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January 2, 2009

Cholesterol : A Nutrient with Two Sides

Filed under: Health — Tags: , , , — wayne @ 10:36 pm

Heart attack is the major cause of death for people aged more than 20, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Scientific studies indicate that high cholesterol in blood circulation may lead to coronary artery disease by narrowing blood vessels and restricting blood flow. That is why many people avoid cholesterol. But actually this nutrientl is also essential for maintaining a healthy body. For example, at the cellular level, it participates in regulation of cell membrane fluidity; and at the system level, it is the main precursor of vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption.

There are two sources cholesterol for your body. One is self-synthesis, the other is absorption from diet. The one produced by your body is enough to meet your body’s needs. What makes things worse is the extra cholesterol from your diet, especially animal products such as beef, pork, butter and egg. So a balanced diet is critical for managing your cholesterol level.

When you are managing your cholesterol level, you should know that there are two kinds of cholesterol: low density (LDL) and high density (HDL). HDL is the good one, which can clean arteries of debris, and LDL is the bad one, which can clog arteries and lead to heart attack. When you choose your diet, you want to increase HDL and decrease LDL levels.

Here are several ways to keep a healthy cholesterol level:

  1. Engage in vigorous physical exercise.
  2. Avoid coffee, switch to tea.
  3. No cigarettes.
  4. Eat less animal-based products and products containing saturated fat. For example: pork, beef, diary, egg, cake, cracker, cookies, candies, and chips.
  5. Increase intake of plant-based products and non-saturated fat. For example: vegetable, fruits, beans, nuts, fish, poultry, whole grains.
  6. Eat raw garlic.
  7. Take calcium supplements and vitamins.
  8. Drink small amounts of wine from time to time.

An interesting personal observation of mine is that eating more non-saturated fat enriched foods (avocado, nuts, fish…) helps to reduce my craving for meats and junk food. This not only lowers your cholesterol levels, but also reduces your weight, which also helps to prevent heart disease.

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