Three dietary changes to improve your cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that plays a very important role in your body. Cholesterol is used to build cell membranes and make hormones such as testosterone, oestrogen and adrenal hormones.
Cholesterol is also important for the production of vitamin D and also for producing bile acids that help the body to digest fat and absorb important nutrients.
There are two main types of cholesterol transport systems in the body: Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol carries most of the cholesterol to the cells.
LDL cholesterol is considered the ‘bad’ cholesterol because when the levels are too high in the blood stream, it can clog up the arteries.
High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from the cells (including cells in the arteries) and is considered the ‘good’ cholesterol. The problem with cholesterol is that too much increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
If you have a high cholesterol level of 6.2mmol/l or above, reducing the chance of having a heart attack by 20 per cent to 30 per cent can be achieved by lowering your cholesterol by just 10 per cent.
The three ways to reduce your cholesterol levels with dietary changes are:
- Choose healthy fats to cook with and eat. Saturated fats and trans fats increase the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and lower the protective HDL. High levels of saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat, cream, lard and cheese. Choose low-fat milk and dairy options, cook with unsaturated oils such as olive or vegetable oils, consume more fatty fish (salmon) and snack on nuts and seeds (almonds, peanuts, cashews and sesame seeds).
- Choose whole grain foods over highly processed grains. Whole grain foods include whole-grain wheat (breads, pasta noodles, couscous, bulgur and semolina), whole-grain rye, quinoa, brown rice and whole oats. Many of these foods also contain fibre which help lower LDL levels.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables and reduce highly processed foods and sweets.
By following these three basic food guidelines, along with maintaining a healthy weight and exercising every day, you can reduce cholesterol levels and lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The best advice I can give is to follow these basic guidelines and go to your doctor to have your cholesterol levels checked.