Cholesterol and triglycerides are fatty substances that can be found in the blood. There are 2 types of cholesterol:
(1) Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which is sometimes referred to as BAD cholesterol because it increases your risk of coronary heart disease (2) High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is the GOOD cholesterol because it protects you against coronary heart disease
Triglycerides travel through your blood and are also stored as fat deposits in your body. High levels of triglycerides are common in people with high cholesterol, and in people who are overweight and have heart disease and/or diabetes.
LDL cholesterol accumulates along your artery walls, forming plaque and narrowing your arteries. HDL cholesterol then comes along and tries to clean it up.
So usually when you get a blood test the doctors will check both your total cholesterol and your HDL cholesterol levels and then sometimes they will calculate a ratio by dividing the total cholesterol by the HDL cholesterol. The lower this ratio…the better off you are when it comes to heart disease.
So by limiting your intake of fatty foods (foods high in saturated and trans fats) and high cholesterol foods and by keeping active you can have a dramatic impact on your cholesterol levels.
Foods that contain saturated fats are mainly full fat dairy products, fatty meats, butter and coconut and palm oil, deep fried take aways and commercially bakes products such as biscuits and pastries. Cholesterol containing foods are mainly animal products such as offal, fatty meats, egg yolks, some seafood, etc. Being overweight and drinking alcohol also raises blood triglycerides levels.
But I recently came across some other information out there (Book: “What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine May Be Killing You” by Dr Ray Strand) that suggests that LDL cholesterol is really not “bad”. According to this book, native LDL cholesterol (the stuff your body makes) is good. It is needed for building cell membranes and many hormones that our bodies need.
The only problem with LDL is apparently due to modifications by free radicals…or oxidation of the LDL cholesterol. Due to the fact that the LDL is modified, the normal cleaning up and repair process for the arteries no longer functions properly resulting in fatty streaks in the artery walls and leading to atherosclerosis.
Apparently in 1997 a researcher Dr Marco Diaz reviewed a lot of medical studies and concluded that patients with the highest level of antioxidants (which combat free radicals) in their bodies had the least amount of coronary heart disease. Apparently the anti-oxidants stop the LDL cholesterol from becoming "bad".
So maybe this could be an underlying factor in our previous article that spoke about how Berries are “berry” good for your heart.
Aside from increasing your anti-oxidant intake you should still try to base your eating pattern on the following (according to the Heart Foundation handouts):
1. Use margarine spreads instead of butter or dairy blends (if you must use them at all) 2. Use a variety of oils for cooking such as canola, sunflower, soybean 3. Choose low or reduced fat milk and yoghurt. Try to limit cheese and ice-cream to twice a week 4. Have fish at least twice a week (even canned is okay) 5. Select lean meat cuts and limit fatty meats (including sausages and salami) 6. Snack on plain unsalted nuts and fresh fruit 7. Incorporate dried pease, beans and or lentils into two meals a week 8. Make veges the main part of your meal and choose wholegrain based foods. 9. Try to limit take-away foods to once a week. 10. Try to limit snack foods such as potato crisps and corn crisps to once per week. 11. Try to limit cakes, pastries and biscuits to once a week. 12. Try to limit cholesterol rich foods such as egg yolks and offal (e.g liver, kidney and brains)
Be active EVERY day. At least 30 minutes of moderately intense activity (such as brisk walking)... this can be accumulated in shorter bouts e.g 3 x 10 minutes.
Aim to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. (See healthy eating and exercise)
If you follow these steps you should be well on your way to improving your cholesterol situation and don’t forget you should always speak to your doctor about any health concerns.
Coming Soon...I will be doing an article on the impact of margarines on cholesterol...do some margarines bring your cholesterol levels down?