Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in all the cells in our bodies, and the most common cause of high cholesterol is an unhealthy lifestyle. Saturated fat – the “bad for you” kind – is found in meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, deep-fried, greasy and processed foods. Uh-oh…
These foods cause low-density lipoprotein, LDL (the bad fat), to raise your cholesterol. Smoking lowers HDL (the good kind), especially in women. (It also raises your LDL.) So, you dip into a chip packet every now and again – should you be worried?
Cholesterol – an invisible threat
Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) spokesperson, registered dietitian and clinical educator (UCT) Nasreen Jaffer explains why it’s not always obvious that you’ve got an issue. “There are not many visible signs that you have high cholesterol. One common sign, for example, includes fatty deposits that appear on the corner of your eyes. Very often it’s only when patients have their first chest pains or heart attack that they find out they have [a problem].”
Because of this, it’s recommended that we all have a blood test at least once a year, to make sure our levels are within the healthy range. And try to include these foods in your daily diet.
Ask for tomato sauce with your pasta if you want to keep your cholesterol under control. Tomatoes are a significant source of a plant compound called lycopene, which reduces levels of LDL cholesterol.
Green and black tea
Green and black tea can help lower cholesterol levels. Green tea is prepared from unfermented leaves and black tea from the fully fermented leaves of the same plant. Researchers believe that catechins, a type of antioxidant found in tea, are responsible for this effect.
Daily consumption of almonds has been shown to have a positive impact on heart health. Almonds reduce total cholesterol levels by three to 25%. LDL levels are reduced by four to 35%. Nice.
Oats are a well-known superfood. In one Thai study, people with high cholesterol were given either oats or rice porridge for four weeks. The people who had the oats experienced a five percent reduction in total cholesterol and a 10% slash in their LDL.
Turns out Ma was right when she said one apple a day keeps the doctor away. This nutritious fruit helps to curb risk factors commonly associated with heart disease by reducing your cholesterol levels. A typical apple has about 4g of fibre, which can help to reduce your overall cholesterol level. Apples are also jam-packed with soluble fibre, which is good for removing extra fat from your body. Get this – eating just one apple each day can reduce your LDL levels by up to 40%.
Sweet and delicious, raspberries pack a health punch by knocking down LDL levels and raising HDL levels. Researchers speculate that these favourable effects come from high levels of naturally occurring antioxidants called polyphenols – the compounds that give berries their bright colour.
One reason to love lentils is their fibre. The soluble fibre in lentils forms a sticky substance that traps cholesterol and helps move it out of the body.
The unsaturated (good) fats found in olive oil (and canola and walnut oil) have the added benefit of helping to cut LDL levels without affecting HDL. Aim for about two tablespoons a day in place of other fats.
This article originally appeared on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
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