With an elevated blood cholesterol level, cholesterol collects on the walls of your arteries and other blood vessels. These deposits then harden, narrowing blood vessels and blocking blood flow to the heart. The higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your chance of developing heart disease.
High blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, and cigarette smoking are major factors that increase your risk for heart disease. A lifestyle that includes healthy eating and appropriate exercise, depending on physical ability, is the best approach to controlling your blood cholesterol level.
To ward off high blood cholesterol eat a diet that is lower in total fat, saturated fat and dietary cholesterol; high in fibre and energy balanced to promote weight control. Increasing the intake of water-soluble fibre (apples, legumes, carrots, beetroot, butternut and oats) to at least twice daily, has been proven to lower high blood cholesterol.
Cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources, your own body and the foods you eat. The three major fatty acids in our foods are monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated.
Your food choices have a major impact on your blood cholesterol level, and the saturated fats you eat have a greater blood cholesterol raising effect than dietary cholesterol itself.
Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, although different substances, often occur together in foods. For example, a sirloin steak, cheddar cheese etc. all contain both saturated fats and cholesterol.
Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and mainly come from animal sources.
Some vegetable sources of saturated “bad” fats are coconut, palm and palm kernel oils. Dietary cholesterol comes only from animal sources, such as whole-milk dairy products, egg yolk, meats, poultry, and seafood. Vegetables, fruits and grains contain no cholesterol.
Your diet should consist mostly of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, with moderate portions of lean meat, skinless poultry, fish and reduced fat, low-fat, or non-fat dairy.
Read food labels carefully to ensure a product is low in fat. Low-fat foods contain a total fat of less than 10g per 100g product. It is important to choose foods from across the food groups for a nutritional balance and fat-control.
The way you prepare food will also make a big difference in the total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol content.
To help you plan an individualized meal plan, consult a registered dietitian. To find one in your area, you can visit our website on www.adsa.org.za
Lilandi van den Berg
(René Smalberger Dietitians)