Cholesterol is both our friend and foe – at normal levels, it is an essential substance for the body’s normal functioning, but if levels in the blood get too high, it becomes a silent danger that puts us at risk of heart diseases.
Not all cholesterol is bad…….
It’s a misconception that cholesterol is not good for our body. Cholesterol is a sticky substance that is produced in the liver. It is similar to fat and this substance is present in all the cells of our body. Our body gets cholesterol from liver(where its produced) and food.
Function of Cholesterol in the body:
- It produces a hormone called cortisol, which helps in regulating blood sugar levels and defending the body against infection.
- Body uses it to make vitamin D, which is important for our bones and teeth health.
- Hormones like estrogen, progesterone, even testosterone are all created from cholesterol. That means without it, we couldn’t reproduce.
- Without cholesterol, your body would be unable to produce new cells, because cholesterol is present in every cell in your body.
Foods rich in Cholesterol:
- Hard margarines
- Fatty and processed meat
- Dairy fats.
How Cholesterol is carried in Blood?
Cholesterol is oil-based and so does not mix with the blood, which is water-based. It is therefore carried around the body in the blood by lipoproteins.
The parcels of cholesterol are carried by two types of lipoproteins:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL – cholesterol is known as ‘Bad’ cholesterol)
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL – cholesterol is known as ‘Good’ cholesterol).
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL – cholesterol): ‘Bad’ cholesterol
Main culprit promoting deposits in the arteries and gradually blocking the passage for blood.
Ways to reduce (LDL – cholesterol): ‘Bad’ cholesterol:
- Reduce Saturated fat intake (butter & ghee) and increase Unsaturated fat (MUFA – almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts & PUFA – cottonseed, corn, soya bean, flaxseed oil)
- Reduce mental stress. Researches show stress increases LDL levels.
- Increase intake of Soluble Fibre e.g. oat bran, apple, banana, carrot, potato, legumes etc. Soluble fibre binds excess cholesterol and throws it out of the body.
- Certain foods like Fresh Garlic (3-4 cloves daily) and Amla (in any form – juice, raw or pickle) have substantial cholesterol – lowering effect.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL – cholesterol): ‘Good’ cholesterol
It removes bad cholesterol from blood and delivers it back to liver where it is processed for excretion.
Ways to increase (HDL – cholesterol): ‘Good’ cholesterol:
- Regular exercise increases HDL cholesterol.
- Reduce total fat intake. There is a reciprocal relationship between blood levels of triglycerides and HDL cholesterol. Hence, people with high blood triglycerides tend to have low HDL.
- Certain foods have been found to improve HDL cholesterol e.g. onion, soyabean, garlic, soluble fibre (e.g. ‘pectin’ in apple), banana etc.
What is Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are fats devoid of any cholesterol. The stored fats of both (nuts & oil-seeds) and animals (depot fats) are Triglycerides. That’s why it is desirable to have regulated intake of unsaturated fats also (which is devoid of any cholesterol) since they will increase blood Triglycerides levels.
Tips to reduce Cholesterol and Triglyceride intake in diet:
- Steam, boil or bake vegetables or for a change stir-fry in a small amount of vegetable oil.
- Season vegetables with herbs and spices rather than with sauces, butter or margarine.
- Try lemon juice on salads or use limited amounts of oil- based salad dressing.
- Try whole-grain flours to enhance Flavours of baked goods made with less fat.
- Replace whole milk with skim or low fat milk in puddings, soups, kheer and baked products.
- Choose lean cuts of meat.
- Roast, bake, broil, simmer or grill meat, poultry or fish.
- Remove skin from poultry before cooking.
- Make use of cottage cheese instead of whole cheese slices or cubes.
- Prepare yogurt from skim or low fat milk only.
- Cook meat or poultry on a rack so the fat will drain off. Use a nonstick pan for cooking meat.
- Take two cloves of raw garlic every day.
- Consume egg white instead of egg yolk in your diet.
- Use plant oil as a cooking medium like sunflower, olive, safflower oil.
- Avoid organ meats like liver, brain, kidney, breast etc.
- Avoid concentrated milk & mawa preparations like rabidi, burfi, pedha, ice cream, pudding, etc.
- Fried and oily preparations like bhajias, pakodas, batata & medu vadas etc. to be avoided.
- Shell fish like prawns, lobsters, oysters, shrimps etc. & oily fishes like sardines to be avoided.