Eating cholesterol – the issues

November 12, 2012

Eating cholesterol – the issues

Cholesterol is needed and manufactured by the human body to function normally but it is becoming very common for many of us to have too much cholesterol. There are two types, one is known as ‘good cholesterol’ the other is ‘bad cholesterol’. High density lipoprotein (HDL) is ‘good’ and low density lipoprotein (LDL) is bad. However in reality they both serve an important purpose. It’s the amount of LDL which is bad, not the LDL. This is where our diets come in. The foods we eat have a direct bearing on how much cholesterol our bodies have. The body will always make its own cholesterol but by eating fatty foods you can cause the level to go high, by eating healthier then the level remains moderate.

For the cholesterol to move around our body it must first be encased in proteins. That’s where the LDL and HDL come in. The LDL moves the cholesterol to where it is required by the body and any extra that was not needed is returned to the liver by the HDL. It is then eliminated from the body or broken down. But if there is too much cholesterol the body cannot eliminate it all. This can then lead to a build up of fat in the arteries. This increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes over time.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver and a diet with high amounts of saturated fat can increase its level. In the UK the recommended level is 5mmol/litre. In England the average level for men is 5.5mmol/l and in women the average is 5.6mmol/l.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is low in saturated fat can help prevent high cholesterol levels in your body. It is widely accepted that eating too much fatty food is the most common cause of high cholesterol.

Healthy Foods

A healthy diet with lower amounts of saturated fats can significantly help reduce cholesterol in the blood and hence decrease the risk of narrowed arteries.

Foods high in saturated fat which increases the risk of heart disease include butter, hard cheese, red and processed meat, fatty meat, biscuits, cakes, cream, lard, suet, ghee, coconut oil and palm oil.

Including a small amount of unsaturated fat in your diet can be healthy as this type of fat can reduce cholesterol. Some suitable foods that are high in unsaturated fats include olive oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, nuts and seeds (walnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds), and oily fish like herring, mackerel, pilchards, sardines, salmon and fresh tuna. Some margarines and spreads are ok too. Rapeseed oil is best for high temperatures, such as roasting or frying but olive oil is tastier and can be used to add flavour as a salad dressing.

How to reduce your cholesterol level

Avoid all foods with saturated fats, use small amounts of unsaturated fats. Eat more fruit and vegetables instead of fatty foods like crisps, cakes and biscuits. Oily fish are great providers of omega-3 fats. These are good because they can assist in the reduction of fatty deposits in the blood. This can reduce the risk of blood clots. Have a meal with oily fish once a week.

Foods high in soluble fibre such as porridge, beans, pulses, lentils, fruits and vegetables are all low fat and can help lower cholesterol. It has also been found out that the cholesterol present in eggs, liver, kidneys and prawns don’t have a great effect on cholesterol levels. The saturated fat content of foods causes the problems. If you need to reduce your cholesterol level, the way to do it is by eating foods that are low in saturated fat.

Margarines, yoghurts and milk drinks can have sterols and stanols added to them and these can also reduce cholesterol. But a word of caution, it’s still important to follow a healthy diet, even if you do eat sterol-enriched foods.

Keep active

It is known that doing an activity or sport can help to lower cholesterol levels. The activity, to be useful must make you warmer and a little breathless but you must still be able to converse. To show benefits you must do at least two and a half hours a week. A good idea is five 30 minute sessions, if that is too much for you then break the 30 minute sessions into two 15 minute or three 10 minute sessions. Any activity such as low-impact brisk walks, cycling or swimming is good. If your fitness level is good enough, why don’t you try more vigorous exercise in the form of running or dancing? This is all it takes for you to feel the health benefits. And a bit of good news if you are a couch potato, it has been said that inactive people achieve more immediate benefits from taking up exercise than those who are already fit.

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