Maliha Arosha Hasan
ANN/THE DAILY STAR – A balanced level of cholesterol is necessary for the body to build and maintain cells.
Trying to reduce your excess cholesterol comes with added perks like better physical health, mental health, and a healthier lifestyle.
According to the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cholesterol levels should be checked every five years after hitting the age of 20.
Here are some ways you can keep your cholesterol levels in check.
REDUCE SATURATED FATS
Saturated fats are usually solid or wax-like at room temperature, often found in dairy food like cream, butter, cheese, full-fat milk, cooking margarine, palm oil, coconut oil, and red meat.
Higher intake of saturated fats increases low-density lipoproteins (LDL), subsequently raising the risk of coronary heart diseases.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommended that only five to six per cent of your daily calories come from saturated fats.
CUT OUT TRANS-FAT FROM YOUR DIET
Trans-fat is considered the worst type of fat for consumption.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned artificial trans-fat in the US. They increase your risk of stroke, cardiovascular diseases, and Type 2 diabetes.
Some food that include trans-fat are margarine, shortening (used for baking), baked goods like cookies and pastries, fried fast food like fried chicken, French fries, mozzarella sticks, doughnuts, refrigerated or pre-made dough, microwave popcorn and non-dairy coffee creamer.
Check the labels on pre-packaged food to see if there is any trans-fat.
OPT FOR A MIX OF MONOUNSATURATED AND POLYUNSATURATED FATS
Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats decrease LDL in the blood and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so-called ‘good cholesterol’.
Monounsaturated fats also reduce the oxidation of cholesterol.
Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, canola oil, nuts like almonds, hazelnut, cashews, avocados, olives, nut butters, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
As our bodies cannot produce these essential fatty acids, it is imperative that we obtain them from our diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty acids such as salmon, shrimp, mackerel, pine nuts, walnuts, flaxseed and sunflower seeds. Omega-6 is mostly found in plant-based oils like sunflower oil, soybean oil and grapeseed oil.
INCREASE YOUR FIBRE INTAKE
Incorporate fibre-rich food in your everyday life.
In addition to keeping your cholesterol level in check, fibres have a multitude of health benefits including reducing blood glucose levels, keeping you fuller for a longer time subsequently reducing your food intake, normalising bowel movements and reducing constipation.
Food with high fibre content includes oats, barley, apples, bananas, carrots, beets, broccoli, lentils, kidney beans, split peas, chickpeas, almonds, sweet potatoes, chia seeds, strawberries, raspberries, whole wheat bread and rye bread.
As we all know, smoking is hugely detrimental to health. Smoking speeds up the rate of plaque formation in the arteries and makes blood more prone to clotting.
All of this results in increased risks for heart diseases, heart attacks, and strokes.
Quitting smoking is a sure-fire way to improve the health of the heart and reverse these negative effects.
It is time to finally start utilising that unused gym membership of yours.
Exercise and physical activity increase HDL levels in your blood while also decreasing LDL.
Most people should aim to do 30 to 60 minutes of exercise and moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.
Moderate intensity is a level that raises your heart rate and breathing but still allows you to keep talking.
From brisk walking to resistance and weight training, there are many types of exercises out there to get your body moving.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Being overweight and obese increases blood cholesterol.
It is important to shed those extra pounds and continually maintain a healthy weight range.
But do not go starving yourself or follow some crash diets. It is recommended that you speak to a doctor or a nutritionist to come up with an effective nutrition-dense weight loss plan. Don’t go paranoid by calorie counting.
Make simple switches in your diet like whole-grain alternatives for the refined carbohydrates, limiting sugar in the diet except for natural sugars found in fruits, substituting sugar with stevia – a natural zero-calorie alternative that will not spike your blood glucose, choosing healthy fats over added saturated fats and ensuring that you take in all the macronutrients.