Kefir is an increasingly popular fermented milk beverage that has been linked to a variety of health benefits. Unlike most dairy products, kefir contains a nominal quantity of cholesterol, and the regular consumption of kefir products fortified with phytosterol and stanol compounds may actually reduce the amount of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. For best results, talk to your doctor about the impact that drinking kefir may have on your cholesterol levels.
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Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that occurs naturally throughout the body. While healthy in small amounts, diet and other lifestyle factors can increase your cholesterol levels to the point that plaque begins to form on the walls of your arteries. A high level of LDL cholesterol – often referred to as bad cholesterol – is the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes that incur from narrowed blood arteries, according to the American Heart Association. HDL, or good cholesterol, is higher in density and can actually protect the body against a heart attack. Individuals with HDL cholesterol levels lower than 40 mg/dL have a considerably higher risk of heart disease.
Kefir and Cholesterol
While the consumption of dairy products is generally discouraged for individuals suffering from high cholesterol, kefir plays a beneficial role in reducing LDL cholesterol levels. Kefir drinks enriched with the plant-based compounds phytosterol and stanol lower levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood, according to studies cited in the “LA Times." Although the consumption of non-enriched kefir may also play a beneficial role on lowering cholesterol, studies have been less conclusive than those on the effects of enriched kefir beverages.
Gauging Your Cholesterol
Maintaining safe limits on your cholesterol levels is vital for sustaining a healthy lifestyle. The Mayo Clinic recommends having your LDL and HDL cholesterol levels tested regularly to determine the amount of milligrams per deciliter of cholesterol that is in your blood. Individuals with amounts of 200 mg/dL of LDL cholesterol or lower are considered to be maintaining a desirable level, while individuals with 239 mg/dL or higher are considered at risk. Similarly, individuals with HDL cholesterol levels of 40 mg/dL or below are considered at high risk, while those with levels of 60 mg/dL or higher are considered desirable.
While adding a daily cup of enriched kefir may have an impact on your LDL cholesterol levels, the best way to manage high cholesterol is to adopt a healthy diet and exercise schedule. Talk to your doctor about the best cholesterol treatment programs for your body.