Meal Planning as Self-Care

Self care is about taking good care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others. Self-care is about making our own well-being a priority. 

So why do so many of us put our needs at the bottom of the list, allowing ourselves to be in a constant state of stress in order to get through an endless list of tasks. 

How can practicing some self-care help us protect our time, our energy and our health?

When we talk about self-care often we think of manicures, hot stone massages, and other luxuries. We don’t often think about planning, organizing, or scheduling as examples of self-care because they sound kinda like …well… work.
But here’s why we should consider these as self-care activities – they actually play a big role in protecting your health. Think about how you feel when you’re rushing around, running late, or looking for things that are never where you can find them.

 Stressed, right? 

And that’s a problem because if you spend enough time stressed out, your body will have a chronically elevated level of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can really be problematic for your health, in both the long and short term. 

Self-care is important because by doing things that protect our time and energy, we minimize the low grade chronic stress that we bring upon ourselves by not being proactive. 

Listen, if you’re about to say you’re too busy to sit down and take time to plan out meals for the week because it feels like one more chore to add to your already long list of things to do – trust me when I say taking time to plan for meals each week, and writing out a grocery list, ultimately benefits you in a lot of ways! 

It will save you money because dining out is so much more expensive than preparing meals at home. It also means less food waste because you’ve only bought the items you need to prepare your meals. 

It means you’ll eat healthier. Even when you make healthy menu choices, portions are generally twice what you’d normally eat, and restaurant food usually contains higher sodium levels than what we make at home. And it’s usually prepared using lower quality oils like soybean. With meals planned and prepped ahead of time, you’re less tempted to get greasy takeout or hit up the drive-thru. 

Choosing ingredients from the grocery store gives you more control over the quality of your food. When you select and prepare your own food knowing exactly what is included in the dishes you make, you’re able to better control the quality of your meals. 

And most of all, it means less STRESS. Planning meals reduces your stress level because you have a solid plan for your week and you won’t have to rack your brain at the last minute to figure out what’s for dinner, trying to pull something together with whatever you happen to have on hand. 

How to Create A Weekly Meal Plan: 

  • Print out the blank Weekly Meal Planner printable guide here.

  • Take a look at your schedule for the upcoming week and note what days of the week will you be home to cook and which nights will be a little more rushed. For those nights, schedule a crockpot meal or pre-cooked dinner the night before.

  • Schedule one day near the end of the week as Leftover Day, making sure not to let food and money go to waste

  • Decide what you’ll eat on each day. Need menu ideas? Sites like emeals.com, TheFresh20.com and TheSixOclockScramble.com include healthy recipes that are quick and easy to prepare along with the grocery shopping list for you. Pricing starts at around $5 per month.  

Create your Grocery List:

  • Compile the list of ingredients from all your recipes

  • Figure out what you have on hand and what you’ll need to pick up at the store

Prep Your Meals: 

  • Spend time on the weekend doing some batch prep for your meals:

    • Chop all of your vegetables together

    • Cook all grains and beans ahead of time

    • Make your needed sauces, dressings, and marinades

  • Pack your prepped food in clear containers and make them easily accessible in the fridge. 

Tips: 

  • Think ahead and cook up an extra batch. Plan to make double what you would normally make for dinner so you have leftovers for lunches or freeze it for another dinner.

  • Be sure to have food defrosted if you’re using any frozen items like meat, chicken, or fish. 

If you haven’t meal planned because it seems too time consuming, know that by creating a system, it will be so much faster and easier each time you do it. Once you start implementing a weekly meal plan, you’ll notice you feel less stressed over the dinner-time rush. 

You’ll feel so much less stressed when you know you’re ready for the week and you have what you need to make healthy meals for your family. Taking an hour to sit and plan your meals for the week will save you much more than that in time and energy in the long run.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.

 

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 We all have some level of stress, right?It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.Then, when the “threat”...

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4 Steps to Create a Life-Changing Meditation Practice

 

 PHOTO CREDIT:  ASHLEY MARKS PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTO CREDIT: ASHLEY MARKS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Meditation can be a life-changing practice if you struggle with stress or anxiety. Meditation has been shown to rewire the brain to return to a calm state and teaches you how to manage your racing thoughts or excessive worries.

You may not know this but 20 years ago I struggled with crippling anxiety and panic attacks. I went to the dr for anti-anxiety pills but instead got a lesson in meditation. Learning how to quiet my mind has been an invaluable tool in managing my anxiety since then.

If you’re struggling with constant worry or a brain that doesn’t relax, you may want to create your own meditation practice. It doesn’t have to be complicated, you can start right now!

Here are 4 steps to getting started:

1. Create space

Literally and figuratively. Find a place where you’ll be able to sit in peace for a few minutes at a time (to start). Free of noise, distraction, traffic, or anything that will disrupt your meditation. Put a comfortable pillow, chair, blanket in the place where you’ll meditate to designate it your meditation space to help your mind and body transition into your practice.

If you can’t designated one space for meditation, don’t sweat it. The great thing about meditation is it literally can be done ANYWHERE, but most people find that having a designated spot for it helps get into the right mindset for the practice.

Also, carve out a time in the day when it will be convenient for you to meditate. Most people prefer to do it early in the day, that way it doesn’t get postponed or eventually left undone by a busy day or being too tired later on.

2. Pick a style

Figure out what kind of meditation you want to do. I’ve listed some beginner-friendly ones here:

  • Breathing meditation – focus only on the breath. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.

  • Counting meditation – the same number sequence is repeated over and over.

  • Mantra meditation – focus on a word or phrase for the duration of the session.

  • Sensation awareness meditation – scan through your body one part at a time and just tune in to the sensations of your body at that time. No judgement, just awareness.

  • Walking meditation – Sitting meditation usually provides the greatest benefits, but you may need to start with small steps. Walking meditation is useful for beginners or as an alternative on days when a regular session isn’t feasible. Walk around your own living room or backyard. Walking automatically puts you in touch with your body. Observe your posture from foot to head.  Align your breath with your steps. Pause frequently to create a slow and restful state of mind. Take a moment to stand up straight. Lift each foot gently, and roll from heel to toe as you place it down in front of you.

    To start, just pick one type and see if it resonates with you. if not, you can move on to another type. Most beginners start with a guided mediation.

3. Start Small

For most people, one of the most difficult things about meditation can be finding the time to squeeze a session into your busy schedule. You can start by meditating for five minutes or less!

  • Stop on red. You may start looking forward to red lights if you use them for a refreshing break. Focus on your breath and appreciate the world around you.

  • Take advantage of routine tasks. Empty your mind and your dishwasher at the same time. As you remove forks and plates, clear out nagging resentments and doubts.

  • Ease stressful moments. Meditate on whatever disturbs you.Being annoyed with a salesclerk who rang up your purchase without putting down their phone could remind you to listen more attentively to family and friends. Let it be a teachable moment that creates more harmony.

  • Express gratitude. Happy events are also worth pondering. Stop to give thanks for hot chocolate or spring flowers

4. Join a Guided Meditation Group

Guided meditation sessions with a group leader take care of the agenda for you.

  • Find a community. Yoga studios, public libraries, and local hospitals may offer programs. Browse online or check bulletin boards in grocery stores and coffee shops. Start your own group through Meetup.

  • Locate a meditation instructor. Effective instructors come in many shapes and sizes. Ask about why they teach meditation and how they lead a session. As long as you feel comfortable with them it may be a good fit.

  • Work with distractions. Meditating in a crowded room may feel different than sitting down alone in your bedroom. If trying to screen out distractions makes it difficult to concentrate, try accepting them instead. Remain aware of your surroundings. If a door slams or a phone rings, gently bring your focus back when you’re ready to resume.

  • Go at your own pace. Meditation comes more easily for some practitioners, and your powers of concentration will probably rise and fall from day to day. Listen to the instructor when you need more guidance. If you already feel clear and connected, you may want to follow your own thoughts instead.

You can start a meditation practice today even if you’re short on time and juggling many responsibilities. Practical meditation techniques can put you on the path to managing stress and enjoying greater peace of mind.

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.

 

 

Stress: How It Messes With Your Health

 

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. the stressor) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It’s the chronic stress that’s a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let’s dive into the stress mess.

Mess #1 – Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Stress increased the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood “thickness,” as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Mess #2 – Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you’re stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed? That’s because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells. Consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.

Mess #3 – “Leaky Gut”

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as “intestinal permeability.” These “leaks” can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other. 

Picture this: Have you ever played “red rover?” It’s where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though.  Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!

Mess #4 – Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind, and when you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health. Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren’t doing you any favors.

Stress-busting tips:

  • Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step. 

  • Brainstorm some ways you can: 

    • Put less pressure on yourself

    • Ask for help

    • Say “no”

    • Delegate some tasks to someone else

    • Finally make that decision that’s been driving you nuts

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

●     Practice deep breathing

●     Begin a meditation practice (want to know more about how to do this?

●     Walk in nature

●     Unplug – read a book, take a bath

●     Physical activity – go for a run, do some yoga, get on your bike)

●     Connect with loved ones

TL;DR –

Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize. Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep. There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

References:

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress

https://www.thepaleomom.com/stress-undermines-health/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/good-stress-bad-stress

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site. 

 

Could Your Symptoms Be a Food Intolerance?

A food intolerances or sensitivity can affect you in so many ways and they’re a lot more common than most people think.

I’m not talking about serious food allergies that cause anaphylaxis or an immune response. Those can be serious and life-threatening.  If you have any allergies, you need to steer clear of any traces of foods you are allergic to, and speak with your doctor about emergency medication.

What I’m talking about, is an intolerance, meaning you do not tolerate a specific food very well and it causes immediate or chronic symptoms anywhere in the body. Symptoms can take hours or even days to appear. And symptoms can be located just about anywhere in the body.

This is what makes them so tricky to identify.

Symptoms of Food Intolerances

There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea. Symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten.

On the other hand, other more insidious symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way.

Symptoms like:

●     Chronic muscle or joint pain

●     Sweating, or increased heart rate or blood pressure

●     Headaches or migraines

●     Exhaustion after a good night’s sleep

●     Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis

●     Rashes or eczema

●     Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is foggy

●     Shortness of breath

If your body has trouble digesting specific foods, it can affect your hormones, metabolism, or even cause inflammation and result in any of the symptoms listed above. These can affect any (or all) parts of the body, not just your gastrointestinal system.

How to prevent these symptoms

The main thing you can do is to figure out which foods or drinks you may be reacting to and stop ingesting them.

I know, I know…this sounds so simple, and yet it can be SO HARD.

The best way to identify your triggers is to eliminate them. Yup, get rid of those offending foods and drinks. All traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms.

If things get better, then you need to decide whether it’s worth it to stop ingesting them, or if you want to slowly introduce them back one at a time while still looking out to see if/when symptoms return.

The Two Most Common Triggers of Food Intolerances:

  • Lactose (dairy)

    • Eliminate altogether, or look for “lactose-free” on the label

    • Try nut or coconut milk instead.

  • Gluten (wheat, rye, and other common grains)

    • Look for a “gluten-free” label

    • Try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats.

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good place to start because lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while non-celiac gluten sensitivity can affect up to 13% of people.

Let’s talk about the main components of milk that people react to: lactose, casein, and whey.

Milk Sugar (lactose) Intolerance

It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the carbohydrate “milk sugar” naturally found in most dairy products. Lactose intolerance is so common you can buy lactose-free milk in your regular grocery store. Lactose-free products are treatedwith the enzyme “lactase” that breaks the lactose down before you ingest it. It’s this lactase enzyme that is lacking in most people who are lactose intolerant.

The lactase enzyme is naturally released from your intestine as one of your digestive enzymes. It breaks down the lactose sugar in the gut. When someone doesn’t have enough lactase, the lactose doesn’t get broken down the way it should. Undigested lactose ends up being food for the resident gut microbes. As they ferment the lactose, they create gases that cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and sometimes diarrhea.

Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yogurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn’t that easy as it is added to other foods like baked goods, soups, and sauces. And if you’re taking any medications or supplements, check to see if it’s in there too, as lactose is a common ingredient in them.

If you have symptoms of lactose intolerance, keep an eye on food, medication, and supplement labels.

Related: Find out how to make your own dairy-free milk

Milk protein (casein & whey) allergy

Milk is a known, and common, food allergen. “Curds and whey” are the two main proteins in milk. The solid bits are the curds (made of casein), and the liquid is the dissolved whey.

Unlike lactose intolerance, casein and whey can cause an actual immune response. It’s an allergy and this immune response can cause inflammation. In fact, we don’t know how many people have these milk allergies, but most estimates put it far below that of lactose intolerance.

Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products too. They’re not just in dairy but are often in protein powders as well. Some of the symptoms of milk protein allergy differ from that of lactose intolerance; things like nasal congestion and mucus (phlegm) are more common here. And casein seems to be linked with belly fat.

Interestingly, people who have gluten intolerance are often allergic to milk proteins like whey and casein as well. These can go hand-in-hand.

Like lactose intolerance, if you’re allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these.So, if you can eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for three weeks, it may indicate whether either (or both!) of these are a source of your symptoms.

Yes, dairy and grains are a part of many government-recommended food guidelines, but you absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods. A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is to track it. After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends.

And, as mentioned earlier, symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating bananas.

You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms accurately.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you eliminate something, you need to make sure it’s not hiding in other foods, or the whole point of eliminating it for a few weeks is lost. Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for adding ingredients that you’d never think are there. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements?

When in doubt, ask the server in a restaurant about hidden ingredients, read labels, and consider cooking at home from scratch.

What if it doesn’t work?

If eliminating these two common food intolerances doesn’t work, please see a qualified healthcare practitioner to rule out other health conditions.

TL;DR

If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.

While dairy may be an entire food group, it is not an essential nutrient. All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. If you experience these symptoms, you can try removing dairy from your diet. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat.

References:

http://www.dietvsdisease.org/11-warning-signs-you-have-a-food-intolerance/

https://authoritynutrition.com/lactose-intolerance-101/

https://authoritynutrition.com/signs-you-are-gluten-intolerant/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/food-sensitivities-health-infographic

https://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-ways-to-reduce-bloating/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/how-to-get-rid-of-bloating/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/11-warning-signs-you-have-a-food-intolerance/

https://authoritynutrition.com/dairy-foods-low-in-lactose/

https://authoritynutrition.com/lactose-intolerance-101/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/whey-protein-allergies-intolerances-bloating

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-food-sensitivities

https://www.thepaleomom.com/the-great-dairy-debate/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-milk-and-mucus-a-myth/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/milk-protein-vs-soy-protein/

https://examine.com/supplements/casein-protein/

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/

http://foodallergycanada.ca/about-allergies/food-allergens/milk/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blood-pressure/milk-protein-may-lower-blood-pressure

Pssst… Want my healthy recipes and printable workouts? 

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.

The Gut-Brain Connection: How To Feed Your Brain

If there was ever a call for improving your digestive health, this is it! It’s true, your gut is considered your second brain.

And because of the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it’s no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.

It’s amazing, but not too surprising.

What exactly is the “gut-brain connection”?

Well, it’s very complex, and to be honest, we’re still learning lots about it! There seem to be multiple things working together.  

Things like:

●     The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain

●     The enteric nervous system (aka second brain) that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain

●     The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut

●     The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body

●     The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.

This is complex. And amazing, if you ask me.

Vagus nerve

There is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain. And after reading this so far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of the transmission is…

Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut up to your brain!

The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters

Would you believe me if I told you that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord? And that’s why it’s referred to as the second brain. And, if you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty smartly.

And guess how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? By chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! A whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain! 

The immune system of the gut 

Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defense system would be located there too, right? Seventy-five percent of our immune system is in our gut!

Did you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere?

Well, if they’re activated by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. Including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.

Gut microbes 

These are your friendly, neighborhood gut residents. You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut. And they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!

But more and more evidence is showing that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.

How do these all work together for brain health?

The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we really don’t know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more.

But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!

So, how do you feed your brain?

Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone.

But two things that you many consider eating more of are fiber and omega-3 fats. Fiber (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) help to feed your awesome gut microbes. And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-know inflammation-lowering brain boosters.

Want a snack that’s full of gut food fiber, brain food omega-3?
See my Blueberry Hemp Overnight Oats Recipe!

References:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-probiotics

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/fix-gut-fix-health

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.

 

 

5 Cholesterol Myths

You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (bordering on obsession) about cholesterol, right? Before we jump into some myths let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.

Myth #1: Cholesterol is cholesterol

While cholesterol is an actual molecule, what it is bound to while it’s floating through your blood is what’s more important than just how much of it there is overall.  In fact depending on what it’s combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart.  Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood.  These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called lipoproteins.

They’re grouped into two main categories:

●     HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA good cholesterol) that cleans up some of those infamous arterial plaques and transports cholesterol back to the liver.

●     LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA bad cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized, hence their badness).

And yes, it’s even more complicated than this. Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So cholesterol isn’t simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it’s bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like producing vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats.  Not to mention that it’s incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

Talk about having a lot of important jobs!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA total cholesterol) isn’t nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

Pssst… Want my anti-diet weight loss checklist? 

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Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver.  It’s actually not from the cholesterol you eat.  Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)  ‘Cause that’s where it’s made!

What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces.  After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn’t need to make as much.

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there’s a balance that needs to be maintained.  There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Don’t start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

While drugs can certainly lower LDL cholesterol they don’t seem to be able to raise the HDL cholesterol all that well.

Guess what does?

Proper nutrition and exercise!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day.  Every day. Sound like a lot? Don’t worry – I have a recipe to help you squeeze this into your day.

You can (should?) also exercise, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats.  That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil.  Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.

TL;DR

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we’re learning more every day.  You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are.  And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cholesterol

http://summertomato.com/how-to-raise-your-hdl-cholesterol

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-9-biggest-lies-about-dietary-fat-and-cholesterol/

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.