We might always be hearing about cholesterol as a bad thing, but it’s actually crucial to the running of our bodies. It’s found not only in our blood but also in every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that help you digest fat. Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is crucial for good neurological function.

Your liver makes about three-quarters or more of your body’s cholesterol, and there’s a few different types. High-density lipoprotein is “good” cholesterol that removes arterial plaque and helps to keep the rest of your cholesterol away from your arteries. Low-density lipoprotein is “bad” cholesterol, forming those blockages in your arteries that can lead to serious trouble. Also adding to your cholesterol count are triglycerides, a dangerous fat that rises when your lifestyle isn’t looking great.

If we can think of cholesterol as something that’s fine until it gets out of control, it becomes easier to deal with and manage in an appropriate way (it’s a bit like wind when you’re sailing – you need some to get where you’re going, but the higher it gets, the more dangerous it becomes). It’s amazing how many people end up with health problems because they’ve learned to be afraid of a particular food group, and go overboard cutting things from their diet (thinking here of the people who are terrified of fat, even if it comes from something like fish or avocado or nuts).

Before you make any radical changes to your diet, particularly if you’ve already got or have risk factors for heart disease – talk to your pharmacist or nutrition medicine practitioner. They’ll be able to help you make a decision that’s right for you and your body.

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