It’s that time of year again when holiday festivities cause tummies to pack on some extra pounds. That means cholesterol levels would be affected, too. There’s a difference between types of cholesterol – the good and the bad. To fight the good fight against bad cholesterol, it is suggested that folks alter their diet – especially this holiday season.
So what distinguishes good cholesterol from the bad? In short, bad cholesterol, known as LDL for low-density lipoprotein, clogs up arteries, and could in turn lead to heart disease and low oxygen supply to the legs. Good cholesterol, or HDL for high-density lipoprotein, on the other hand, helps remove LDL cholesterol from arteries.
And, how does diet alteration help? There are foods out there that help in lowering the circulation of bad cholesterol, by keeping the body from absorbing the bad LDLs. They do this by binding onto the bad cholesterol, and then transport them away from arteries, even back to the liver – where they would be further broken down before passing out of the body.
To dial down on the cholesterol this holiday season, try to limit the intake of foods high in saturated fats and trans fat. Saturated fats are substances found in red meat, dairy products, and oils. Substituting extra-lean for regular red meat, as well as switching to low fat or skim milk, do wonders for your diet. Also plan on utilizing olive oil in place of butter, or even consider baking your chicken rather than frying. Trans fats, meanwhile, are better known as the partially hydrogenated oils found in processed foods. In other words, the trans fats to worry about are the artificial ones created by industrial process to add hydrogen to oils so that they become more solid. While trans fats make foods taste better, they are in fact bad for your health because they raise bad LDL cholesterol levels and thereby lead to heart disease, or even type 2 diabetes.
The American Heart Association as well as the U.S. federal agency known as the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have all recommended cutting back on both trans fats and saturated fats. Folks can instead benefit more by consuming a diet rich in HDL (good) cholesterol-boosting substances. Here are at least five types of foods to help minimize the bad (LDL) cholesterol levels this holiday season:
Nuts. Christmas carols have highlighted “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” for instance. It turns out that studies have shown nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, chestnuts, and other types of nuts) are good for the heart. Consuming a minimum of 2 ounces of nuts a day lowers bad cholesterol levels.
Beans. Consider adding beans to your winter soups, salads, and entrees. That’s because beans are rich in soluble fiber – the type of fiber that binds to cholesterol so that the bad LDLs can be transported out of the body. Beans also take longer for the body to digest, so you’ll feel fuller longer. What’s more, beans are fully packed with the B vitamin folate, as well as the minerals magnesium and potassium (folate improves blood vessel health, magnesium keeps your heart rhythm steady, and potassium lowers your blood pressure). Some good choices for beans include lentils, navy beans, kidney beans, garbanzos, black beans, pintos, great northerns, and even chickpeas.
Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Plant sterols and stanols are substances that naturally occur in fruits and vegetables; they have powerful cholesterol-lowering properties. They prevent cholesterol from being absorbed. Companies are now adding sterols and stanols to a wide range of foods – like granola bars, dark chocolate, and orange juice. Getting a minimum of 2 grams of plant sterols and stanols a day lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by as much as 10%.
Oats. Oatmeal, oat-based cereal, and oat bran in your pastries are excellent resources for lowering bad cholesterol levels in the body. They provide soluble fiber that assists with reducing cholesterol absorption in the bloodstream. Consuming five to ten grams of oatmeal or oat bran decreases one’s LDL cholesterol. Consider having 1 ½ cups of cooked oatmeal for your holiday breakfast – that’s the equivalent of providing 6 grams of fiber.
Fish and their omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish is heart-healthy because fish are packed with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s reduce one’s blood pressure and minimize the risk of developing blood clots. The American Heart Association has recommended consuming a minimum of two to three servings of fish a week. Besides, eating fish replaces red meat, and doing so minimizes the LDL-friendly saturated fats from red meat. Thus, fish omega-3s reduce LDL levels in the bloodstream, which can only be great news for your heart and circulatory system.
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