Cholesterol; The Good And The Bad And The Fatty
Cholesterol in our bloodstream is made up of a mixture of fats and proteins called lipoproteins; there are three main types. LDL Cholesterol is the bad stuff as it tends to build up that lining in our arteries and so risks the blockage that kills us through heart attack or stroke before we have a chance to draw our pension. HDL Cholesterol is the good stuff in that it’s believed to strip away LDL from the arteries and take it back to the liver where it’s broken down before being passed out the body.
Triglycerides are our basic fat storage within the body. High triglyceride levels result from excess calories in our diet for the exercise that we do.
If we have high triglyceride levels, combined with low HDL and high LDL levels, then this increases our risk of heart attack or stroke. It also makes us more susceptible to conditions such as transient ischaemic attack (a ‘mini stroke TIA’) – or peripheral arterial disease – a nasty, debilitating condition often resulting in open sores, ulcers and gangrene in the legs, which can lead onto amputation if things get too bad.
If we are diagnosed with high cholesterol, therefore, then it’s got to be a good idea to adjust our diet to encourage HDL and discourage LDL and excess triglycerides. That means cutting down on foods rich in saturated fats and sugars but also trying to incorporate foods such as those from the list below which are known for their pro-HDL and anti-LDL qualities. Those foods are …
- Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel.
- Seeds and nuts – particularly almonds, walnuts, peanuts (but not salted).
- Olive oil, sunflower and rapeseed oil.
- Fruit and vegetables in general but particularly apples, strawberries, grapes, eggplant and okra.
- Wholegrain bread, rice and pasta.
- Barley and other whole grains.
- Soy products.
The more we can switch saturated fats and sugars in our diet for these foods above the healthier our cholesterol will be.
Someone’s Bound To Ask It. Couldn’t I Just Forget About All The Boring Stuff Above And Instead Have Some Of That
Margarine & Yoghurt Advertised On The Telly As Lowering Cholesterol?
You, my dear colleague, can do whatever floats your boat but bear in mind the following. One of the reasons why many of the foods described above will lower your cholesterol is because they contain plant sterols and stanols. It was always a logical step therefore for food manufacturers, casting an eye over an increasingly tubby, fat-obsessed, population, to develop products fortified with these components and advertise them as being designed to lower your cholesterol. A quick ten-minute review of the research, however, will tell you that there is some debate as to whether it would be better to obtain your plant sterol and stanol fix via whole foods as opposed to these fortified ones. I would suggest, therefore, that you first seek advice from your doctor before going down this route.
For a fully discussion on the subject of healthy eating, please see the book … in fact, buy a copy – treat yourself!