Everyone wants to live healthy, and what goes into the age-old adage- you are what you eat- stands true. What you eat and do can help you stay healthy or otherwise, depending on your choices.
In the past few decades, there has been much talk about changing lifestyles and food habits for good in order to reduce the heart related risks and cancer and obesity as these are the most prevalent conditions globally. Ever since cholesterol was found to be one of the chief players in heart disease risks, it has been a favourite topic among all health practitioners.
Cholesterol is something produced internally by the liver and carried by blood to all parts of the body. While it has always been painted in the wrong, cholesterol isn’t all that bad. In fact, cholesterol is needed by the body, to some extent. Cholesterol also comes in through some of the foods (dietary cholesterol), while majority is made by the body itself. However, it when we overdo the intake of cholesterol containing foods or foods containing the harmful fats that is when the trouble begins.
Dietary and lifestyle changes usually do lower blood cholesterol levels to acceptable ranges, without expensive medical interventions for most people.
If there is too much blood cholesterol, this might build up and form plaque on the wall of blood vessels (atherosclerosis) leading to blockages and thereby increasing the risks for heart attacks and strokes.
Dietary cholesterol, Lifestyle modifications and Dietary changes:
Cholesterol is found in the foods we eat, but our own bodies make a larger amount. Therefore, limiting foods that contain dietary cholesterol in your diet may help to lower blood cholesterol levels. A cholesterol lowering diet should first be low in total fat, especially saturated fat, as well as cholesterol.
Keeping the total intake of fat low is an important way to manage your cholesterol levels. Animal products (including meat and dairy products) are all high in saturated fat. While certain fats like palm oil or vanaspati ghee (Dalda) or the fats used in all bakery produce and street foods should be turned down outright as these are all high in trans fat which is the worst kind of fat. While saturated are easy to spot as they are solid or semi solid (ghee, butter) at room temperature, vegetable oils (unsaturated fats) are liquid at all times. By keeping their intake in moderation and having a more welcoming approach towards eating a balanced ratio of poly and monounsaturated fats from olive oil, seed oils, omega 3 fat from fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and a balanced diet is what will keep you going for long.
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It is for a good reason that fiber is hailed as a hero in most cases. Soluble fiber slows down the absorption of certain food components like cholesterol and therefore reduces the amount that gets released into the body and produced by the liver. Whole grains like wheat, brown rice, jowar, bajra, millets, oats, barley, beans and fruits and vegetables are all good sources of fiber. The recommended fiber intake per day is 25-40 gm. Make it a point to include a good amount of fiber in each of your meal along with ensuring that you hydrate yourself well since fiber intake calls for more water intake for better bowel movements.
If you are a non-vegetarian and wondering what to eat if not saturated fat containing animal sources, relax. You can still eat class-1 protein while being smart with your protein choices. Opt for healthy, lean meats (from which the fat is removed). You can still have whole eggs, however, if you are worried about it, limit it to 2-3 times a week. Avoid deep frying your meats however, have it in grilled or steamed forms or any other forms that does not involve a lot of frying or addition of fat. Limit your dairy intake if you take whole milk or its products by managing your portions. Go for low fat containing cottage cheese (paneer), buttermilk instead of regularly having lassi. You can even add whey protein to your diet to help meet your daily protein intake while helping you stay fit. Plant based proteins are naturally free of cholesterol so you can fill up on beans, avocado (go easy here!), tofu and nut butter.
As far as lifestyle changes go, start by being more active. Try and get in as little as 20-30 minutes of moderate to high intensity workout on a regular basis and that combined with a well balanced diet will definitely make you shed all the fat that you might have put on during weight gain. In addition to that, ensure that you avoid alcohol, strictly limit sugar and sodium (especially through processed foods) and get a good 7-8 hours of sleep everyday.
Making few simple changes with regard to a well balanced diet and lifestyle can help you avoid skyrocketing cholesterol levels and help you with efficient weight loss too.