Sunday, February 20, 2011

Health - Control Your Diet To Control Cholesterol

By: Saima Ausaf

The term Cholesterol does not sound new to the ears. All of us have come across this word at some point or another during our lifetime. Many people confuse cholesterol with saturated fats. Instead, cholesterol is a fat related compound belonging to a family of substances called, sterols.

Precisely, cholesterol is a waxy substance essential for our body in many ways. In fact it is a vital matter in human metabolism, necessary in forming bile acids and is a component of all cell membranes. A cholesterol product in the skin, 7-dehydrocholesterol, is irritated by the sun’s ultraviolet rays to initiate the synthesis of vitamin D hormone. Cholesterol is widely distributed in all body cells and large amounts occur in brain and nerve tissue. The internal body supply is synthesized mainly in the liver while some of it comes from the food we eat. It must be noted here that not all cholesterol is bad. It is only when the amount of cholesterol in our blood exceeds a certain limit it becomes harmful because it precipitates within the arterial walls narrowing and obstructing them. This process of forming fatty cholesterol deposits in blood vessel walls is called atherosclerosis. It is the underlying disease process leading to coronary heart disease such as hypertension. High cholesterol is well known as a silent killer as it is a major risk factor for heart related diseases.

Eating healthy food has a very important part in fighting atherosclerotic heart disease. It has been proven that diets designated to reduce body weight are very essential for primary and secondary prevention and risk reduction of cardiovascular disease.

A simple blood test shows what your cholesterol level is and whether you are at increased risk for heart disease. You can control your elevated level of cholesterol by modifying your diet and by including aerobic exercise in your routine.
In principle, getting your cholesterol to a healthy level is a combination of reducing the bad cholesterol (LDL =Low Density Lipoprotein) and raising the good (HDL= High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol.
Inclusion of the following foods in your diet can help nudge your cholesterol downwards:

Breads and Cereals:
Select from whole grain breads and cereals (e.g. whole wheat, rye, bran, multigrain) as they lower bad cholesterol. Avoid commercially baked goods: pies, cakes, doughnuts, croissants, pastries, muffins, biscuits, high fat crackers and cookies.

Oatmeal is great for reducing cholesterol. It is also rich in vitamin E and C, potassium and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs)

Look for fish rich in omega-3 EFAs, such as mackerel, salmon, tuna and trout.

Since almonds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, they will help reduce the bad cholesterol in your body.

Olive oil:
Olives and extra virgin olive oil which is high in antioxidants helps lower your bad cholesterol.

Unsaturated fats:
 Replace the saturated fats in your diet such as: cream, cheese, butter, ghee, red meat with unsaturated fats to reduce your cholesterol. Since cholesterol is synthesized only by the animal body and not by plants, it is suggested that for cooking use: canola, corn, safflower, sunflower or soybean oils. Also, select mayonnaise and salad dressings made with unsaturated oils listed above. Avoid dressings made with egg-yolks.

Egg white:
Egg whites have no cholesterol and you can substitute them for whole eggs in recipes. Two egg whites are equal to one whole egg.

Milk, Yoghurt and Cheese:
Fat-free and 1% fat milk (liquid, powdered, evaporated) are great low cholesterol foods because they have about the same amount of calcium and other nutrients as whole milk with much less saturated fat and cholesterol. Eat nonfat (0% fat) or low-fat yoghurt alone or use as topping in some recipes. Amongst the cheeses choose: fat-free, reduced-fat, low-fat cheeses that have 2 -6 grams of fat per ounce.

Diets high in vegetables help keep the cholesterol levels low. Green leafy vegetables as well as tomatoes, broccoli, onions, spinach, green beans and celery help in increasing good cholesterol and prevent plague formation.

Instead of the fruit juices go for the whole fruit itself with skin included. Apples, berries, cranberries, grapes prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Poultry, Fish and meat substitutes:
Choose fish; poultry without skin; lean cuts of beef, lamb or veal.
Decrease fatty cuts of meat (beef and lamb), organ meats, regular cold cuts, sausages, hot dogs and bacon.

Choose methods of cooking that will lower your fat intake:
The following methods of preparing food will keep the fat content at bay:
·         Baking
·         Broiling
·         Grilling
·         Poaching
·         Roasting
·         Stir-frying or sautéing in cooking spray

 Low Fat Recipes:

·        Low fat French Toast:
Whole grain bread slices                    4
Egg whites                                          of 2 eggs   (2 egg whites = 1 whole egg)
Non-fat milk                                        ½ cup
Vanilla Extract                                    1 tsp
Cinnamon                                            ¼ tsp

Combine egg-whites, milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon in a wide bowl.
Dip bread slices in the egg mixture; make sure that both sides are equally soaked. Heat a griddle or non stick skillet, sprayed with cooking spray. Alternatively, heat oven to 450 degrees and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
Place bread slices on skillet or griddle or on cookie sheet and cook till both sides of bread are gold brown in color (about 3 minutes each side).

Nutritive value (per 2 slice serving)
§  Calories                           188 Cal
§  Calories (from fat)            21 Cal
§  Cholesterol                            1mg
§  Carbohydrate                     31.2g
§  Protein                               10.6g
§  Fiber                                    4.2g

·        Tabouleh (Lebanese salad):

Parsley                               About 3 bunches (finely chopped)
Tomatoes                          2-3 (finely chopped)
Spring onions                    2 (finely chopped)
Mint leaves                       1/4cup (finely chopped)
Bulgur                                ½ cup
Water                                1 ½ cup

For Dressing:
Lemon juice                        ¼ cup (freshly squeezed)
Extra virgin olive oil            1 tbsp
Salt                                      a pinch

Bring water to a boil, add bulgur, stir, cover, and turn off heat. Let it stand for 20 to 25 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and bulgur is fluffy and tender. Pour off any remaining liquid.
To prepare dressing, in a small bowl, mix lemon juice, salt and oil. Taste and adjust seasonings.
In a large salad bowl, toss together parsley, tomatoes, green onions and mint. Add bulgur. Pour the prepared dressing over salad, toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. The salad is ready to be served.

Nutritive value:
§  Serving size :               1 cup
§  Calories                       94.0
§  Total fat                        3.0gms
§  Cholesterol                  0.0 mg
§  Total Carbohydrate     16.0 g
§  Dietary Fiber               5.0g
§  Protein                        3.0g

·        CAJUN CHICKEN      (serves 4)

Chicken breasts         4 medium (boneless & skinless)
Cajun seasoning        2tbsp
Lemon juice                ¼ cup (freshly squeezed)
Salt                             ½ tsp

Marinate the chicken breasts in the mixture of lemon juice, Cajun seasoning and salt for about an hour. Heat a non-stick skillet sprayed with vegetable oil spray on medium heat. When hot, add the chicken and cook for about 3minutes on each side or till the chicken looks opaque. Serve with Tabouleh and garnish with the lemon wedges (if using) to squeeze over the chicken.

Nutritive value:
§  Calories              164 cal
§  Fat                      5gms
§  Saturated  Fat    0.6 gms
§  cholesterol         66mg

Based on the above facts, the bottom line is that the key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats. Choose healthy fats and limit the intake of saturated fats.  To reduce the risk of your heart disease it is important that you monitor and maintain healthy cholesterol levels by being in touch with your healthcare professional on regular basis. Even if your cholesterol levels are good now, it is recommended that you develop and maintain healthy eating habits so as to keep your numbers within the desirable range.


  1. Very informative and highly beneficial.

  2. You have gathered so much information at one place, good research work and beautiful presentation !