Healthy levels of cholesterol are important for the stable functioning of the body. Follow these dieting tips for lowering cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that makes up cell membranes and participates in the synthesis of sex hormones. Cholesterol is required for the functioning of the brain and, when at healthy levels, it helps the body to absorb fats.

About 80% of this substance is synthesized in the liver (this organ also helps to remove cholesterol from the body) and about 20% of cholesterol comes from food. Healthy levels of cholesterol are important for the stable functioning of the body. When circulating in the bloodstream, excesses of cholesterol tend to stick together, accumulate on the artery walls and form atherosclerotic plaques causing the development of atherosclerosis.

Such plaques impede blood movement creating the obstacles to the blood flow and narrowing the lumen of the vessels which causes reduced blood supply to the organs and tissues. When breaking down, the parts of the plaques contribute to the formation of thrombi and provoke myocardial infarction, stroke, thromboembolism, and can even have fatal consequences.

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A healthy diet is important for people with high cholesterol levels; moreover, it is helpful for the prevention of various diseases including cardiovascular ones. If you have high cholesterol levels, it is worth dividing the food into two main groups:

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  1. Products that help to lower the levels of cholesterol:
    • Lean meat: chicken without skin (for example, chicken breast), turkey, veal, lean beef, etc.;
    • Dairy products with fat content less than 1%: low-fat cheeses, yogurt, sour cream;
    • All fruits and vegetables including frozen ones. Avocado is especially good for those fighting with elevated cholesterol;
    • Whole grains, including whole wheat bread, brown rice, oat bran, and organic oatmeal;
    • Fatty fish, especially salt-water fish (it is rich in healthy unsaturated fats): salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and others;
    • Olive, corn, sunflower or soybean oils, cod-liver oil.

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Products that promote the increase of cholesterol level and thus the development of heart disease:

  • Fatty meat, pork, duck, lunch meats, bacon, sausages, etc.;
  • Fatty dairy products: fatty milk, ice cream, cream, and cheeses with the fat content over 30%;
  • French fries, chips, fast food, etc.;
  • Canned fruit with added sugar;
  • Pastries, white bread, cakes, pancakes, and donuts;
  • Juices with added sugar, hot chocolate, alcohol, soft drinks;
  • Butter, margarine, lard, mayo, fatty sauces.

American Heart Association provides some recommendations concerning a heart-healthy diet that can help to lower the levels of blood cholesterol. A balanced daily diet should include the following:

  • 6-8 portions of whole-wheat bread or cereals;
  • 2-4 portions of fresh fruit;
  • 3-5 portions of fresh or frozen vegetables;
  • 1-2 portions of lean meat, poultry, fish or beans;
  • 2 portions of low-fat dairy products;
  • Daily calorie intake should not exceed 2500 calories, with less than 30% of fats.

There are some dietary tips that can help to maintain heart health:

  • It is worth reducing alcohol consumption. It is been reported that even small amounts of alcohol can elevate the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. If you still choose to drink, lower the amount of alcohol in your drink by adding non-caloric beverages such as tonic water, seltzer, or soda.
  • To lower the levels of cholesterol, it is recommended to change the type of fat you eat – avoid or limit the foods containing trans or saturated fats (ice cream, whole milk, cheese, fast food, butter, commercial baked goods like donuts, cookies, pies, muffins, etc.), and switch to the foods with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (nuts, olive oil, sardines, salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel).
  • Enriching your diet with spices. They not only help to improve the flavor of your food, but some of them can be a good part of a cholesterol-lowering diet. Thus, thyme oil, turmeric, ginger, red cayenne pepper are believed to stabilize fat in the membranes of the cells, promoting decreased triglycerides which help to reduce the level of cholesterol as well.
  • Frying should be replaced with healthier cooking techniques – baking, steaming, boiling, and grilling. Fried foods are often very high in fat, and especially trans fats, since they are cooked in fat.
  • Nuts are believed to lower cholesterol as well. Consuming at least 150g of nuts can help to reduce the risk of coronary arteries disease; and therefore, prevent a heart attack. Nuts (walnuts and almonds, in particular) are rich in arginine, magnesium, folic acid, plant sterols, vitamin E, and other substances that are good for the health of the blood vessels and heart.
  • Lowering the consumption of sugar can be helpful. Certain studies report that increased consumption of sugar is linked to increased level of ‘bad’ cholesterol and reduced level of ‘good’ cholesterol. Added sugar usually hides in sweet drinks and processed foods.
  • Adding high-fiber foods to your diet. The indigestible parts of plants work as a sponge and bind to cholesterol, which helps to remove the excesses of cholesterol from the bloodstream. High-fiber foods include oats, wholemeal bread, barley, leafy green vegetables, beans, fruits with a tough skin.

Post submitted by: Richard Johnson

Written by Chief Health

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