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Facts about cholesterol

Rohini Diniz 

 

The amount and type of dietary fat consumed by an individual has a great influence on the blood cholesterol levels. The type and amount of carbohydrate in the diet also plays a role. Dietary cholesterol also matters but to a smaller extent.

Even if you have been used to eating an unhealthy diet for years, making a few simple changes in your diet along with exercise, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health. Read along to find out.

Include foods rich in soluble fibre: Foods rich in soluble fibre have been shown to reduce the levels of blood cholesterol by increasing the amount of bile acids excreted in the stools. As bile acids are produced from cholesterol the liver needs to remove more cholesterol from the blood in order to produce bile acids thereby lowering the blood cholesterol levels.

Foods rich in soluble fibre include fruits such as apples, pears, berries, banana, oranges and grapefruit; vegetables such as ladies fingers, brinjals, cluster beans (tidkimidki or gavar), oats, barley, legumes, dals, sprouts; dry fruits particularly prunes; and seeds like falooda seeds, onion seeds, methi seeds, flaxseed and isabgol.

Oats and barley contain a special type of soluble fibre – beta glucan that has been found to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol. Oats also contain a unique antioxidant avenanthramides, that helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol. Oats is the only whole grain that has been recognised by the FDA to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Eliminate trans fats from your diet: Formed during the hydrogenation process of vegetable oils in the manufacture of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO), these fats have been found to be most dangerous for health. Hydrogenated fats and PHVO are extensively used in the preparation of processed foods and bakery products as they improve the texture, flavour, stability and shelf life of these foods. Trans fats are also formed when oils are repeatedly reused for deep frying. Regular consumption of processed foods, bakery products, deep fried snacks and the use of vanaspati instead of pure ghee in chapattis and other dishes could be one of the factors responsible for the sharp rise in heart disease among Indians.

Trans fats raise the levels of bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, lower levels of good HDL cholesterol and appear to damage the cells lining the blood vessels, leading to inflammation which plays a key role in the formation of fatty blockages in the blood vessels. In order to protect the heart one needs to minimise the consumption of ready-to-eat fast foods, bakery foods and processed foods prepared in hydrogenated fats and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and avoid using vanaspati in home cooking.

Restrict intake of dietary cholesterol: Cholesterol is found in animal foods, egg yolk and organ meats such as brain and liver containing very high amounts of it. Some people have high blood cholesterol because they absorb more cholesterol from the diet than others and hence need to restrict their intake of dietary cholesterol. This can be easily done by eating organ meats sparingly and limiting intake of eggs to three eggs per week as part of a healthy diet. Shellfish such as prawns contain some amount of cholesterol and in the past it was believed that people with high cholesterol levels should avoid shell fish. In reality shellfish has a much lower content of cholesterol as compared to red meats and chicken and the real problem is the way in which shellfish is cooked. Shellfish such as prawns are battered and deep fried or are served with melted butter or a mayonnaise-based tartar sauce, both of which can turn a low-fat dish into a high-fat bomb by increasing the total fat and the saturated fat.

 

To be continued. . .

 

(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 19 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on rohinidiniz@gmail.com)

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