Not many decades ago it was discovered a causal link between cholesterol in the diet and cardiovascular disease. Most of us are familiar with the name of drugs used to reduce blood cholesterol levels but not many of us know what to eat or avoid, in order to lower the cholesterol level.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a chemical compound that is naturally produced by the body and is a combination of lipid (fat) and steroid. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes. About 80% of the body’s cholesterol is produced by the liver and intestines, while the rest comes from our diet.
Equally important as the overall level of cholesterol is the relationship between “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL). The more is HDL, the better because at stake is you health.
Let’s see some fundamental principles related to cholesterol:
- Cholesterol generally is found in foods of animal origin (meat, eggs, milk, cheese).
- It is great if you remember this truth. It will be easier for you to know what you can or cannot eat.
- Cholesterol blood has two sources.
- There are two sources of cholesterol: cholesterol exogenously from the diet and cholesterol endogenous, synthesized by the liver. At a superficial analysis that seems to put ourselves in the situation of a lost battle from the beginning. “If I try to eat foods low in cholesterol, the liver compensates for that anyway.” You should know that the liver needs raw materials (saturated fats) to manufacture cholesterol. This cholesterol will be sent as LDL – cholesterol particles which are the type of vessel damaging and leads to atherosclerosis. Saturated fats are found mostly in foods of animal origin: meat, egg yolk, fatty dairy products like butter, cream cheese, etc…
- It’s very easy to eat too much saturated fat.
- You must know that if you want to control blood cholesterol through diet, you must willing to make major changes. Many doctors do not even bother to give diet instructions to patients who have high cholesterol, but simply put them on medication. For short term it seems to be the best way for you. But in time your liver will get tired and if you remember liver is responsible for production of about 80% of HDL (good cholesterol).
- High cholesterol decreases quickly with proper diet.
- Good News: You can see the results of a proper diet in a few weeks.
- Bad News: What’s the point to make a temporary change in diet? A temporary diet means low cholesterol only for short time. You MUST change your habits and make permanent changes in your lifestyle.
- Genes matter. There are people suffering from inherited diseases that alter how the liver synthesizes cholesterol. Once again a proper diet can helps lowering cholesterol. However it isn’t a generally rule and there are situations, fortunately rare, when only a proper diet doesn’t help and the person must resort to medication.
A few words about diet:
1. We should limit the intake of fats of animal origin , although may not be completely eliminated (only turkey breast or chicken breast) and in the same time improve the amount of unsaturated fat in your diet. This does not necessarily mean the need to drink oil. It is enough if we eat sunflower seeds. Similar effects have flex seeds (ground) and olive oil (in salads) and don’t forget nuts and almonds.
2. I encourage you to increase the consumption of marine fish They contain unsaturated omega-3 fats. Omega-3 reduces levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol LDL in the blood and increase the level of good cholesterol HDL.
The richest sources of Omega-3: salmon (preferable sockeye salmon); halibut; herring; cod; mackerel; sardines.
Advice: Two or three times a week, eat fish. It is a good idea to take fish oil capsules twice daily.
3. One of the most successful conquerors cholesterol is dietary fiber. Apple, for example works like a brush, which sweeps from the body fat, reducing absorption of cholesterol. Rich in fibers are oatmeal, lentils, soybeans, green beans, lentils, flax seeds.
If you like to eat bread, my advice is to eat only whole-wheat bread and for the rice only brown rice.
Advice: Use to have for breakfast a hot oatmeal bowl with any kind of berry (blueberry, cranberry, strawberry or raspberry).
4. Garlic. Allicin is a substance found in garlic. It helps lower cholesterol levels by about 10% and also lower blood pressure. Eat every day a clove of garlic. You can find now capsules with garlic extract which are a good alternative to raw garlic (no smelly breath).
5. Juice. A glass of cranberry juice is an excellent source of antioxidants. It prevents the accumulation of cholesterol in the blood vessels. Similar effects are vitamin C and E – you will find them in lettuce, soybeans, green tea, cocoa, red wine and grapefruit.
6. Active lifestyle. Physical activity is one of the best defenses against high cholesterol but before starting any exercise I would recommend a visit to the doctor. In fact, very important is the consistency of exercises not intensity. A walk in a park or forest 4-5 times a week or cycling, running, stationary bike, swimming, aerobics. It depends on your condition, health and train. Do not overdo it, because the effects can be counterproductive. People who had never rehearsed, and in addition have a sedentary lifestyle, should begin cautiously, in a shorter duration, gradually increasing.
For most people, cholesterol is associated with something very harmful, but it is only an excess of harmful cholesterol. Through a proper diet and an active lifestyle the level of your cholesterol will be under control.