The Importance of Diet to Reducing Cholesterol

A healthy diet is one that provides the body with all the nutrients it needs for growth and repair and to resist disease. To get the balance right it is important to know just how much to eat of each type of food. Of the main five groups, it is recommended that we eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

We should also eat high proportion of energy-producing foods such as cereals, pasta, rice, beans, bread and potatoes; moderate amounts of meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products and only a small amounts of fat and sugar.

What are the five main groups of food? The 5 are as below:

1. Fruit and vegetables.

2. Cereal, rice, potatoes, beans, bread and pasta.

3. Meat, poultry, fish and eggs.

4. Milk and other dairy foods

5. Fats, oils and sugars.

You can reduce your intake of dietary cholesterol by cutting down on fat, particularly the saturated kind. Aim to limit your daily fat intake to no more than 30 per cent of total calories. In real terms, this means that for an average daily intake of 2000 calories, 30 percent of energy would come from 600 calories. Since each gram of fat provides 9 calories, your total daily intake should be no more than 66.6g fat. Of this amount no more than 10 per cent should consist of saturated fat.

All fats and oils are made up of 3 units of fatty acids and a unit of glycerol. Their individual properties vary according to the type of combination of fatty acids. All fats contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids (either poly or monounsaturated), but if the proportion of saturated is greater than unsaturated, the fat is generally said to be ‘saturated’, and vice versa.

So what are saturated fats ? Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature and are mostly found in foods derived from animal sources. However there are also saturated fats of vegetable origin, notable coconut and palm oils (although this does not contain cholesterol), as well as certain margarine’s and oils in which some of the unsaturated fatty acids have been processed into saturated ones. These products are labeled ‘hydrogenated’ and are best avoided.

As of polyunsaturated fats, they are usually liquid at room temperature. There are 2 types: those of vegetable or plant origin, such as nut, seed and vegetable oils, and soft margarine; and those from oily fish (omega 3), such as herring and sardines. Small quantities are essential for good health, and ideally we should consume equal amounts of omega 6 and omega 3 oils.

The other type of unsaturated fat is monounsaturated fat which are found in foods such as olive oil and rapeseed oil, some nuts such as almonds and walnuts, oily fish and avocado pears. These fats are thought to help reduce blood cholesterol levels, and could explain why there is a low incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries where they are major part of the diet.

With all the explanation about types of fat, what is cholesterol then? Cholesterol is a whilte, waxy material belonging to a group of substances known as lipoproteins. Cholesterol travels round the bloodstream in tiny droplets of lipoportein, of which there are 3 densities. The 3 are very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), low density (LDL) and high density (HDL). When you eat a lot of saturated fats, your liver produces huge quantities of VLDLs an LDLs. Both types are rich in cholesterol and are the culprits when it comes to blocked arteries. HDL’s, however are referred to as ‘good’ and LDL’s are ‘bad’. The recommended maximum daily intake of cholesterol is 300mg. This may seem a lot but its very easy to exceed the limit if your diet contains highe cholesterol food.

A few method that can help to reduce cholesterol and there are cutting down on fat, boosting fiber and boosting antioxidants. About one quarter of the fat we eat comes from meat and meat products, one-fifth from dairy products and margarine, and the rest from cakes, biscuits and other foods. There are also ‘hidden’ fats in foods such as many nuts, hummus, avocado. Studies have also shown that certain types of fiber can help to reduce blood cholesterol and restrict fat absorption. The latest believe is that the process called oxidation may have the ability to help reduce cholesterol by providing protection by destroying free radicals and preventing ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and causing damage to the artery walls.

By being aware of high fat foods and the type of fat in them, and by making simple changes to your eating habits, your can reduce quite considerably the total fat content of your diet and therefore control cholesterol levels.