Cholesterol, a waxy substance carried in your blood, is vital to good health. However, too much cholesterol can clog blood vessels and lead to a heart attack. for improved health, start by understanding cholesterol's role - good and bad - inside your body.
- The liver makes as much cholesterol as most people need. However, a diet high in saturated fat can cause the liver to raise total blood cholesterol too high. The worst culprits are fatty meals and high-fat dairy products.
- Blood cholesterol, created by the liver, travels in the blood vessels throughout the body. It is carried inside suitcase-like molecules called "lipoproteins." There are several types but the two tied to heart disease are LDL's and HDL's.
- LDL - "Bad" Cholesterol
The cholesterol carried in low-density lipoproteins (LDL's) is known as "bad" cholesterol. LDL's cause gradual cholesterol buildup inside the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. You want to keep you LDL level low.
- HDL - "Good" Cholesterol
The cholesterol carried in high-density lipoproteins (HDL's) is known as "good" cholesterol. HDL's help reduce cholesterol deposits in the arteries, keeping the artery walls clean. This helps prevent heart disease. You want to keep your HDL level high.
Here are some ideas to help lower your blood cholesterol:
1. Keep your saturated fat intake low. Saturated fat is found in all animal foods, especially fatty meats and high-fat dairy products, coconut or palm oils, and "partially hydrogenated" oils
2. Use unsaturated fats in small amounts. These fats include mono unsaturated fats (ca nola and Olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (safflower, sunflower, corn oils and many margarines).
3. Limit dietary cholesterol to 300 milligrams daily. Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal foods and dairy products and is especially high in egg yolks and organ meats like liver. Refer to the food label to find the amount of cholesterol per serving.
4. Cook with flavor - not fat. Leave out the fat by trimming visible fat from meat and remove skin from poultry. Steam, microwave, poach or broil foods without butter or sauces. Saute foods in non stick cook ware, or use a light coating of vegetable oil spray. Chill soups and stews and then remove the fat that congeals on top.
Stock up on flavorful spices and seasonings such as fresh herbs, garlic, fresh ginger, chilies, lime or lemon juice, mustard and flavored vinegars. Poach fish or skinless poultry in broth, dry wine or herbs. Try salsa to spice up lean fish, chicken or vegetables. Use herbs or butter-flavored granules on pasta or vegetables instead of butter or rich sauces.
5. Try low-fat recipe make overs. Use nonfat yogurt or fat-free mayonnaise to make salad dressings and sauces. Substitute two egg whites for a whole egg. Use ground turkey breast instead of high-fat ground beef. Thicken soups and sauces with pureed vegetables or rice instead of cream. Use mustard instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches. Use non-fat plain yogurt on chicken before breading.
6. Get a boost from exercise. Becoming more physically active is one of the few things you can do the raise "good" HDL cholesterol levels. An active lifestyle also help to control your weight and gives you more energy. Try brisk walking, biking or swimming.
7. Control your weight. If you're overweight, even modest weight loss (as little as five pounds) helps to lower your blood cholesterol. To lose weight safely and keep it off, make long-term changes in your daily eating and exercise habits.
8. Take medications, if prescribed. Along with changes in diet and exercise, your doctor may prescribe medications to control your blood cholesterol. Be sure to continue with a low fat diet and exercise regularly.
9. Stop smoking. Quitting will boost your "good" HDL cholesterol and is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease.