Over the last two decades low fat and low cholesterol diets have been promoted as the way to reduce cholesterol levels. Despite this, cholesterol levels and the incidence of heart disease have increased. A 10% reduction in LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol could decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 20%, but rather than reducing your cholesterol intake, recent research indicates that the biggest influence upon cholesterol metabolism is the type and mix of fats and carbohydrates that you eat. Follow these tips to naturally lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- 1. Eat a high fibre diet
Fibre binds with cholesterol in the gut and carries it to the large intestine where it is expelled in faeces. Foods rich in fibre include fruit and vegetables, beans and pulses, unrefined cereals and grains, and nuts and seeds.
- 2. Consume inulin-rich foods (artichokes, onion, garlic, chicory and asparagus)
Some fruit and vegetables contain inulin, a type of fibre which is very effective at carrying cholesterol out of the body. To reduce cholesterol levels, eat inulin-rich foods daily.
- 3. Eat foods high in anti-oxidants to reduce oxidized cholesterol
Oxidized cholesterol is a serious contributor to cardiovascular disease. However, anti-oxidants can counteract cholesterol oxidation, and many studies illustrate that a high anti-oxidant intake improves arterial health. Fresh fruits and vegetables tend to have the highest anti-oxidant level, particularly berries, green vegetables and orange-coloured fruit and vegetables.
- 4. Eat foods naturally rich in phytosterols
Compounds called phytosterols found in whole grains, legumes (e.g. peas, lentils, soya beans) and nuts compete with cholesterol for absorption into the body. It is these phytosterol compounds that are added to margarines and yoghurts to help lower cholesterol.
- 5. Eat low GI, unrefined carbohydrates
Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to be more effective than low fat diets in reducing the amount of oxidized cholesterol in the arterial wall. A pooled analysis of 11 studies (344,696 participants) found a slightly increased risk of heart disease when saturated fat was decreased and carbohydrates were increased, and Mediterranean-style low-glycaemic diets have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol.
- 6. Eat healthier fats
A recent meta-analysis involving 347,747 subjects showed no association between saturated fat intake and increased risk of heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease, although research suggests that changing the type of fat in your diet may be more effective than simply reducing saturated fat intake, and this is more effective when combined with an overall reduction in fat intake.
To find out what you really need to do to lower your cholesterol level, read ‘Cholesterol: The Essential Guide’, available at www.need2knowbooks.co.uk, or book an appointment with Sara at the Newquay Chiropractic Clinic. Call 07919 110440 for further information.
Healthy recipe – Asparagus and roasted garlic soup with griddled asparagus spears
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 fat garlic cloves
Half a litre of vegetable stock
A handful of fenugreek seeds
400g of asparagus spears, chopped, plus half a dozen more asparagus spears to griddle for each person.
Method for the soup
1. Rub a little olive oil over the garlic cloves (keeping the skin on), and roast the garlic in an oven at 180°C for 30 – 40 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool.
2. Heat the oil and cook the onion until soft and translucent.
3. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the inside of the cloves into the pan and stir to mix in. Discard the skins.
4. Add the asparagus, stir and cook for 2 minutes.
5. Add the water or vegetable stock and simmer for another 7-8 minutes or until the asparagus is cooked through.
5. Puree the soup in a blender or with a hand whisk and serve, sprinkling fenugreek seeds on top.
Meanwhile, for the asparagus spears…
1. If asparagus spears are thick (more than 5mm across mid-stem), either blanche them in boiling water for a couple of minutes or cut them in half lengthways.
2. Brush the asparagus with olive oil.
3. Place under a hot grill, or roast in a pre-heated oven (180°C) until slightly charred. Alternatively, you can put the asparagus spears on a skewer and BBQ them for approximately 3 minutes on each side.
You can squeeze fresh lemon juice over the asparagus, or add lemon juice and/or fenugreek powder to phytosterol-enhanced plain yoghurt to make a dip.
You can find more healthy recipes and a 7 day eating plan to reduce cholesterol in Sara’s book ‘Cholesterol – The Essential Guide’, available at www.need2knowbooks.co.uk .