Cholesterol health

It may come as a surprise to some readers that cholesterol is an essential substance for our bodies. Without it, our nervous and hormonal systems would suffer greatly. We need cholesterol – but in the right quantities. If we understand how cholesterol levels elevate beyond healthy levels, then we know what we can do about it. The main cause of raised cholesterol is eating too many of the wrong kind of fats along with low fiber diets. Pre – prepared and takeaway foods, and fried food contain trans fats, which can increase cholesterol levels. Cutting out the added fats in foods like pastries, snack bars, crumbed foods, and fried foods, helps to reduce over all fat intake.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins, have side effects of digestive disturbances, headaches, muscle pains, and more serious conditions as well.

Stress also increases cholesterol levels, which explains why some people who are on healthy diets may still have high cholesterol levels, so stress management and relaxation therapies can help to keep cholesterol in check.Cholesterol is eliminated from the body via the liver and bowel. Anything that enhances liver and gut function is good for your cholesterol levels. Foods that stimulate liver function are lemon juice, beetroot, bitter vegetables like endive, and dandelion (root) coffee.

Foods that keep you regular also help to eliminate cholesterol. Rolled oats has long been known to lower cholesterol levels. Globe artichokes, apples, cocoa and legumes (peas, beans & lentils) also have cholesterol-lowering abilities. Australians have the lowest consumption of legumes in the world. Baked beans, soup mix in winter, three-bean mix in salads in the summer are simple ways of consuming more legumes. Other ways are eating hummus and Indian Dahl. Legumes have a low GI, and so are excellent for a range of health issues like weight control and diabetes.

Fish, olive oil, and nuts, gives us the right kind of fats. Unsaturated fats, found in olive oil, canola, and avocados have an ‘unclogging' effect’ on blood vessels.

Strict diet therapy can achieve lower blood fat levels without the need for drug therapy in far more patients than has previously been considered – so researchers concluded that diet alone may be a reasonable option for those not wishing to take medication. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2003; 290:502-510

Other options before looking at medical drugs are herbal medicines, supplements and homeopathic medicines – all can positively affect cholesterol levels, in conjunction with diet and exercise.