Published: 03/11/2016 - Updated: 06/20/2017
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
Cholesterol is necessary for the functioning of the body, however its excess, known as hypercholesterolemia, may produce a higher risk of developing heart disease.
There are two types of cholesterol, low density or LDL and high density or HDL. It is the first type which relates to higher risks of heart disease because LDL cholesterol, when there is an excess in the body, can become deposited on the wall of the arteries and this is when it can cause a risk. Meanwhile, HDL is known as good cholesterol because of its properties and functions in the body.
As it is an asymptomatic condition, hypercholesterolemia may go unnoticed and often requires controls in order to detect levels of blood cholesterol.
Hypercholesterolemia is considered to be levels above 200 mg/dl total cholesterol in the blood,while the higher levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood should not exceed 100 mg/dl to avoid risks in our health.
Sources of cholesterol
Although we associate it with our diet, food is not the only source of cholesterol in our body. In fact, our body produces it naturally in the liver to assist in the body ‘s functions, and it is known as an endogenous pathway. However, the cholesterol which we ingest in our diet is known as exogenous and clearly contributes to the total amount of cholesterol levels in our body.
It is recommended to maintain a balanced and healthy diet to help lower blood cholesterol levels. Here are some tips and advice on ways you can achieve this:
- Low fat: It is recommended to avoid eating excessive amounts of fats and opt for cooking methods like grilling, boiling and steaming. Try to avoid frying and breading your food.
- Vegetable fats: A good example is extra virgin olive oil, which is suitable for a diet to lower cholesterol levels. Other sources of fat are good quality oily seeds, such as walnuts.
- Reduce saturated and trans fats: Saturated fats are usually from animal origin, such as lard and butter, and they are solid at room temperature. Hydrogenated fats are those which are naturally liquids at room temperature but undergo a hydrogenation process in order to become solid, such as margarine.
- Include plant-based foods: Fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre and fruit pectin can help reduce excesses of LDL. It is advisable to consume fruits and raw or al dente vegetables, because in this way they retain their healthy properties.
- Include whole foods: Try to include whole grains and cereals in your diet as they are a rich source of fibre. For example, try to choose brown rice and whole wheat bread instead of their refined versions, i.e. white bread and white rice. In addition, try to limit your consumption of refined products such as pastries.
- Include vegetable proteins: Beans, lentils and soybeans, for example, are legumes which are rich in vegetable protein, a source of lean protein.
- Include white meat: Consumption of skinless chicken and fish is recommended. In the case of fish, it contains lots of oils which are highly beneficial to our body.
- Egg: This is a high–cholesterol food located in the yolk, so it is not recommended to eat more than three eggs per week at the very most.
- Include skimmed dairy products: Skimmed milk, cheese and low-fat yoghurt are all good choices.
- Simple sugars: Besides carbohydrates, simple sugars such as white sugar, sweets and cakes, among others do not provide other nutrients to the body.
Here are some other recommendations to go along with a balanced diet in order to live a healthier lifestyle.
- No cigarettes: Several studies have linked smoking with high levels of LDL and even argues that only by abandoning this habit can we raise our levels of HDL.
- Regular physical activity: It has been demonstrated that regular physical activity can help raise levels of HDL in the blood, and thus reduce LDL.
- Reduce your stress levels: Anxiety and stress can promote high levels of blood cholesterol, so it is recommended to use techniques to decrease stress in your day-to-day life.
- Avoid alcohol: It has been shown that regular consumption of alcohol can promote high levels of blood cholesterol, so it is recommended to moderate your consumption.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 06/20/2017
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