What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the walls of cells in all parts of the body, from the nervous system to the liver to the heart. The body uses cholesterol to make hormones, bile acids, vitamin D, and other substances.
The body makes all the cholesterol it needs. Cholesterol circulates in the bloodstream but cannot travel by itself. As with oil and water, cholesterol (which is fatty) and blood (which is watery) do not mix. So cholesterol travels in packages called lipoproteins, which have fat (lipid) inside and protein outside.
The two main types of Lipoproteins are:
■ Low density lipoprotein, or LDL, which also is called the “bad” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to tissues, including the arteries. Most of the cholesterol in the blood is in LDL form. The higher the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood, the greater your risk for heart disease.
■ High density lipoprotein, or HDL, which also is called the “good” cholesterol because it takes cholesterol from tissues to the liver, which removes it from the body. A low level of HDL cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease.
Risk Factors – There are certain modifiable and non- modifiable risk factors:
• Age, sex, family history, ethnicity, genetic susceptibility are all non modifiable.
• Diet, smoking, high blood pressure, excess weight, physical acidity and blood glucose are modifiable.
Types of Fats
- Saturated fat
- Unsaturated fats
- Trans fat
Diets with too much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are the main cause for high levels of blood cholesterol .
Excess weight tends to raise your LDL level and triglycerides. Losing the extra pounds may help lower your LDL and triglycerides, while raising your HDL.
Triglycerides, which are produced in the liver, are another type of fat found in the blood and in food. Causes of raised triglycerides are obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol intake, and a diet very high in carbohydrates(60 percent of calories or higher).
Recent research indicates that triglyceride levels that are borderline high (150–199 mg/dL), high (200–499 mg/dL) may increase your risk for heart disease.
Food Sources – Healthful Tips
- Limit saturated fats under 7% of your total calorie intake and keep trans-fat intake to 0.
- Trim the skin and fat from your poultry and meat and limit food items rich in cholesterol, e.g. eggs yolks, shrimps, etc. Steam, grill, poach, broil or grill your food.
- Increase soluble fibres like oat bran, barley, kidney beans, fruits such as apple, pear with skin etc.
- Choose olive oil spreads and other heart healthy oils for routine consumption.
- Have oily fish at least twice a week.
- Be mindful during snack times, and choose from natural options like veggie sticks, fibre rich oats or fruits.
- Include healthy legumes and pulses in your meals.
- Have planned meal times, with smaller portion of meals.
- Choose whole grain whole food concept for your plate.
- Add natural plant sterols like wheat bran, almonds, olive oil etc. to your diet.
- Other therapeutic items beneficial for cholesterol management are apple cider vinegar, green tea and garlic.
- Quit smoking .
- Research shows that adding soluble fibres to your diet reduces your LDL cholesterol.
- 8 to 10 grams of soluble fibres daily can contribute towards improving LDL levels.
- Please increase the fibres gradually, and start on small amounts since a large amount can result in bloating and gas.
- Make sure to be well hydrated to support the functions of the soluble fibres.
- Examples of foods high in soluble fibre: oat bran, barley, oatmeal, banana, pear, apple, orange, grapefruit, peach, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, broccoli, etc.