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When I think of high cholesterol, I think of all the usual culprits — red meat, dairy and eggs — so because I’m a vegan, I always thought that I didn’t need to worry about this particular problem. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
Three weeks ago, I happily went along to my Discovery fitness assessment (as part of the WH Staff Fitness Challenge we have an assessment at the beginning and at the end of the challenge). I was a little bit nervous because I had never had a fitness assessment before and I was worried about what I was going to be told about my body and its ability. I had given some thought to the cholesterol-test part of the assessment, but because I’ve been vegan for the last eight months and vegetarian for 16 years before that, I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I was more worried about the fact that I would have to have my finger pricked.
I was weighed, measured, had my blood pressure taken and then it was time for the blood. My blood sugar levels were really good and I didn’t imagine that I would get a surprise with the cholesterol. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. When the machine was done analysing the drop of my blood, the guy doing my assessment kind of stared at the little screen for a while and seemed at a loss for words. Turns out, my combined cholesterol reading was 9.2 — a healthy reading is below 5. The silver lining to this is that my HDL reading (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or “good” cholesterol reading) was higher than the little machine could read, so at least I’m doing something right. It’s the LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or bad cholesterol) that has me worried.
READ MORE: Cholesterol-Lowering Soup Recipe
As soon as I got home, I immediately hopped onto the internet to see what I could find out about high cholesterol… And I learnt some things.
– First of all, vegans and vegetarians can have high cholesterol!
– Cholesterol is genetic, so it could have nothing to do with what you put into your body.
– Trans fats are a double whammy when it comes to cholesterol because they both lower your good cholesterol and raise your bad cholesterol. You can find them in cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, chips and microwave popcorn.
– Coconut oil is not necessarily the healthy ingredient that it is often described as. Full of saturated fat, it can make your cholesterol level spike.
– Good news: nuts, red wine, garlic, avocado and dark chocolate can help to lower your cholesterol levels.
– Exercise can also help lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol.
READ MORE: 10 Ways To Lower Your Cholesterol
Armed with this knowledge, I know that I am probably consuming a bit too much trans fat (I have a weakness for sweet treats and once I found out that store-bought puff pastry was vegan, I got really excited). I also know that I could definitely make a difference if I exercised more – luckily I’m in week two of a three-month fitness challenge, so I’m hoping this will help a lot in lowering my levels. I have a lot more articles to read and research to do, but I’m definitely going to focus on my diet and see how much I can lower my cholesterol before my next assessment. High cholesterol is a scary thing and I want to get it under control as soon as possible.
Want to find out more about high cholesterol and its effects? Read The Hard Truth About High Cholesterol.