Diets high in total fat, cholesterol and saturated fats contribute to high blood cholesterol. Both, the amount and the type of fat influence blood cholesterol. All fats are composed of either saturated or unsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids can be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids. Food fats generally contain a mix of all these kinds of fatty acids. It is primarily the saturated fats that are linked to higher blood cholesterol levels.
Dietary cholesterol is the cholesterol found in the food we eat. All animal food products contain some cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol seems to contribute to higher blood cholesterol when consumed in large amounts along with saturated fats. People differ in their ability to handle cholesterol in the diet because the level at which our body manufactures cholesterol also varies. Even if we do not eat any cholesterol, the liver would manufacture enough to meet the body’s needs.
The most effective way to lower blood cholesterol is to eat less saturated fat and avoid food products rich in cholesterol.
How to Raise HDL Cholesterol (Good Cholesterol)?
A low level of HDL (less than 35mg/dL) is considered as a risk factor, even if your total cholesterol is within limits, i.e. your risk of heart disease is elevated. You can increase the level of HDL by the following:
- Eat half a raw onion a day raises HDL (good) cholesterol an average of 25 percent in most people with cholesterol problems.
- Eat at least two servings of foods high in soluble fiber.
- Use oils higher in monounsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil. It is found that monounsaturated fats raise HDL levels.
- Increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, cold pressed flaxseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, dark green vegetables, etc.
- Eat at least two serving of Soya (phytoestrogens) products. Tofu, tempeh, and TVP (texturized vegetables protein) may help raise HDL levels. Include at least two servings each day.
- Avoid Trans fatty acids i.e. hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening. Choose a liquid or semi soft variety of margarine in your diet Trans fatty acids are found in and many fast foods and French fries, baked goods such as cookies, crackers and cakes. Remember, the softer the spread, the less Trans fat it contains.
- Avoid redefined carbohydrates like sugar and redefined flour. These have shown to raise blood cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Avoid food sources of cholesterol such as egg yolk, liver, kidney, brains, etc. Fish have an abundance of omega 3 fatty acids, which provide added protection against cardio vascular diseases
- Avoid high fat dairy products such as regular milk, cheese and cream.
- Reduce alcohols intake. However, alcohol (wine or beer) in moderation may raise HDL levels. However, if you do not drink, don’t start to raise HDL, it is not a medicine.
- Do aerobic exercise (brisk walking, jogging, etc.) every alternate day. Take off excess weight, carrying even a few extra kilos can significantly increase total cholesterol
Controlling your cholesterol is absolutely essential to lowering your risk of atherosclerosis, stroke and heart attacks. Though medication may be required, wise nutrition is a very effective weapon for putting cholesterol in proper balance.