Diet tips to control cholesterol
Today India is faced with an epidemic of cardiovascular disease. Genetic predisposition together with rapid urbanization, diet and lifestyle changes are the factors that have led to this. High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for problems related to your heart and blood vessels. We know that cholesterol is broadly of two types:
- LDL, the bad cholesterol in your blood, which predisposes you to cardiovascular disease
- HDL, the good cholesterol in your blood, which is protective
When there is an imbalance between these components i.e high LDL cholesterol and/or low HDL cholesterol, you are prone to cardiovascular disease in the form of heart attacks, stroke etc. Proper management of diet and regular exercise can help control these levels and may reduce the need for cholesterol-lowering medication. What’s more, a healthy diet and exercise may help prevent cholesterol levels from going up in the first instance. Like they say – prevention is better than cure!
So what are the foods that you should eat, and which ones should you avoid, to keep high cholesterol at bay? Here are some tips:
- A high fibre diet usually helps in keeping the cholesterol normal, apart from its other benefits to the intestines. Make whole wheat bread, oatmeal, whole grain cereals, raw (well washed) fruits and vegetables and salads an important part of your diet. For example, oats are rich in fibre. These bind to the bile acids that contain cholesterol before it reaches your blood, thus flushing this cholesterol from the body without letting it get into the bloodstream.
- Daily inclusion of pulses and lentils in diet is something that Indians are familiar with. These also provide fibre. Try to consume lentils and sprouts daily. Click here for some easy lentil recipes
- Avoid junk food and processed foods, as these are rich in transfats and increase your bad cholesterol. For the same reason, avoid snacking on chips and other deep fried foods to curb hunger. Instead, it is a better idea to munch – in moderation – on nuts like almonds and walnuts. These provide essential fatty acids, which have been shown to be beneficial.
- Fish like salmon or mackerel contain essential omega 3 fatty acids. These are also good for the heart. Make them a part of your diet (without frying) if you are a non-vegetarian.
- If you are a non-vegetarian, try to avoid red meat like mutton, beef, pork etc. Lean meat and chicken are better options. Always choose grilled meat over deep fried meat to avoid that extra fat intake.
- Eggs consumed in moderation in the diet do not appear to cause a rise in blood cholesterol as was believed earlier. One egg a day is acceptable in the diet as long as care is taken that the rest of the diet is low in saturated fats.
- Herbs and spices such as garlic, cloves, ginger, turmeric, and rosemary not only help to flavour food, but many of them also provide cholesterol-lowering benefits.
- Cooking oil is a major source of cholesterol in our diet. So try to eat food cooked in heart-healthy oil from plant sources such as sunflower, flaxseed, linseed, rice bran, soy protein etc. These oils are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. The Indian diet is rich in saturated fats due to the use of butter and ghee and can also have a high level of transfats due to the culinary practice of deep-frying. So try to avoid deep fried foods and foods cooked in butter and ghee.
- Among dairy products, stick to skimmed milk, and avoid too much of high-fat foods such as cream, cheese and butter. Sweets made of whole cream milk are rich not only in calories from sugar but also in fat content. For the same reason, avoid desserts like cakes and chocolates if you want to lower your cholesterol.
- Avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol.
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