Priscilla Barnes

Have you ever been told you have high cholesterol?

If you are one of the 94 million US adults who have elevated cholesterol, it’s important to know, you’re not alone. (Or if you’re sadly one of the 7% of US children ages 6-19 who have high cholesterol, as well.)

Equally important and refreshing is to hear this: your food, movement, and lifestyle choices can help you lower it. Even if you require medicine. (Although there’s research to show lifestyle changes alone can lower cholesterol.)

So, what is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a lipid, or wax-like substance that is vital to a healthy, functioning body.

It serves many functions such as:

  • Formation of cell membrane, it is an integral part to the trillions of cells in our body
  • Antioxidant properties, prevents free radical damage
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Required for Vitamin D
  • Required for creation of cortisol
  • Required for sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone)
  • Used to make bile acids, which help with digestion and help us absorb nutrients in food we eat

Other cool, and less discussed functions:

  • Responds to crisis in our body (an infection)
  • Binds and activates bacterial toxins (meaning cholesterol will go up if this is present)
  • Prevents the damage from microbes
  • It can act as a bandaid on the endothelial layer of the cell membrane (if there is damage to the cell wall, cholesterol will go and provide a bandaid to the area)

Where does cholesterol come from?

Our amazing livers produce about 75% of the cholesterol we need - the other 25% or so comes from our diet. (Side note: If so much of it is produced by our liver, it would make sense to focus on the health of our liver, right?)

What is LDL and HDL?

Lipids (which cholesterol is) don’t mix with water (which our blood is composed of).

Due to this, cholesterol requires transporters: LDL & HDL

These are lipoproteins that move cholesterol throughout the body.

Think of LDL and HDL as transporters that help cholesterol move through the body.

What is LDL?

LDL (low density lipoprotein) - referred to as “bad cholesterol”:

*Transports cholesterol from the liver to specific organs*

Sometimes this process doesn’t go smoothly. LDL can end up dropping off its passenger at the wrong location - such as artery walls. This is why it is referred to as “bad” cholesterol.

What causes high LDL?

  • Genetics
  • Inflammation
  • Low thyroid function
  • High cortisol (stress)
  • Vegetable oils and trans fats (inflammatory)
  • Low vitamin C
  • Glycation (an end product of imbalanced blood sugar)
  • Surgery/trauma
  • Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease/poor liver function
  • Insulin Resistance

What is HDL?

HDL (high density lipoprotein) - referred to as “good cholesterol”:

*Transports cholesterol from blood stream back to liver to be recycled or eliminated*

HDL is referred to as “good” due to its ability to rid the bloodstream of the potential buildup.

HDL is also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it supports vessel health by promoting the creation of nitric oxide, a gas that keeps your blood vessels open.

So how do you lower LDL and raise HDL? That’s the million dollar question that could change your current and future health.

Here are some places to start:

What foods are shown to increase LDL?

Trans Fats & Saturated Fats

Trans fats are particularly inflammatory. (Read more about why this matters here.) Saturated fats should be consumed in moderation.

  • This is why, whatever your goal, you would benefit from eliminating these from your diet:

    Hydrogenated oils
  • Partially hydrogenated oils (cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil, vegetable oil)
  • Vegetable shortening.

How can you raise HDL?

Simple measures to raise HDL:

  • Daily movement
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Antioxidant rich foods (fruits, nuts, vegetables)
  • Omega-3 rich foods (fatty fish, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil)


Being told you have high cholesterol can be a little overwhelming. The good news? Your choices can absolutely help you! When it comes to nutrition, mentality, movement, and lifestyle, all of the small changes can add up to huge rewards.

Do you need help managing your health? Click here to apply to join my health and wellness coaching program today.


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