Did you know that 75% of the cholesterol in your body is made by your liver? Some of you may be surprised that only 25% of the total cholesterol in your body actually comes from the foods you eat. But hang on! This does not mean that you can ignore what you are putting into your mouth every day. For decades, we all have been told that high blood cholesterol increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease. And yes, this statement remains true even today!
LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) is ‘bad’ cholesterol because too much of it can cause your arteries to become hard and cause a heart attack or stroke. On the other hand, HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) also referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol, prevents excess cholesterol from building up in the blood vessels. If you are looking for ways to reduce your blood cholesterol, wait no more! Here are 4 easy tips you can follow to help lower your cholesterol level:
Lean more towards Wholegrains & Fibre
Dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber has been found to lower blood cholesterol levels. Oats and Barley are rich in a form of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Once eaten, beta-glucan forms a gel which helps to bind with cholesterol in the intestine and prevent it from being absorbed. It is recommended to eat 3g of beta-glucan per day, especially those with high cholesterol problem. Other food choices that you can make to include more fiber in the diet is to include whole grains such as brown rice, whole meal bread, whole grain crackers and whole-wheat pasta in your main meals, and also take in a good amount of fruits (especially apples, prunes, strawberries) and vegetables (especially okra, broccoli) in every meal. Other rich sources of soluble fiber include beans, peas and lentils.
Good is always better than bad (yes in fats also!)
Good fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats) are heart healthy as they have cholesterol lowering properties. Avocados and vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and soybean oil are said to be rich in good fats, but do make it a point to consume moderately. Grazing on unsalted nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashew nuts) and seeds (flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds) help to increase your good fats intake. However, be mindful of how much you are consuming, limit nuts and seeds intake to only a handful (30-35g) a day as nuts are high in calories (eating too much of these will lead to unwanted weight gain). Include more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by eating fish at least twice a week, especially oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, cod, sardine.
Moderation is key
There has been a lot of debate on the fact that saturated fats were the cause of heart disease. Eat everything in moderation, be it saturated fats or unsaturated fats. Foods rich in saturated fats include full cream milk and dairy products, butter, ghee, animal fats, coconut milk, red meat and non-dairy creamer. We need nutrients from these foods as well, so eat these in moderation and follow it up with below point.
Exercise and being physically active helps you to achieve a healthy weight and prevents excess weight gain, which in turn is beneficial for your cholesterol readings too. Choose activities that you like and fit into your life such as brisk walking, jogging, aerobics, dancing, cycling or swimming, and try to aim for 150 minutes of activity every week. Start slow and increase your physical activity over a period of time.
Make the right choices to live healthy, take charge of your health today and do it for life!
by Ang Hui Inn
Clinical Dietitian B.Sc (Hons) Nutrition and Dietetics, IMU Member of Malaysian Dietitians’ Association (MDA) Hui Inn received her credential in nutrition & dietetics from International Medical University (IMU), Kuala Lumpur. She is currently working in a hospital as a clinical dietitian. Her goal as a dietitian is to inspire, motivate and empower others on sustainable living through healthy diet and lifestyle. View all articles by Ang Hui Inn.