The worrying truth is that so many of our favourite foods simply ooze with the worst type of fats – that’s saturated fats which come from mainly animal sources and which the body converts into the cholesterol which blocks the arteries and causes heart disease.
Here are 10 ways to reduce to cholesterol:
1.Eat less saturated fat.
Saturated fats increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, and most of them are found in the fat around your lamb chop, beef-steak, crackling on your pork and in the skin of poultry. Even lean meat contains substantial amounts – especially if the animals have been intensively reared. You can remove all the visible fat, but for overall lower fat content, choose organic meat and poultry. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there and nearly all meat products have a very high saturated meat content. These include sausages, pate, Scotch eggs, meat pies and pasties, commercial burgers etc. And lard, dripping, butter and cheese also contain high levels. But don’t forget that dairy products are a major source of calcium. Watch out for coconut and palm oils, widely used in food processing and high in saturated fats. Don’t forget that Danish pastries, croissants and many other bakery products are also rich in saturated fats.
2.Eat more mono-unsaturated fats
They’re found in olive, walnut and rapeseed oils – and in the flesh of avocados. These fats reduce the LDL cholesterol level without affecting the amount of HDL.
3.Use modest amounts of poly-unsaturated fats
Sunflower, safflower and, best of all, rapeseed oils also help reduce LDL cholesterol, but they lower the levels of protective HDL. Rapeseed, however, has the least effect on HDL.
4.Have much more of the omega-3 fats
These help to prevent blood clotting and are highly protective against heart and arterial disease. They occur in all oily fish like salmon, sardines, herrings, mackerel, kippers, trout, anchovies and fresh tuna.
5.Get your daily oats
Although the Scots have the highest level of heart disease in the UK, the food most commonly associated with Scotland is one of the best things to eat to help control cholesterol. The soluble fibre in oats makes porridge a daily must both for both prevention and treatment of raised cholesterol. Don’t add salt or cream, but make it with half milk and half water. It’s the cheapest and healthiest of all the breakfast cereals. Also add oats to soups, stews, casserole as well as home-made biscuits and bread. Another traditions Scottish dish is herrings rolled in oats, a double whammy against high cholesterol.
6. Eat much more of all the wholegrain cereals
Wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice, barley, couscous, buckwheat and rye are all excellent sources of fibre, which help control cholesterol levels.
7.Don’t worry about cholesterol in foods
Eggs, liver, kidneys, some shellfish and avocados are some of the foods which contain cholesterol, but for most people this type of cholesterol is much less important than the amount of saturated fat in their diet. Only those with extremely high levels or with the genetic condition which means they manufacture far too much cholesterol, should not over-indulge.
8.Eat more apples and pears
These two wonderful British fruits are both rich in pectin, not only a setting agent for jams, but a special soluble fibre which helps your body get rid of cholesterol. One of each a day really could keep the doctor, and the heart specialist, away.
9.Five a day is the healthy way
Eating a minimum of five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day is a powerful weapon in the fight against cholesterol. If you’re not sure what five portions means, it’s around 500g (1lb) in weight, excluding potatoes. They’re great for your health, too, as long as they’re not all chips.
10.Eat your beans
All beans help to reduce cholesterol levels. And there’s growing evidence that soya beans are among the most important. Of all the beans, they contain the most natural plant hormones, which have a beneficial effect on cholesterol metabolism. Kidney, borlotti, Lima, butter, black-eye and flageolet are all good, too. Even baked beans are a rich source of protective plant hormones.