Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Foods that Lower your Cholesterol (knowing LDL and HDL)

The human life tends to get busier day by day, and the stress that surrounds us is increasing by leaps and bounds. We all know what harm stress can do to our body, including rising our blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This in turn leads to incresed risk of heart attacks, obesity and osteoporosis, to name a few! So its extremely essential that we take charge of our lives, and do whatever is in our hand to keep our cholesterol under control right from the beginning. It gets more and more difficult to do this as you age, so start right now! Exercise and a check on your daily diet can help lower your bad cholesterol. Though there are several medications now prescribed for the same, there are also a lot of natural food options, and incorporating these in our diet can make it much easier for you or your family member to keep the "High-Cholesterol" fever at bay. So what exactly is "LDL and HDL", and what foods can you take to help fight against the demon named cholesterol?

What is LDL and HDL?
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood. Fats and cholesterol are part of the same family of chemical compounds known as lipids, and is either made by the liver, or found in our food. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as “bad” cholesterol. When too much LDL(bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as “good” cholesterol, and constitues about 1/3-1/4th of the blood cholesterol. Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it's passed from the body. Some experts believe that that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, thus slowing its buildup, thus reducing the risk of heart attacks.

Foods that Help you Lower Bad Cholesterol

Whole Grains/Oats/Cereals
These foods are rich in soluble fiber, which helps increase HDL and therby reduce buildup in the carotid artery walss.

Soy Protein
A diet rich in soy helps increase the activity of low-density lipoprotein receptors primarily on the liver that clears it from the body. Eating soy protein increases the activity of these enzymes that break down the cholesterol in the body.

An antioxidant called pterostilbene (similar to resveratrol, found in grapes and red wine), is known to have effectively lowered cholesterol levels in animals. These fruits also have other nutrients and are rich in fiber.

Nuts like walnuts, pistachios, pecans and almonds are rich in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium. These tasty snacks are also high in plant sterols and fat - but mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have all been shown to lower the bad LDL cholesterol. But limit your intake to a fistful a day, as they are also high in calories!

Salmon and Fish Oil
Fish, especially Salmon, is a good source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids - which has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. This is also recommended for people with Type-2 Diabetes.

A huge part of fat in an avocado is heart-healthy, unsaturated fats that can increase your levels of HDL cholesterol. The good fats in avocados, olives, and olive oil protect against heart disease and diabetes.

Raw Garlic
This fragrant spice that adds flavor to all our foods, is clinically proven to lower the LDL cholesterol significantly. Eating raw crushed garlic is extremely beneficial to the heart and also lowers blood pressure.

Several studies have shown that the probiotics Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Reuteri actually help lower cholesterol by preventing the reabsorption of cholesterol back in to the blood stream.

Tomatoes contain lycopene which is great at stopping the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Studies have shown that large consumption of lycopene can indeed reduce cholesterol levels, and it is best to eat these cooked, rather than raw.

These are the main foods that can help you lower your Cholesterol. It's not just about being obese; it's about being healthy, and doing your part in helping your heart purify all your blood! A judicious use of the above foods can really reduce the rish of heart disease. Hope this article helps you in making an informed decision.

References and Sources
Sixwise, Medicine.Net, Mayo Clinic and American Heart Association

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