On board the high cholesterol train? It may mean bad business for you, so hop off at the next stop and make a change
A high cholesterol rating means you should think carefully about what you eat, but it does not mean that you will have to cut the fun out of meal times. With only a few tweaks to your diet, you will be able to kick your LDL (low-density lipoproteins AKA ‘bad’ cholesterol) out of the window!
Say ‘no’ to sats
According to a report by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH), your blood cholesterol level determines whether you are at risk of having heart disease; when there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this build-up causes hardening of the arteries, so that they become narrow and blood flow to the heart is slowed down or blocked. There’s no need to have a kitchen clear-out, however, as there may be a few items lying around that can help with your dilemma. One of the best ways to help prevent and treat heart disease is to eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fats, according to Bupa UK. Replacing processed meals, biscuits, cakes and pastries with dishes containing unsaturated fats will also help to reduce your cholesterol levels.
Know your numbers
It is recommended that healthy adults should have a total cholesterol level below 5mmol/L (millimoles per litre), and 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk of heart disease. Of this total the normal level of bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) should be 3mmol/L or less and 2mmol/L or less respectively. If all this seems a bit fuzzy, then you can simply visit your GP to discuss your concerns in detail where you will be able to get an exact breakdown of what you need to work on.
Check your labels
Nutritional advice on the back of your food labels is an important factor when it comes to determining whether a product is healthy to consume or not. The British Heart Foundation advises that most food packaging has colour-coded labels on the front, which tells you at a glance if the food has high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. The NHS recommended guidelines state that over 17.5g of fat per 100g is considered high, while 3g or less per 100g is low. In terms of salt, more than 1.5 g of salt per 100g is high and 0.3 g of salt or less per 100g is low, and more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g is high, while 1.5 g of saturated fat or less per 100g is low.
Cook with this, not with that
If you are confused by the variety of cooking oils on offer, you’re not alone. But we’re here to tell you that olive oil and rapeseed oil may be your best bets. Olive oil has unsaturated fatty acids which help to reduce blood cholesterol levels, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, while rapeseed oil is lower in saturates than other oils and high in mono-unsaturates.
If you’ve got a watermelon in your kitchen, hold onto it. Like many, you may be accustomed to throwing out the seeds, but if you knew their nutritional value, you would probably think twice. “Nutrientdense watermelon seeds are a rich source of magnesium as well as both mono- and poly-unsaturated fats,” says nutritionist Jodie Wood. “Healthy magnesium levels play an important role in blood pressure and heart health with studies showing that magnesium can be beneficial in reducing our LDL (bad) cholesterol levels”.
“In order to balance your cholesterol, eat healthy proteins for breakfast, consume the right fats and reduce the amount of sugar in your diet,” says Dr Ricardo Di Cuffa, founder and GP at Your Doctor. “Limit your intake of foods full of saturated fats and trans fats. Swap processed meats for omega-3-rich fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and trout at least two times a week. Oily fish helps to reduce inflammation and protects against chronic illnesses like heart disease and arthritis”.
A handful of nuts
Replacing your packet of crisps for a handful of cashews or almonds could help to reduce your high cholesterol. The NHS reports that a nut-enriched diet was found to be associated with both reduced total cholesterol and reduced LDL cholesterol. On average, in people who consumed 67g of nuts a day, total cholesterol was reduced by 5.1% and LDL cholesterol by 7.4%.
Be your own doc of detox and try throwing a few berries in your morning breakfast to give you an added bit of TLC for your heart. Berries are known to contain fibre, which forms a gel that acts as a magnet, removing cholesterol as it passes through the intestines. Those especially high in fibre include raspberries and blackberries. According to Age UK, berries are also fat-free, and are high in minerals, vitamins and heart-healthy antioxidants.