High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
High cholesterol is when a person has too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in their blood.
The condition is often diet related, mainly caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough and being overweight.
But it’s important to understand not all cholesterol is bad, especially when it comes to making changes to your diet to lower cholesterol.
Good cholesterol, known as HDL cholesterol, actually makes a person less likely to have heart problems or a stroke.
Bad cholesterol, known as LDL, may make a person more likely to suffer these conditions.
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Rob Hobson, Healthspan Registered Nutritionist, said it’s important to remember achieving balanced cholesterol isn’t solely about excluding certain foods. He said it’s about adopting a comprehensive dietary approach.
Prioritise whole foods, said Rob, limiting processed foods, especially those rich in sugars, unhealthy fats and salts.
He said: “Foods such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, legumes, wholegrains and soy are rich in plant sterols that help reduce cholesterol absorption in the gut.”
Emphasise unsaturated fats in the diet by including foods such as olive oil, oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines, herring, and anchovies), avocado, nuts and seeds, said Rob.
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He added: “Find out more about individual food groups for example, California Walnuts are the only nut to contain significant amounts of the plant-based essential omega-3 ALA (2.7g/30g). Research reviewed by EFSA leading to an approved health claim has shown that ALA contributes to maintaining normal blood cholesterol levels. California walnuts are also naturally sodium and cholesterol-free.”
Choose wholegrains over refined carbs as they are high in fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol, said Rob.
Include supplements and foods fortified with plant sterols such as yoghurts, milks and spreads, advised Rob.
He said: “It is also well-researched that people who consume the most plant sterols have the lowest cholesterol levels. Furthermore, plant sterol supplements have been shown to lower levels of non-HDL cholesterol by as much as 15 percent (try Healthspan Plant Sterols – £16.16 for 90 tablets). The benefit of this is a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
“Plant sterols help in two ways. Firstly, they work to reduce the transport of cholesterol. Plant sterols limit cholesterol transport from the intestines into the body’s bloodstream. This leads to lower levels of non-HDL cholesterol. Secondly, it has been found to regulate cholesterol in the liver. Plant sterols impact the amount of cholesterol the liver produces by signalling that enough cholesterol is already present. This results in the liver reducing its production of cholesterol, leading to further reductions in non-HDL cholesterol levels.”
Diets abundant in saturated fats can elevate non-HDL cholesterol. Modern research also pinpoints the detrimental effects of ultra-processed foods on cardiac health due to their saturated fat content, additives, and propensity for overconsumption.
Rob added: “Looking at ways to reduce your consumption of ultra-processed foods is now a priority, and evidence is mounting on the impact of this on health, and we know that reducing ultra-processed foods in our diet will be a big focus for 2024.”
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