Q What is cholesterol?
A In the body, cholesterol is a waxy substance that is essential within the body for the normal function of our cells. Cholesterol provides a major component of the sheaths (covers) that insulate our nerves, as well as being the starting point for many hormones. Cholesterol also plays a vital role in the way we digest fat. The liver produces most of the cholesterol in our bodies, although many tissues produce their own.
Q What foods influence my blood cholesterol levels?
A We are all interested in improving our health but there is still a great deal of confusion about the role of cholesterol in our diets and in our bodies. We know that having a high blood cholesterol level is bad for our hearts, but how does dietary cholesterol affect blood cholesterol? Since the 1980s, research has consistently shown that the amount of saturates in the diet is a major influence on blood cholesterol levels. The level of cholesterol in the diet is no longer considered a priority when trying to reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Q Which foods might help reduce my cholesterol levels?
A Evidence shows that some foods can actively lower blood cholesterol. However, keeping a healthy shape, weight and being physically active is just as important and will also influence your blood cholesterol in a positive way. Eat a balanced diet including whole grains and foods high in soluble fiber such as pulses, oats, fruits and vegetables. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are also good. Swap to healthier fats and oils, such as rapeseed or olive oil, but use them sparingly. If you are still struggling to lower your cholesterol level and/or have a strong family history of heart disease, you may want to consider a food fortified with Stanols or Sterols such as spreads and yogurts.
Q Which foods should I avoid?
A There are certain foods that are high in saturates to avoid, or limit, in your diet to help reduce your blood cholesterol levels. These include pies and pastries, sausages, butter, ghee, lard and dripping, cakes and biscuits made with butter, lard or other saturated fat or hydrogenated vegetable oil, hard cheeses or cream.
Sept 13, 2010