So cholesterol levels usually rise when there is an increased amount of inflammation in the body. More often than not it is due to consuming poor quality foods, but it is actually not just poor quality fats that make the difference here.

Evidence suggesting refined sugars may be detrimental to our health first arose as early as 1933, when researchers found that increased sugar consumption correlated with an increase in multiple diseases in school children. In other studies, lab animals that were given high volumes of fructose ended up having shorter lifespans than those who were not. Throughout the 1950s, a British researcher began publishing findings that eating excessive amounts of sugar were related to an increase in developing a variety of conditions, including rise in blood cholesterol levels, a rise in triglycerides, increased adhesiveness of blood platelets (used for clot formation), a release of free fatty acids in the aorta, increased gastric acidity, increased corticosteroid levels, a shrinking pancreas, and an enlarging liver. Many studies have surfaced stating there is a link between sugar consumption and heart disease. During the 1960s and 1970s, researchers began to uncover a link between refined sugar and coronary artery disease.

Cholesterol is a major topic of public debate. Particularly because it is implicated as the primary suspect in clogging our arteries. The truth is, however, our blood vessels can be damaged in a variety of ways. This can be done by viruses, free radical damage, or due to weak structural integrity.

When this damage occurs, the body begins its healing process by bringing natural substances to do the repair. One of these substances is cholesterol. Chemically, cholesterol is a heavy alcohol (meaning it contains an –OH group within its structure). In the same vein of fatty acids, cholesterol is used for a litany of different bodily functions, many of which are vital to survival.

Believe it or not, we actually need cholesterol. Cholesterol is responsible for giving our cell membranes their rigidness and stability. Interestingly, saturated fats play a role in this as well. Cholesterol is also a precursor molecule needed to manufacture corticosteroids.

Corticosteroids are needed to help us deal with stress. They also play a role in protecting us from heart disease and cancer. Sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, are also corticosteroids.

It is also a precursor to vitamin D, which is a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin D is needed for a healthy skeleton and nervous system, proper growth in children, a healthy metabolism, muscle tone, and insulin production, and healthy immune system function. This is especially important, and an important reason mothers should choose to breast-feed their children, if possible.

Cholesterol is needed to produce bile, which is released from the gall bladder into the small intestine to neutralize the acidic chyme from the stomach and aid in digestion.

According a to recent study, cholesterol has been shown to have antioxidant properties, which protect us from free radical damage that contributes to heart disease and cancer. Cholesterol is needed for serotonin receptors in the brain to function properly. Serotonin is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter found in the brain.

In fact, cholesterol levels that are too low have been linked to violent behavior, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Cholesterol also plays a role in maintaining the ever-important gut wall. This is why those on low-cholesterol diets tend to develop leaky gut syndrome or other disorders associated with the gut wall.

It is important to understand very small amounts of cholesterol are actually found in the plaques that develop during atherosclerosis. As stated before, cholesterol acts as an antioxidant, helping to prevent free radical oxidation damage.

However, cholesterol can be damaged when it is exposed to excess heat and oxygen (free radicals). When damage occurs, cholesterol goes to do its job and aid in the repair of damaged blood vessels, it instead recruits more healing factors, which causes the buildup resulting in a plaque. Cholesterol can be damaged in the cooking process by frying or cooking at high temperatures.

Today, it is often suggested cholesterol is the culprit found in many of our most common chronic diseases. On face value, this makes sense, if there is more cholesterol in the blood, it must be causing heart diseases, diabetes, etc. Contrary to popular belief, high serum cholesterol levels indicate the body actually needs cholesterol to defend itself against the free radicals actually causing the disease.

Think of cholesterol as the police force called upon to prevent a murder from happening within the body. When the body is poorly nourished, the neighborhood (body) “crime rate” rises, and with that, more “police” are needed to keep the area safe. Therefore, it would be ludicrous if we were to simply blame the high amount of police for all the major crimes happening in that area, when all they are trying to do is stop the crimes from happening!

A modern American diet high in refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, white flour, vegetable oils, and hydrogenated oils set up this bad neighborhood inside our bodies. It also saps us of many vitamins and minerals needed for proper function. Many of the fat-soluble vitamins and minerals responsible for preventing free radical damage, like vitamin E and selenium, are depleted in this diet.

Therefore, in order to lower cholesterol, adopting some of these basic principles will be key to getting started:

· Eat real foods, with 50% of each plate being vegetables.

· Eat a diet primarily of vegetables, fruit, protein, and good fats.

· Drink clean water.

· Eat fermented foods to balance your gut flora.

· Cut out inflammatory foods.

· 80% of the time eat right, allowing yourself 20% “wiggle room.”

· Drink lemon water in the morning, it helps boost metabolism and liver function.

· Look for foods that are high in fiber (whole foods) and low in sugar.

· Eliminate all packaged foods, if possible. Be sure to read ALL ingredient labels.

· Never eat out of a box or bag.

· Eat greens at least twice per day.

· Choose organic foods as often as possible.

· Choose lean proteins and healthy fats.

· Listen to your body!

Hope this helps!