Healthy Cholesterol Levels

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol deposits itself on the walls of your arteries, forming plaques that make them hard and narrow. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or “good” cholesterol removes excess LDL in your blood and brings it to your liver for disposal. The more HDL you consume, the less LDL you’ll have in your blood.

How to maintain healthy cholesterol levels:

  • It has been found that loosing weight can help reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Increase your physical activity level, and slowly work changes in: moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. Note: If you are unwell or have a diagnosed medical condition, please consult your healthcare or medical practitioner before beginning an exercise program.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods; making a few changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Some types of fish — such as salmon, mackerel and herring — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseeds.
  • Saturated fats, found in red meat and dairy products, raise your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.
  • Eliminate trans fats. Trans fat can be found in fried foods and many commercial baked products, such as cakes, sweet or savoury biscuits and potato chips.
  • Eat only whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat flour and brown rice.
  • Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably organically grown). Fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fibre, which can help lower cholesterol.

ScientificAmerican.com reports that a five-year Insulin Resistance Athersclerosis Study showed that people whose diets contain the most whole grains “had the thinnest carotid artery walls and showed the slowest progression in artery wall thickness. The findings suggest that whole grain consumption is a “wholesome and palatable opportunity” to reduce heart disease and atherosclerosis risk.

The Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) top 5 foods to lower your cholesterol levels:

  • Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fibre foods: Oatmeal contains soluble fibre, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. Soluble fibre is also found in such foods as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes. Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fibre a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol.
  • Fish and omega-3 fatty acids: Eating fatty fish can be heart-healthy because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. In people who have already had heart attacks, fish oil — or omega-3 fatty acids — reduces the risk of sudden death. Doctors recommend eating at least two servings of fish a week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in: Mackerel, Lake trout, Herring, Sardines, Salmon and Halibut. Bake or grill the fish to avoid adding unhealthy fats. If you don’t like fish, you can also get small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from foods like ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil.
  • Walnuts, almonds and nuts: Walnuts, almonds and other nuts can reduce blood cholesterol. Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, walnuts also help keep blood vessels healthy. According to the (American) Food and Drug Administration, eating about a handful (1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams) a day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts, may reduce your risk of heart disease. Make sure the nuts you eat aren’t salted or coated with sugar and only eat a handful daily. A Penn State study showed that eating pistachios significantly lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed eating walnuts after a high-fat meal might protect your heart. Omega-3 fats and antioxidants in nuts work to reverse the arterial damage caused by saturated fats.
  • Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol but leave your “good” (HDL) cholesterol untouched. The Food and Drug Administration recommends using about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day in place of other fats in your diet to get its heart-healthy benefits.
  • Foods with added plant sterols: Foods are now available that have been fortified with sterols — substances found in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol. Margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks with added plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10 percent. The amount of daily plant sterols needed for results is at least 2 grams — which equals about two 8-ounce (237-millilitre) servings of plant sterol-fortified orange juice a day.

Other changes to your diet:

Try drinking pomegranate juice — a National Academy of Sciences study showed that pomegranate juice reduces cholesterol plaque buildup and increases nitric oxide production (nitric oxide helps reduce arterial plaque). Pomegrante juice is rich in antioxidants that can keep bad LDL cholesterol from oxidising (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2000). More recent research has found that eight ounces (236.5mls) of pomegranate juice daily for three months improved the amount of oxygen getting to the heart muscle of patients with coronary heart disease (American Journal of the College of Cardiology, Sept. 2005).

Researchers are finding that eating an apple daily may help keep your cholesterol levels down. Additionally, it has been found that apples also contain a wide variety of healthy chemicals, such as polyphenols, pectin and other types of healthy fibre.

Eat avocados – 26 of the 30 grams of fat in an avocado are heart-healthy, unsaturated fats that can increase your levels of HDL cholesterol.

For any of the above foods to provide a benefit to your health, you need to make other changes to your diet and lifestyle. Cut back on saturated and trans fats in your diet. Saturated fats, like those in meat, full-fat dairy products and some oils, raise your total cholesterol. Trans fats, which are sometimes found in margarines and store-bought biscuits and cakes, are particularly bad for your cholesterol levels. Trans fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol.

References:

The Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com.

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