Nutritional Strategies for Cholesterol Optimisation

Experts Column

Cholesterol has always had a bad reputation due to its role in promoting cardiac issues. However, its role is not negative for the human body. On the contrary, it is an equally essential element for our well-being like any other nutrient!

It is needed to make Vitamin D, hormones including estrogen and progesterone as well as fat-dissolving bile acids in our body. What is surprising is that our liver and intestines already produce 80% of the cholesterol requirement for us to stay healthy. It is only 20% that is required from the food we consume. Hence, it would be appropriate to say that maintaining optimal levels of cholesterol is important as it affects our overall health and fitness levels. While it is not a tough task; with a healthy diet, cholesterol levels can be regulated.

With the right nutritional strategies in place, reaching the goal of optimal cholesterol mix can be achieved. Including the enclosed foods in your diet and avoiding certain foods can enable cholesterol optimisation.

Hero Foods (to include): Research points out that 5-10 gm of fiber should be consumed daily for maximising cholesterol-lowering effects. Hence, fiber-rich foods such as beetroots, ladies finger, cauliflower, fenugreek leaves, tomato, spinach, carrots, broccoli, onion, and artichokes, and fruits including bananas, berries, apples, and pears, should be a part of your diet.

Adding to these, legumes and whole grains, oats, and barley, pulses, beans, tofu, soya chunks, greek yogurt, protein supplements (whey/pea protein/brown rice protein) bean mix, quinoa, buckwheat, lentils, citrus fruits, grapes, pomegranate, nuts, seeds, garlic, are must-haves in your meals if you wish to maintain cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats such as avocados, olives, fatty fish, and nuts are also beneficial as they help in reducing cholesterol levels.

Avoid foods (to exclude)Consuming large amounts of unsaturated fat, trans fat and sugar can raise cholesterol levels. Hence, processed foods (french fries, fried chicken), chips, hydrogenated vegetable oil, cakes, potato corn flakes, high salted & sodium foods,along with fatty beef,lamb,pork,poultry with skin, lard, cream butter, and cheese should be strictly avoided in order to keep the cholesterol levels in check! 

Supplements

Apart from a balanced diet, intake of supplements can also help in achieving regulated cholesterol levels.

Omega - 3 Fatty acids (include introduction on omega 3)

Omega-3s are nutrients essential to build and maintain a healthy body. They play a vital role in optimising the working of your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system. They also help improve numerous heart disease risk factors.

Various researches suggest that omega-3 Fatty acid supplements especially fish oil can significantly reduce Triglycerides levels thereby helping in reducing the risk factors associated with heart diseases.They also improve HDL/Good Cholesterol levels (High-Density Lipoprotein). As a ‘healthy fat’, omega-3 fatty acids also provide other heart-healthy benefits and hence prevent cardiovascular disease. 

Fish oil is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil contains two omega-3s called DHA (Docosahexanoic acid) and EHA (Eicosapentanoic acid).

Garlic (Himalayan Garlic Pearls)

Intake of garlic optimises cardiovascular health and offers benefits pertaining to physical and sexual vitality, cognition, as well as offers resistance to infection. It also has anti-aging properties.

Himalayan Single Clove Garlic specifically is known to effectively reduce high cholesterol levels in the body. Garlic is one of the most popular and widely purchased herbal supplements, that is known to lower cholesterol levels.

Freshly crushed garlic offers superior cardioprotectiveproperties as opposed to its processed counterparts. Consumption of 3–6 cloves of Himalayan garlic daily over several meals help to optimize the cholesterol levels. Cut or crush them, to activate their bioactive compounds. You could also cook them with your foods or eat them raw for reaping their benefits.

Psyllium Husk:

Psyllium Husk reduces cholesterol levels in hyperlipidemia conditions. Psyllium refers to fibers taken from the plant known as Plantago ovata. It is a source of natural and concentrated soluble fiber derived from the husk of blonde psyllium seed. Psyllium helps to absorb waste, bile acids, and cholesterol, which are then removed from the body during bowel movements. Industry experts suggest that psyllium husk offers reductions in cholesterol levels. They say that 5 grams of psyllium with a glass of water 15-20 minutes before the meal is effective in reducing cholesterol levels.

Cooking Methods

Steaming

Steaming of food removes the fat from the surface of the foods by loosening it. Steamingfood lowers the calories, fat content as well as cholesterol levels of the foods. Cooking with steam also helps in conserving the fiber, colour, texture & flavour of vegetables as well as preserving their micronutrients content thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Oil Moderation

Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil comprises of trans fat and can lead to heightened cholesterol levels. Also, the quantity of oil used plays an important role in regulating cholesterol levels. The more the merrier is not valid in this case!

Hence, it is critical that including heart-healthy oils such as canola, corn, olive, peanut, and sunflower that contain monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats should be a part of our cooking. On an average, 20g-30g of oil equivalent to 3-4 teaspoons is appropriate for any adult. Hence, a tablespoon of oil for cooking is ideal for an average meal of 4 people.

In modern times, with technological innovations such as air fryers and steamers available easily, consumers can use these to prepare healthy, sumptuous yet nutritious foods. They won’t only satiate the taste buds but would also help keep cholesterol levels in check!

The bottom line!

In order to optimise cholesterol levels, some simple yet basic steps can help you significantly.

Cooking with herbs and spices will enable you to flavour your food naturally while eliminating the need for high-fat sauces and salt. Secondly, switching from age-old aluminium to non-stick cookware will allow you to cook with a minimum quantity of butter/oil. Hence, the unhealthy cholesterol levels will be reduced significantly.

Furthermore, incorporating chopped fruits and vegetables into your diet works wonders for your body. Hence, replacing high-fat salad dressings with homemade variants including hung yogurt, lemon, etc. opting for broiled, baked, steamed, and grilled foods instead of fried foods; small steps like these can help in reducing the consumption of unhealthy fat as well as cholesterol levels.

Apart from the mindful eating, exercising plays a major role in optimising the cholesterol levels. On the whole, with a few minor changes in dietary requirements coupled with intake of supplements, changes in cooking procedures and physical activity, the right nutritional strategies can help in effectively optimising cholesterol levels.