Cholesterol is combination of steroid and alcohol. It is necessary for certain biochemical processes like secretion of hormones, formation of cell membranes etc. it does not dissolve in the blood.
Cholesterol levels in the blood are increased mainly due to excess amount of fat in the diet. The fat can prove harmful to the circulatory system because high cholesterol levels can result in stroke or heart attack.
So, the low cholesterol diets are designed to:_
- Reduce cholesterol present in the food
- Reduce total amount of fat (mainly saturated fat) present in the food.
- Increase the amount of complex carbs and fiber in the diet
- Maintain a healthy weight and if necessary, reduce the calories
- Monitor the amount of sodium in the food
Circulatory system is important for the body because blood carries oxygen and energy required for the functioning of organs and tissues in the body. Heart sends this blood to the organs through arteries or the blood vessels. Heart itself is an organ and so needs pure blood for it’s functioning. Blood vessels called coronary arteries provide this required blood to the heart.
Fatty foods increase cholesterol levels in the blood. If these levels remain high above normal levels, then little by little cholesterol starts accumulating in the arteries. Slowly, over the years, these cholesterol deposits turn hard. A wax like deposit lines the inside walls of the arteries. This is called cholesterol plaque.
This plaque hinders the blood flow in the arteries, thus affecting the tissues and organs, because they don’t get required supply of oxygen and nutrients. If the brain doesn’t get proper blood supply, it results in a stroke. The heart cannot get any blood supply if a coronary artery is completely blocked due to the cholesterol plaque and heart stops working, that is --- a heart attack.
In out body, liver produces cholesterol from the fatty food ingredients in the diet. All other animals also produce cholesterol of their own. So when food products from these animals (like milk, egg yolk, meat etc) are incorporated in our meals, our body gets direct cholesterol from these products. This animal cholesterol gets absorbed in our intestine and together with the cholesterol produced in the liver, it gains higher levels in blood. So, in order to limit the blood cholesterol levels, it is advisable to reduce the intake of fatty foods and foods containing cholesterol.
Saturated fats cause the cholesterol levels to increase. The saturated fats are the fats, which stay in solid form at room temperature and these, are present in whole milk products and meats. Unsaturated fats, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, remain in liquid form at room temperature. These are present in the plants. The monounsaturated fats are proved to reduce blood cholesterol levels. However the vegetable fats like palm or coconut oil and hydrogenated vegetable oils are solid at room temperature, they are saturated oils.
Pointers helpful in low cholesterol diets:
Deep-sea fish like salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel contain Omega-3 fatty acid, which is good for reducing blood cholesterol.
Fat content should be 35% of daily diet calories and 7% or less of it should be from saturated fat.
Sugars and alcohol are high in calories, but low in nutrients. So they help increase the body weight. Excess body weight + excess saturated fat. Thus increase in cholesterol levels. So avoid sugar, alcohol.
Complex carbs like whole grains should be incorporated in diet because they don’t increase the cholesterol levels, at the same time provide adequate energy. But refined flour products and products containing palm or hydrogenated oil should be avoided.
Exercise help in reducing cholesterol levels and also reduce the chances of cholesterol plaque formation
Fiber and foods containing fiber (brown rice, carrots, apple, oats, legumes) should be added to the diet. Soluble fiber like oat bran etc is useful in reducing cholesterol levels. Walnuts are known for their cholesterol lowering properties. Walnuts are anti oxidants and source of alpha linolenic acid.
Generally high cholesterol level patients have high blood pressure. So sodium intake should be limited to as less as possible.
While selecting meat for diet, the fat content on the labels should be examined and meat products with 3 gm or less of fat per ounce should be selected.
Generally fast foods have high fat and sodium content, so while eating out, should select food carefully and in small portions.
For protein source, skinless poultry, fish and soy protein are preferable over meat products. Milk products should contain low fat milk.
A general good health should be maintained by regular exercising, by quitting smoking and by controlling weight.
Usually it takes 4 weeks to 3 months after starting the low cholesterol diet to detect any reduction in the cholesterol levels.