Vital Information About Cholesterol!
Cholesterol is a waxy, sticky, fat like substance produced in the liver and is also present in our food.
Most people only know that it causes heart disease, few know that it is an essential constituent of our body and has a vital role to play in our health.
Cholesterol provides structural support to every cell of our body as it is an essential constituent of the cell membrane and plays a significant role in deciding what goes in or out of the cell membrane. It also helps form the protective myelin sheath of our nerve cells. It is essential for the synthesis of steroid and sex hormones and for the formation of Vitamin D under the skin when exposed to sunlight. It is also essential for the formation of bile which is, in turn, essential for digestion of fats. HDL cholesterol helps remove the dangerous LDL and VLDL cholesterol from the blood stream and transports them to the liver where they are removed from the blood thus protecting the heart form coronary artery disease.
Our liver is capable of providing us all the cholesterol we need. We don’t need to consume it in food.
Only animal sources of foods such as flesh, eggs, shell fish, whole milk, cream, ghee, butter, cheese and margarine have cholesterol. No food of vegetable source has cholesterol.
The safe upper limit for the consumption of cholesterol prescribed by researchers is 200 mg a day.
A whole egg provides 210 mg cholesterol, goat meat provides 75 mg per 100 gm, chicken 85 mg, lamb, pork and beef between 85 to 105 mg, sea food provides between 50 to 100 mg cholesterol per 100 gm. Liver of the above animals provides the highest levels, between 350 to 650 mg per 100gm!
Excess cholesterol in the blood is bad for the heart. The HDL cholesterol is the healthy cholesterol, while the LDL and the VLDL cholesterol are bad for the health of the heart. HDL cleanses our arteries by transporting cholesterol from the arteries to liver and cleansing the arteries, thus protecting us from coronary heart disease. The latter two transport cholesterol from liver to the arteries, where it sticks the walls of the arteries, which become hardened and lose their elasticity, causing atherosclerosis and clogging of the arteries leading to coronary heart disease.
Ideal levels of cholesterol and it’s components are:
Cholesterol below 200 mg/dL
HDL cholesterol above 60 mg/dL
LDL Cholesterol below 100mg/dL. Some physicians want it below 70mg/dL
VLDL Cholesterol below 30 mg/ dL
Triglycerides below 150 mg/dL
Normal range is always provided by every laboratory in it’s report.
Saturated fats in our food are actually more responsible for raised levels of cholesterol in our body than dietary cholesterol. Animal products including whole milk, eggs and flesh and vegetable fats which are solid at room temperature (e.g. palm oil, coconut oil) are examples of saturated fats.
Trans-fatty acids also are equally to blame for raised levels of cholesterol. In fact they are rated as worse than cholesterol for the health of the heart. Hydrogenated vegetable oils and oils in which food stuffs are fried over and over, again and again, develop trans-fatty acids. Many bakery products and ready to eat snacks are made using hydrogenated vegetable oils as it gives them longer shelf life. Most people who never use hydrogenated oils at home, eat these products without realising that they are consuming hydrogenated oils.
To keep your cholesterol levels healthy, you need to take following steps:
Lead a healthy lifestyle.
Eat healthy, focussing on skimmed milk and dairy products, whole grain cereals and pulses, ample vegetables and fresh fruits on daily basis and have fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids twice a week.
Most Indians have no problems consuming whole grain cereals, pulses and vegetables as that is what our food basically consists of. What we most often may not consume adequately are skim milk and fruits. Ideally we should have three helpings of both!
Keep consumption of saturated fats to the minimum and trans-fats out of your food. Eat only lean meat. Have a whole egg no more than four days week, if your cholesterol is fully normal.
Exercise regularly and be physically active. Even a half hour brisk walk, spread over the whole day, will be invaluable, half an hour twice a day will be wonderful even for losing weight!
Be mentally happy and peaceful.
In short to keep your cholesterol levels healthy, you do exactly what is needed to be done to be slim and heart healthy!
Read the article ‘Basics Of Nutrition’ on this website for more information.
Boosting Your HDL Cholesterol
Many people have normal total cholesterol but low HDL cholesterol, the cholesterol that cleanses your arteries by removing cholesterol build up within them and prevents coronary artery disease.
The following six steps will help boost your HDL cholesterol levels.
1. Get regular exercise. Regular walks, even half an hour every day, can give you much better heart health than being couch potato!
2. Lose weight. Even four kg loss can dramatically lower your bad cholesterol (total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol) and boost your HDL cholesterol.
3. Eat healthy fats viz. omega 3 rich sea fish, cooking oils like mustard oil, Canola, walnuts and flaxseeds, monounsaturated fatty acids rich groundnut or rice bran oil but not necessarily imported olive oil. Reduce unhealthy fats viz. saturated fats coming from milk viz. cream, butter, ghee, cheese, full cream paneer and fatty meats. Stop consuming foods made from hydrogenated oils, they are loaded with trans fatty acids which can cause more damage to your coronary arteries than cholesterol.
4. Stop smoking.
5. Reduce your alcohol consumption.
6. Consult your physician.
Also read the articles ‘Basics Of Nutrition‘ and ‘The Good And The Bad Fats‘ on this website.