1000mg daily for 3 months then 500mg daily Lowers LDL by 34% and increases HDL by 44%
Silymarin 200mg three times day Significant decrease in triglycerides and LDL

Improves removal of LDL by liver

Decreased synthesis of liver cholesterol

For further advice and input on the best support for healthy cholesterol levels, contact one of experts at the Natural Chemist Tel: 1300 882 303, we’d be happy to help


Jenkins, D, et al, 2008. The effect of strawberries in a cholesterol-lowering diet (30g). Metabolism. 57,12, pp1636-44

Nassuato G, et al, 1991. Effect of silibinin on biliary lipid composition. Experimental and clinical study. J Hepatol12, 3, pp290-5.

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