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Lowering your cholesterol – Part 2

By: ELIZABETH HARTLAND | features@algarveresident.com

Elizabeth Hartland has a Bachelor of Science Degree in nutrition, together with a Diploma from the Institute of Nutritional Therapy. She is married with two young children and has a passion for good nutrition and helping others to find better health.

Last week, Elizabeth Hartland addressed good and bad cholesterol and offered diet and lifestyle recommendations.

When French researchers added two to three apples a day to the diet of a group of healthy middle aged men and women, cholesterol levels fell in 80% of them. Apples contain pectin, a soluble fibre found in the pulp. Pears and citrus fruit are also high in pectin.

Apart from containing a source of dietary fibre, fruits and vegetables also contain powerful anti-oxidant ingredients including flavonoids and the vitamins A, C and E.

Antioxidants work by disarming harmful free radicals’ molecules that can damage cholesterol and fat travelling through the arteries. Damaged cholesterol and fats can build up within arterial cells, eventually forming a growing wound on the wall of the artery encouraging inflammation and blood clots.

What does this all mean?

• Aim to include oats in your diet every day. Oats are a very versatile cereal and can be easily incorporated into the diet, not only as porridge and muesli, but in a whole range of savoury recipes. Oat bran can also be used sprinkled onto cereals or mixed into yoghurts.

• Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables in your daily diet, including two to three apples a day.

• Introduce rice into your diet every day. Rice can be used in stir fries, salads, in the form of rice flakes or bran to add to your home-made muesli, or in the form of a milk substitute called rice dream.

• Include more pulses and legumes such as lentils and beans. Adding these to soups or casseroles is a good way of increasing your intake.

• Eating the right fats. Saturated fats primarily from land animals, such as pork, beef, lamb and dairy produce, are not a necessary component of a healthy diet and, in excess, increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.

There are, however, two ‘families’ of essential fatty acids that must be included in our diet. These are the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

The main fatty acids effective against heart disease are from the Omega-3 series, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Evidence for the health benefits of this family of essential fats comes from the observation that the traditional Inuit diet is among the fattiest and highest in cholesterol and yet cardiovascular disease is virtually unheard of amongst them. The reason? Their diet is almost exclusively raw fish.

Fish, particularly those found in the cold waters such as salmon, herring and mackerel, are high in oils containing the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Since this observation many studies have been carried out to further investigate the health benefits of EPA in relation to the health of the heart and arteries with results confirming the role of this essential fat in lowering triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, thinning the blood and raising HDL cholesterol as well as protecting the blood fats from oxidation.

Frequent consumption of nuts has also been associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Some people have considered nuts to be an undesirable food because of their high fat content. However, nuts are also a source of essential fatty acids, minerals and other beneficial nutrients. Previous studies have shown that ingestion of nuts, particularly walnuts or almonds, can lower serum cholesterol levels.

What does this mean?

• Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats like red meat, dairy products and fried foods. Frying damages HDL cholesterol. When preparing foods grill, bake or stir fry with olive oil. Use flax seed oil as for salad dressings. Using a flaxseed oil flavoured with chilli and garlic provides additional antioxidant and circulatory properties of their own.

• Include a handful of seeds and unsalted fresh nuts (excluding peanuts) as snacks every day. Walnuts and almonds, in particular, have all been found to have beneficial effects on cholesterol. It is important to remember that the unsaturated fats present in nuts can undergo spontaneous oxidation. Nuts should therefore be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

• Have three portions of oily fish (herring, pilchards, sardines) every week.

What else can you do?

• Aim to lose weight if overweight.

• Relax before you eat and chew your food well to ensure proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.

• Avoid all stimulants including coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar. These deplete nutrients, increase levels of fats in the blood and overstimulate the nervous system. Use alternative drinks such as Barleycup, NoCaf, herbal and fruit teas, diluted fruit juice, Caro, vegetable juices, slippery elm tea, Yannoh, bamboo coffee, oat, rice, nut or soya milk.

• Avoid foods that contain refined carbohydrates including sugar, biscuits, cakes, puddings, pastries, sugared breakfast cereal, carbonated drinks, chocolate, and other confectionery, ice cream, jams, processed and canned foods. These contribute to weight gain and increased levels of fats in the blood.

• Avoid alcohol.

To book an appointment, please contact Elizabeth Hartland on 282 427 652, 916 384 029 or elizabeth007@btinternet.com