Cholesterol is a dreaded word to most of us. But do you know all cholesterol is not bad for you. There are two types of cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL). Cholesterol is a kind of fat transported in the blood, which helps in building cells, converting sunshine into vitamin D, producing hormone and bile juice and insulating nerve fibre.
While HDL is good cholesterol, which helps in flushing out excess cholesterol from your body, LDL is bad cholesterol that is linked to clogging arteries, which poses a great risk of health problems, including heart disease and stroke. A diet rich in saturated fat is responsible for bad cholesterol accumulation. Trans-fats in processed foods is bad cholesterol. Saturated fat in animal products increases bad cholesterol. It is therefore important to reduce consumption in saturated fats. Contrarily, unsaturated fat helps in lowering cholesterol. It can be found in sunflower and olive oil, avocado, walnuts, seeds and almonds. Plant sterols from supplements are also effective in reducing ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.
Some lifestyle habits, such as drinking and smoking make cholesterol stickier, causing atherosclerosis that constricts or narrows down arteries, eventually blocked arteries result in a heart attack. If you are overweight and physically inactive, there is a higher risk of raising cholesterol, as the body is not able to clear fat from the blood. Smoking can depress good cholesterol levels in the body.
In such cases, people have low levels of HDL cholesterol in their blood. High sugar or alcohol consumption risks aggravating blood fat levels of triglycerides.
A healthy diet is one which is rich in fibre. Soluble fibre-rich foods are very effective in lowering cholesterol. Porridge oats, beans, lentils and nuts can help in lowering cholesterol. Soluble fibre is known to be like a gel that sticks to cholesterol, which helps in removing it from the body. Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables in your diet can certainly help keep your cholesterol level low. Soluble fibre foods contain antioxidants that help in preventing cholesterol from creating fatty plaques on the arteries. Research shows that soluble fibre in oatmeal and whole grain is good for cholesterol.
Garlic is good for lowering blood pressure and keeping the heart and blood circulation healthy. Increasing intake of garlic in your diet can help with your cholesterol levels and improve digestion.
Exercise is also beneficial in lowering cholesterol, as it helps in preventing weight gain or obesity. Walking, climbing stairs, running and cycling are some of the exercises that stimulate enzymes that transfer LDL from the blood to the liver, where it is converted to bile and excreted. Physical activity also increases size of protein particles, which carry good and bad lipoproteins through the blood. According to a 2002 study by Duke University Medical Centre researchers more intense exercise proves more beneficial than moderate exercise in lowering cholesterol.