Cholesterol is an organic compound that our body produces to help build cell membranes and produce hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. Most of the cholesterol required for our bodily processes are naturally produced by our liver. The rest is obtained from dairy products, meat, eggs, fish, poultry and other such dietary sources.
The liver regulates our body cholesterol. After we consume it as part of our diet, our small intestines absorb and metabolize it and then stores it in the liver.
The liver secretes this as and when required by the body. An excess of cholesterol is harmful for our body, as it collects in deposits along the interior walls of our arteries and causes them to narrow.
When our arteries narrow, the blood flow in our body decreases. In the case that this plaque ruptures, a blood clot may form that will stem blood flow completely. The clot so formed, can be the reason you suffer a myocardial infarction or heart attack if it happens to occur in any of the coronary arteries of the heart. Doctors and dietitians encourage us to consume a low cholesterol diet for this very reason.
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Types of Cholesterol
You may have heard of the “good” kind and the “bad” kind – but what exactly makes cholesterol good or bad? Let’s learn below. Cholesterol is predominantly of two kinds.
LDL or Low-Density Lipoprotein is what is known as “bad” cholesterol. Excessive LDL can be extremely detrimental for your body as it predisposes you to health complications such as a stroke or heart disease. Cholesterol that contains protein levels which are even lesser than LDLs are called VLDLs or Very Low-Density Lipoproteins.
HDL or High-Density Lipoprotein, functions to remove cholesterol from our bloodstream. If you test high for cholesterol, but it’s because your HDL level is high, you have little reason to worry about your health. High HDL in your body is a safeguard against heart/arterial diseases and strokes.
Triglycerides are another fat component type in our blood that we should be careful for. When we eat more calories than our body needs, these calories get converted to triglycerides. Triglycerides can add to plaque buildup along our arteries if we possess more LDL in our blood than we do HDL. Eating a low cholesterol diet can help control our cholesterol levels by lowering LDL and triglyceride content and improving HDL ratio in our blood.
Your cholesterol level can determine your risk of developing heart disease. These levels cannot be measured uniformly, as it differs across age, gender and weight. As we grow older, our body produces more cholesterol. It is generally measured to yield individual results for the amount of total cholesterol content, LDL and HDL content. We should aim to keep both our total cholesterol and LDL content low. A high HDL level, on the other hand, as already discussed, is effective in preventing heart diseases at bay.
Kids are usually not at risk of having high cholesterol, but it is essential to monitor and keep it low all the same. A sustained period of unmanaged cholesterol can be incredibly challenging to treat. It has been noticed that men tend to have higher cholesterol levels. Women, however, tend to experience high levels of cholesterol during their menopause.
Cholesterol Levels for Children
- Children should ideally have a total cholesterol level below 170mg/dL. A reading of 170 to 199mg/dL is considered borderline and upwards of 200 is thought to put them at serious health risk.
- LDL levels in children should not exceed 110mg/dL. A reading of 110-129mg/dL is considered borderline. LDL amounting to above 130mg/dL is considered high.
Cholesterol Level for Adults
- A healthy adult would have a total cholesterol level below 200mg/dL. Total cholesterol content between 200-239 mg/dL is considered borderline high, and a measurement exceeding 240mg/dL is considered high and a cause for concern.
- The LDL content in an adult should be within 100mg/dL. A reading up to 129mg/dL is considered alright for individuals with no predisposal to heart conditions. When the LDL measurement falls between 129mg/dL and 159mg/dL, you are considered to have borderline high LDL content. 160-189mg/dL is thought to be high, and reading beyond 190mg/dL is believed to be very high LDL blood cholesterol concentration.
- Adults should aim to keep their HDL content at a minimum of 40mg/dL. Any lesser is thought to contribute to a risk of developing heart disease. An HDL reading of 41-59 mg/dL is considered borderline low in adults. Ideally, as an adult, you should have HDL content around 60mg/dL or higher.
High cholesterol symptoms can often not be very apparent. As a result, you could have high cholesterol and not even know it. A body high in it stores the excess cholesterol in the arteries.
These arteries are responsible for carrying blood from our heart to the rest of our body. Cholesterol buildup in our bodies is called plaque. As time passes, these plaques become hardened, pressing down on our arteries. If your body accumulates large deposits of these plaques, your arteries could get blocked.
Additionally, these plaques could sometimes split open and form a blood clot that stops the standard passage of blood. Artery blockage, in the case of arteries that supply blood to your heart muscles, could spur on a heart attack. If the same happens for an artery that supplies blood to your brain, you could end up suffering from a stroke.
The tricky part about having high cholesterol is that you might not even suspect you have it unless you are subject to any of these near-fatal events. The symptoms indicating it are subtle and evade detection, making excessive body cholesterol content difficult to diagnose.
Diet to Reduce Cholesterol
Making a few changes to the diet you follow on a daily basis can reduce cholesterol levels to a great extent. Why resort to drug therapy, when you can achieve the same results by going on a TLC diet instead? A TLC or Therapeutic Lifestyle Change Diet is a diet low in trans and saturated fats and high in soluble fibres and proteins.
The TLC diet is an effective way to reduce cholesterol levels. If you get on this diet, you are supposed to consume less than 7% of your total calorie requirement from saturated fats and intake dietary cholesterol below 200 milligrams. You are encouraged to up your fruit, whole grain, vegetable, poultry, fish, lean meat and low-fat dairy product intake as part of the TLC diet.
Individuals on the TLC diet are advised to only consume as many calories as they require, to avoid unnecessary weight gain. You are asked to maintain a healthy weight on this diet. Soluble fibers, which have LDL-lowering capabilities are advised for consumption as part of the diet.
If you or your loved one are at risk of high cholesterol, you should take proactive steps to reduce itsl levels in your body. You could do so by limiting the total fat intake in your diet to less than 25-35% of your overall daily calorie requirement and eating cholesterol-reducing foods. Try to restrict trans fat intake to less than 1% of the same measurement. Eating healthy fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, found in oily fish, unsalted nuts, vegetable oils and seeds are encouraged.
Cholesterol reducing foods such as high fibre food, I.e. bran, oatmeal, olive oil, pear, apples and food with plant sterol additives are healthy food items that you should include in your daily diet to keep the problem at bay. Ideally, one must follow a balanced diet to ensure no unnecessary weight gain so that you can keep your cholesterol levels down. Learn more about the ideal diet plan for you here.
Best Foods for Cholesterol Diet
Heart disease kills millions of people around the world every year. Eating cholesterol-reducing foods is a must for good heart health. High LDL levels increase your risk of heart disease. In order to maintain a balanced range, you must make a habit of eating the following foods.
1. Almonds and Walnuts
Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are high in monounsaturated fats. Walnuts also possess a high Omega-3 fatty acid content, which is a polyunsaturated fat that is beneficial for our heart health.
Nuts also tend to contain phytosterols which prevent cholesterol absorption in our intestines. Research has found that eating as little as 2-3 servings of nuts every day lowers LDL cholesterol in our body by approximately 10.2mg/dL.
Avocados are rich in fibres and monounsaturated fats, which help increase HDL and lower LDL, respectively. Clinical studies conducted to verify this claim have found it to be true. Avocados do indeed, lower bad cholesterol in your body.
Pulses or legumes, meaning, plant food like peas, beans and lentils are also effective cholesterol diet foods. They are high in protein, mineral and fibre content and can significantly reduce your LDL levels.
4. Oats and Barley
Wholegrains such as oats and barley lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Unlike refined grains, whole grains keep every part of the grain intact and are able to provide more fibers, vitamins, plant compounds and minerals. Oats and barley are especially beneficial in reducing LDL as they are both rich in beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre that helps bring down your body’s bad cholesterol level.
Fruits also contain LDL-reducing soluble fiber, which inhibits your liver from producing this compound any further. Pectin, a type of soluble fiber, can lower it by 10%. Pectin is found in citrus fruits, grapes, strawberries and apples.
Berries and grapes, especially, are rich in plant compounds which can balance cholesterol levels by increasing HDL content and decreasing LDL concentration in our body.
6. Fatty Fish
Salmon, mackerel and other fatty fish contain long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids boost good cholesterol, lowering inflammation and risk of stroke in the process. Fatty fish protein also contains peptides, which are beneficial for our heart health.
Cocoa is another dependable name in the list of cholesterol diet foods. Dark chocolate and other cocoa-rich food products effectively function to reduce LDL and aid in the production of HDL. Cocoa prevents the bad cholesterol in our body from oxidizing, which is what generally leads to heart disease.
8. Soy Foods
Soy foods reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels in people with high cholesterol and also increases HDL levels.
Allicin and other such plant compounds in garlic brings down our LDL cholesterol level and works to reduce heart health risks.
Tea lowers overall cholesterol and LDL content in our body. Research has been unable to determine yet if tea can also improve HDL conclusively. Compounds found in tea, however, does regulate blood pressure and blood vessel function.
Vegetables like okra, carrots, potatoes and eggplants too contain Pectin, the same soluble fiber found in berries and grapes which lowers body cholesterol.
12. Olive oil
Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil helps increase HDL and lower LDL content within the body.
13. Dark Leafy Vegetables
Dark leafy green vegetables are beneficial in lowering body cholesterol content. It binds to bile acids and encourages its excretion. They also contain carotenoids such as lutein, which reduces oxidized LDL concentration around artery walls. In essence, kale, spinach and other leafy greens are incredibly beneficial for our heart.
These cholesterol diet foods help regulate cholesterol levels in our body, keeping our heart safe and healthy in the process. Make a habit of consuming them, and you will never have to worry about heart disease again!
It is important to understand the difference between High-Density Lipoprotein, and Low-Density Lipoprotein in order to keep your cholesterol levels in check. They symptoms of the condition are such that it is not easy to detect right away. That said, one must focus on the kind of food they eat in a bid to keep their heart healthy, and reduce cholesterol levels in the body.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)
Q. How can I lower my cholesterol naturally?
A: 1. Limit your intake of foods that are rich in saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol. Consume foods with a lot of saturated fat such as butter, fatty flesh like red meat, dairy products, and palm oil.
2. Eat a lot more fiber-rich foods (especially soluble fiber from foods like beans, oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables).
3. Choose protein-rich plant foods (such as legumes or beans, nuts, and seeds) over meat.
4. Lose as much excess weight as possible.
Q. Do eggs raise cholesterol?
A: Chicken eggs are high in cholesterol, but the effect of egg consumption on blood cholesterol is minimal when compared to the effect of trans fats and saturated fats.
Dietary Guidelines recommends eating only 100 to 300 milligrams of it a day depending on your caloric level. One large egg has about 186 mg of cholesterol, all of which is found in the yolk.
If you like eggs but don’t want the extra cholesterol, eat only the egg whites. Egg whites contain none of it. You may also use cholesterol-free egg substitutes, which are made with egg whites.
Q. What reduces cholesterol quickly?
A: These 5 key lifestyle-change tactics helps in significant lowering of cholesterol levels, particularly LDL:
1. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans
2. Be mindful of fat intake
3. Eat more plant sources of protein
4. Eat fewer refined grains, such as white flour
5. Higher physical activity levels
Q. What foods cause high cholesterol?
A: The following foods can cause one’s cholesterol levels to rise up:
3. Hard margarines
4. Lard, animal fat
5. Fatty meat and meat products such as sausages, bacon
6. Full fat cheese, milk, cream and yogurt
7. Coconut and palm oils and coconut cream
Q. How to control cholesterol in an Indian diet?
A: Indian foods can also allow you to lower your cholesterol levels. Methi seeds are rich in a compound called saponins that help reduce its absorption from food. Garlic contains allicin which helps lower LDL and triglycerides.
Furthermore, onions are rich in antioxidants. These help increase HDL while lowering LDL levels in the body. You can also include flax seeds in your diet. They’re packed with omega 3 fatty acids and fiber which binds to cholesterol and decreases their absorption from foods. They also contribute to increasing HDL levels.