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How can we reduce our cholesterol after the holidays?

08 January 2012 / 19:01:43  GRReporter
3672 reads

The holidays have passed, but the rich Christmas and New Year tables rocketed our cholesterol to the heavens. Dietician Ioannis Kerimis recommends several ways to get our cholesterol back to normal.

Cholesterol is a substance that is produced by the liver and its use is to build cell membranes and hormones. However, when it is produced or taken in with food in excessive quantities, it can cause fat accumulation in the arterial walls and subsequently increase the risk of heart attack.

Cholesterol does not degrade in the blood and therefore carries specific lipoproteins in the blood. The two main types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol are called LDL and HDL.

LDL (Low-density lipoproteins) carry cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body. When the level of LDL cholesterol is too high, cholesterol is deposited on the walls of blood vessels. This is the reason LDL cholesterol is called the "bad" cholesterol.

HDL (High-density lipoproteins) carry cholesterol from the bloodstream back to the liver where it is processed and eliminated from the body. HDL cholesterol lowers the possibility for the blood cholesterol to be deposited on the walls of blood vessels. This is why HDL cholesterol is called the "good" cholesterol.

Unhealthy lifestyle, smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, age and heredity can lead to elevated cholesterol levels. They, in turn, can cause narrowing of the arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart. When blood flow is reduced significantly it can cause a heart attack.

Reducing cholesterol is achieved by adopting a healthy diet based on the Mediterranean diet and increasing physical activity.

The first step a person must take in order to reduce cholesterol levels is to remove saturated fats from his or her diet. Saturated fats are those of animal origin which are found mainly in meat, butter, cream and whole-milk dairy products. In order to reduce saturated fats from our food we need to remove the visible fat from the meat, to cook it on the grill or to consume it boiled, to eat low-fat dairy products and to replace butter with olive oil or margarine with vegetable fats.

Except for foods containing saturated fats we should also limit foods with high cholesterol, such as red meat, offal, egg yolk and caviar.

In order to further reduce cholesterol levels we should increase the consumption of omega-3 fats. Scientific studies suggest that these fats tend to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and therefore we should increase the consumption of fatty fish like salmon and sardines, but also plant sources of omega-3 fats such as walnuts and flaxseed.

Besides omega-3 fats, dietician Ioannis Kerimis recommends increased consumption of fibres and this can be achieved by eating unpeeled fruits, vegetables and other unprocessed foods.

Studies indicate that weight loss, resulting in loss of 5 to 10 percent of body weight can reduce cholesterol levels by up to 15-18 percent, and exercises and general physical activity help increase "good" HDL cholesterol and reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol.

Finally, to reduce cholesterol we should limit intake of animal fats, red meat and animal products rich in cholesterol. To further reduce cholesterol, we should lose weight (for overweight people), include Omega-3 fats in our diet and foods rich in fibre. Finally, do not forget that physical activity increases the good and lowers the bad cholesterol.

General tips

• Reduce consumption of saturated fats (visible animal fat, dairy fat, etc.)
• Avoid fried foods
• Eat fish at least twice a week and at least once a week eat fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, which contain elevated levels of omega-3 fats
• Every day, eat 5 portions of fruits, vegetables and pulses
• Eat foods such as rice, pasta, bread and cereals, which do not contain cholesterol
• Prefer olive oil and substitute butter with margarine, which contains vegetable fats
• Reduce excess weight (if necessary)
• Reduce or stop smoking
• Increase your motor activity to 30 minutes on most days of the week

Tags: Cholesterol diet holidays omega 3 saturated fats
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