Cholesterol – what’s the big deal?!

Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is crucial for the normal functioning of the body. It is mainly made by the liver but can also be found in some foods we eat.

Having an exceptionally high level of lipids in your blood can have an effect on your health and can increase your risk of serious health conditions. If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, the first thing to do is visit your GP to get it checked.

How can you lower your cholesterol level?

The second step in reducing cholesterol is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. It is important to keep your diet low in fatty food, especially food containing saturated fat, and eat lots of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals.

Other lifestyle changes can also make a big difference. It will help to lower your cholesterol if you perform regular exercise and quit smoking.

As a general rule, try and reduce the amount of fat in your diet; grill food instead of frying, substitute vegetable oils in place of lard and butter, substitute low fat in place of full fat and remove the rind off cheese (this will reduce the fat content by half). Try and remove excess fat from meat and eat leaner cuts.

Foods to eat – that contain high amounts of unsaturated fat

Oily fish (e.g. mackerel, sardines, trout and salmon)

Nuts (e.g. almonds and cashews)

Seeds (e.g. sunflower , sesame and pumpkin)

Avocado

Vegetable oils and spreads (e.g. sunflower, olive, corn, walnut and rapeseed oils)

Foods to eat – that contain good sources of soluble fibre

Oats and other whole grains

Beans

Peas

Lentils and Quinoa

Chickpeas

Fruit and veg – aim to eat 5 portions a day

Foods to eat – that increase HDL (good cholesterol)

Garlic

Oily fish

Red wine (no more that 2 glasses a day)

Foods to eat – that contain more antioxidents

Carrots

Cabbage and kale

Avocados

Almonds and brazil nuts

Blueberries

Tomatoes

Wholegrains

Tofu

Foods to limit – these are all higher in saturated fat

Meat pies

Butter

Ghee

Lard

Cream

Full fat milk

Hard cheese

Full fat yoghurt

Foods   containing coconut or palm oil

Cakes and biscuits

Sausages and fatty cuts of meat

Foods to limit – these are all higher in dietary cholesterol

Kidneys

Eggs

Prawns

Liver

Foods to limit – these are all higher in trans fat

Some frozen meals

Dairy spreads

Hydrogenated fat (e.g. some processed foods such as biscuits and cakes)

Watch your portion size!

Many restaurant meals and processed foods are getting bigger. Eating more can contribute to weight gain and high cholesterol, so try and practice ‘portion control’. Make sure at least a two thirds of your plate is made up of vegetables (preferably steamed) and pulses beans or wholemeal rice/pasta or potatoes. The remaining third should be fish, poultry, lean meat, reduced fat dairy, eggs, tofu or other meat alternatives

A good way to measure out a portion is to use your hand. Protein like meat, fish or Quorn should be able to fit in the palm of your hand. A serving of vegetables or pasta etc should be able to fit in your cupped hand and one serving of fruit is about the size of your fist.

Move it!

Keeping active not only burns calories but it can also keep you healthy and possibly reduce your stress levels. It is recommended that adults do 150 minutes of exercise a week – about 30 minutes a day including muscle strengthening exercises.

Initially start with something as simple as walking, but do it at a brisk pace. Add in some gardening, energetic house work, playing on the park with the kids or walking the dog

Learn to love labels

Get in to the habit of reading labels in the supermarket - how many calories, fat, salt and sugar per portion or per 100g does the food contain? Your daily calories allowance should be no more than 2000 for a woman and 2500 for a man: Fat; 70g for a woman 90g for a man: Sugar; 90g for a woman and 120 for a man and salt for both is no more than 6g – just over a teaspoon.

Watch out, especially for the saturated fat content of food. The daily amounts are 20g for a woman and 30g for a man

Know your BMI

BMI stands for Body Mass Index and gives an indication of whether you're a healthy weight for your height. You should aim to be under 25. There are many apps and websites that can work it out for you

Why not make and enjoy this healthy recipe:

Mixed bean salad with spinach – serves 2 as a main meal, 280 calories per serving

  • ½ tin chick peas
  • ½ tin kidney beans
  • 3 inch piece of cucumber – chopped
  • 2 beef tomatoes (or 8 cherry tomatoes) – chopped
  • ½ red pepper – chopped
  • 2 spring onions chopped
  • ½ red chilli chopped
  • handful of chopped fresh herbs – basil, parsley and mint
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 50g uncooked quinoa
  • ½ tsp vegetable bouillon
  • handful of fresh spinach leaves
  • salt and pepper

Cook the quinoa in water with the bouillon. Mix all the remaining ingredients together. Add in the cooked quinoa. Season with salt and pepper and chill until needed. Then serve on top of the washed fresh spinach leaves.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Susan Hart

As a nutrition coach I believe in and practice healthy eating. But why should you, your family or your organisation be concerned about what you eat? Because eating healthily helps you look and feel better.Did you know that two out of three adults in England are overweight? This can impair well-being, quality of life and the ability to earn. Healthy eating often means making only small changes to t… Read more

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