How diet changes lower cholesterol
If your cholesterol levels are high, the first thing you should do is to consult a physician as some diseases raise cholesterol levels in the blood, especially blood LDL (a type of blood lipid which has higher percentage of cholesterol in it) levels. If no such disease is present, diet changes are advised.
Approaches for lowering LDL levels through dietary modification
Include these nutrients in your diet to see positive changes in your cholesterol levels:
1. Increase intake of dietary calcium: Some studies show a fall in LDL cholesterol when calcium intake increases from 400mg/day to 1000mg/day. The calcium binds with the fatty acids in the intestine and is excreted out. Thus, cholesterol is prevented from being absorbed in the blood.
Calcium rich foods
· Animal products: Milk, curd, cheese, egg, meat, bone soup and seafood
· Plant products: Soya milk, soya bean, tofu, broccoli, spinach, kale, turnip leaves, all leafy vegetables and cabbage
2. Anti-oxidants: The vitamins A, C and E will not directly play a role in the body in lowering LDL levels but they act as anti-oxidants and protect the heart from heart disease by preventing oxidation of LDL cholesterol which is already present in the blood.
Good sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, leafy green vegetables, nuts, whole-grain products. Fruits and vegetables such as oranges, strawberries, broccoli and sweet red peppers are high in vitamin C. Foods rich in vitamin A are red pepper, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, dark green leafy vegetables, lettuce, yellow/orange melons, papaya, dried apricots, mangoes, green peas, tomatoes, peaches, whole milk and fortified skim milk and cereals.
3. Soy compounds: Phytosterols and dietary fibre present in soy products are likely to reduce cholesterol absorption from the intestine, while the soy protein present may prevent cholesterol production in the body. Soy milk, soy nuggets and soya beans are sources of soy phytosterols.
4. Tocotrienols: The compounds of Vitamin E class reduce cholesterol synthesis in the body. Spinach, almonds, turnip greens and bell peppers are rich in Vitamin E.
5. Red wine: Phenolic substances in red wine may act as antioxidants and reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation which aggravates heart disease.
6. Oats: This is a rich soluble fibre cereal playing an important role in lowering LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. It binds dietary fatty acids and prevents their absorption in the intestine.
It helps maintain blood insulin levels by delaying the digestion process unlike refined cereals that cause an immediate rise in insulin levels. High insulin levels in the blood will increase cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Hence, fibre rich plant foods like whole grains, fruits and greens can be included in the diet daily.
7. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat intake: Studies show that both mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet help to lower LDL cholesterol levels. However, monounsaturated fats may be more beneficial as they are more stable and will not cause oxidation of LDL which is responsible for heart disease.
Sources of monounsaturated fats are canola oil, mustard oil, olive and peanut oil. Polyunsaturated fats are rich in safflower, sunflower, soya bean oil and corn.
The author is a consultant nutritionist and guest lecturer for ISSA
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