How to Lower Sugar & Cholesterol: Tips, Tricks & Advice
Sugar and cholesterol are some of the most common culprits when it comes to health complications. Nearly ten percent of the world's population struggles with high blood sugar, and about a third of all heart disease is caused by high levels of cholesterol. Increased risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, elevated blood pressure, and risks of stroke are just some of the many hazards of sugar and cholesterol. There are a variety of factors that raise glucose, cholesterol, and their risks.
However, cholesterol and glucose levels in the blood can be lowered considerably by making a slew of dietary and lifestyle changes. By actively cutting down on foods that raise bad cholesterol, sugar and by incorporating exercise into your routine, you’re bound to see marked differences in your upcoming lipid and sugar panel. These changes, coupled with following your doctor’s advice should be sufficient to maintain your cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a multi-chain fat molecule that is synthesized in your liver. While your body produces its cholesterol, it can also be present in your diet. Depending on the dietary content of cholesterol, the production in the liver is monitored and modulated accordingly. Cholesterol, like other fats, does not dissolve in water and is not inherently bad for you. It helps to keep the cell membranes intact, helps in the production of various steroid hormones like testosterone, and also aids in vitamin D synthesis.
An excess of cholesterol can be quite damaging, however. The body creates complex molecules called lipoproteins for the transfer of cholesterol from your liver to the various cells spread across. Lipoproteins can be of three varieties:
- Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL): By far the most ‘dangerous’ variety of bad cholesterol
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): This is the form of cholesterol that’s commonly branded as the ‘bad’ variant.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): HDL is considered the ‘good’ variant of cholesterol and also helps to reduce LDL and VLDL.
The liver tends to make packages of VLDL that comprise cholesterol and triglycerides (freely floating fat molecules in the blood) and sends them out to transport much-needed lipids to different cells. VLDL is converted to the denser LDL once it completes its task. Higher than normal levels of VLDL can cause the deposition of cholesterol on the arterial walls. LDL also carries fat and triglycerides to a region where these elements are necessary. HDL, the mainstay against ‘bad’ cholesterol, is also produced by the liver. This ‘good’ cholesterol collects unused fats and lipids and carries them back to the liver, lowering the levels of bad cholesterol. Understanding this basic mechanism by which the body works is important in answering the question of how to lower cholesterol.
Does Sugar Affect Cholesterol Levels?
While addressing the question of how to lower cholesterol, it is important to take into account the relationship between sugar and cholesterol. High blood sugar has always been implicated in elevated risks of heart disease and cardiovascular distress. Several studies like this one have consistently linked diabetes and elevated blood sugar to higher LDL & VLDL levels, and reduced HDL levels. The primary factor that explains this close relationship between glucose and cholesterol is the phenomenon of insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone produced by specialized beta cells in your pancreas. Insulin functions by removing sugar from the blood and driving them into cells for either consumption or storage. There exist specialized receptors on the surface of the cells in your body that bind to insulin and withdraw glucose from the blood. As time progresses, cells in vulnerable individuals begin reacting abnormally to insulin and develop resistance. This leaves excess sugar in the bloodstream, something that eventually evolves into full-blown diabetes. Insulin resistance also has other far-reaching consequences as it hampers the traditional cholesterol pathway. Individuals with insulin resistance and those who consume higher amounts of processed and added sugars were shown to have higher levels of LDL and VLDL cholesterol, with markedly reduced HDL levels.
The key to good health lies in reducing both sugar and cholesterol levels. These can be addressed by a specific diet for pre-diabetes and high cholesterol. Reducing the intake of added sugars, cutting out food with trans-fat, and exercising regularly are some of the methods we discuss to help you reduce cholesterol and sugar in the blood.
Methods of Reducing Cholesterol & Sugar Levels
Here are a few natural methods to lower cholesterol levels:
- Ditch Trans-fat
- Trans fat or partially hydrogenated fats are present in several processed foods. These varieties of fats are also called partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and are by far the most damaging to your body.
- Trans-fats are modified fat molecules and are not metabolized properly. The byproducts of this type of fat increase the levels of VLDL and LDL greatly while reducing HDL levels by over 20%, hampering the natural system of governance of cholesterol within your body.
- It is believed that trans-fat causes almost 10% of all deaths concerned with heart disease. The FDA has effectively banned the use of trans-fats as of 2021. However, make sure you watch out before making any processed food purchases at the store.
- Cut out the Saturated Fats
- Though fats are all commonly grouped under a single banner, there exist several varieties that have varying chemical properties.
- Saturated fats are fat molecules with only single-bonded carbon atoms in their structure. The metabolism of these fats, like trans-fats, can cause a spike in your bad cholesterol levels while reducing your ‘good’ cholesterol levels.
- Saturated fats are found in red meat, whole-fat dairy, and processed food products.
- These foods raise bad cholesterol levels, and can also raise your total cholesterol level, something that’s not advised for good cardiac health.
- Reducing your intake of saturated fats can help with controlling cholesterol levels.
- Consume Mono & Poly Unsaturated Fats
- Mono and Polyunsaturated fats differ from saturated fats by containing either one or several double bonds between carbon atoms in the chain.
- This affects the metabolism of these compounds in ways different from that of saturated fats.
- These fats aid in the improvement of cardiac health and are effective in reducing the levels of VLDL and LDL, while also causing an increase in the amount of HDL or good cholesterol.
- Mono and polyunsaturated fats can also be good substitutes for foods with sugars as they induce the feeling of fullness.
- Along with proteins, these components promote satiety and reduce your necessity for frequent snacking, and can help lower cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood.
- Omega-3 unsaturated fats are by far the best for cardiac health and are found in fish oil, lean fish meat, nuts, and tree seeds.
- Increase Soluble Fiber in Your Diet
- Soluble fiber is found in several plant-based foods. These are complex carbohydrates that are not broken down by the human digestive system.
- Fiber is a major component in the diet for pre-diabetes and high cholesterol. They prevent the absorption of cholesterol and simple sugars in the diet.
- Soluble fibers are water-soluble, so they end up absorbing a lot of water and promote the feeling of satiety once consumed.
- They also promote the function of gut-based bacteria that consume fiber as their source of energy, since they can easily break it down. This leads to the gut bacteria creating certain vitamins, support defense against bad bacteria, and also aid in creating higher levels of antioxidants.
- Fiber is found in oatmeal, millets, beans, fruits like apples, and vegetables like carrots and beets. These foods are essential to help you address the question of how to reduce cholesterol in your diet.
- Increase Protein Intake
- Higher protein content in the diet can promote a reduction in sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Proteins such as whey found in dairy, and lean meat protein, promote metabolic activity, and like polyunsaturated fats, bring about the feeling of fullness following consumption.
- Whey protein has been shown to reduce blood pressure, LDL & VLDL cholesterol along with the total cholesterol count in the blood.
- Several metabolic errors related to lifestyle issues arise from low protein intake, increasing your protein intake can also improve your body’s natural ability to mitigate glucose, cholesterol, and free radical compounds.
- Whey is found either as a supplement or intoned dairy products, yogurt, and cheese. Lean meat is found in certain varieties of chicken, lamb, turkey, and fishes like salmon.
- Eat Vegetables & Whole-Foods
- Vegetables contain several beneficial components like dietary fiber, polyols, antioxidants, pigments, and vitamins that help keep your metabolism prim and proper.
- Whole foods such as grains, oatmeal, berries, nuts, seeds, and natural oils help reduce bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol levels.
- Whole foods are a must in a diet for pre-diabetes and high cholesterol. They reduce sugar and cholesterol levels as they have low glycemic indices and have high concentrations of unsaturated fats.
- These foods are also high in micronutrients and minerals like iron, calcium, copper, cobalt, zinc, magnesium, and selenium.
- Exercise Regularly & Lose Weight
- Most people with high blood sugar and cholesterol are prone to sedentary lives with minimal or almost no activity.
- Obesity is a major risk factor for both type-2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
- If you’re overweight or obese and are thinking about reducing sugar and cholesterol in your blood, it might be time to begin working out.
- Exercise has been shown to improve blood circulation, cardiac health, and reductions in blood sugar, cholesterol and also have an improvement in insulin resistance.
- Exercise also improves levels of endorphins, compounds that improve pain resistance and have an antioxidant effect on the body.
- Antioxidants prevent the damage of LDL by free radicals, which can have even worse effects than bad cholesterol in itself.
- Weight loss promotes improved metabolic functioning and a drastic reduction in blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- People who have lost weight have shown major improvements in controlling their cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood.
- Kick the Habit and Drink Less
- Smoking can seriously damage cardiac health as it regularly raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, and promotes deposits of cholesterol in the arteries.
- Smoking hampers the natural mechanism of the immune system and HDL molecules carrying back harmful freely floating triglycerides. In the absence of this mechanism, smoking paves the way for heart disease as cholesterol deposits build up in the arterioles.
- While alcohol in moderation has shown some evidence of a spike in HDL levels, alcohol abuse can greatly hamper systemic health by damaging natural processes in the liver.
- Excess alcohol consumption leads to an increased risk of cholesterol and subsequently, heart disease.
- Limit yourself to one drink occasionally, and seek help if you’re considering quitting smoking.
While all of these suggestions should help make serious headway into controlling your cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood, be sure to keep in touch with your physician at all times. If you have further questions on how to lower cholesterol and the relationship between sugar and cholesterol, ask your doctor today.