Cholesterol has many essential functions in the
human body. High total cholesterol can put
you at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. High levels of low-density
lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides; along with low levels of high-density
lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) can also increase your risk of cardiovascular
HDL cholesterol transports cholesterol away from
your arteries for excretion. LDL cholesterol increases the deposition of fatty
plaques on the inside of your arteries leading to atherosclerosis. High
triglyceride levels subsequently increases your levels of small, dense LDLs. LDLs
are the most dangerous form of cholesterol as they put you at the greatest risk
of damaged arteries and subsequent blood clots that cause heart attacks and
Some individuals are genetically predisposed to
high cholesterol levels, but for the majority of us it is a consequence of
being overweight, consuming too much saturated fat and not doing sufficient exercise.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are crucial factors in the management of
cholesterol levels. Optimise your cholesterol levels by:
eating a varied and healthy diet
losing excess weight
minimising alcohol intake
exercising and being active regularly
Targeting Cholesterol Through Diet
Intake Of Saturated Fats
Saturated fat in the diet is the major cause of
high LDL cholesterol levels. Your liver makes cholesterol from the saturated
fat in your diet. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, such as cream, butter,
fatty meats, sausages, processed meats and fried take away foods. Choose low-fat
dairy, lean meats and skinless chicken.
And Polyunsaturated Fats In Your Diet
Use sunflower, safflower, olive or canola oils for
sesame, walnut and macadamia oils are delicious alternatives and can be
added to salads or vegetables or drizzled onto fresh bread. Use avocado as
a spread on sandwiches and include unsalted nuts and seeds in meals and as snacks.
For example, a handful of almonds will provide you with your daily requirement of Vitamin
E, which has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk through its beneficial
effects on cholesterol.5 There is quality scientific evidence for
the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in treating cholesterol imbalance.
The Heart Foundation recommends that all
Australians eat a combination of 2-3 150g serves of oily fish (eg sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna) every week along with plant sources
of omega 3 (e.g. flaxseeds, linseeds, walnuts).6 For those who do not
reach this target for fish consumption, fish oil supplementation is recommended
at a level of 1-2g per day.6
Eat Plenty of
Foods High In Fibre
fibre breads and cereal products, legumes, fruit and vegetables should play a major role in your diet. The soluble
fibre (beta-glucan in oats) present in these foods has been proven to lower LDL
levels and increase HDL cholesterol. A form of carbohydrate, known as resistant
starch, also has beneficial effects on cholesterol. Resistant starch is present
in ‘al-dente’ pasta, cooled cooked potatoes, and under-ripe bananas.
Choose Low Glycaemic
Index (GI) and Glycaemic Load (GL) Foods
A high intake of refined sugars, high GI foods or
high GL meals results in a large insulin spike which increases triglyceride
levels and stimulates cholesterol synthesis. Avoid nutrient poor, foods and drinks
such as lollies, soft drinks and cordials that can increase your “unhealthy”
These compounds are now available in some
margarines, milks and yoghurts. They block the absorption of dietary
cholesterol through the intestine, and through this mechanism, a significant
reduction in cholesterol can be achieved by consuming 2-3g of plant sterols
daily. This is the amount found in 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of plant-sterol
containing margarines. A greater quantity does not give a greater benefit.
Maintaining a healthy body weight is a major
determinant of healthy cholesterol levels, with weight loss having a profound
effect on your cholesterol levels. Refer to the “Weight Loss” article on the Capital
Chemist web site for advice on healthy and sustainable weight loss.
Smoking cessation, staying active and minimising
alcohol consumption are all extremely important in the optimisation of
Make your own choices to eat and live the best that
you can to keep your cholesterol within a healthy range. Not only will your
cholesterol levels improve, your whole body will be healthier and happier.
1. WHO. World Health Report. Reducing risks,
promoting healthy life. 2002.
2. SA Fruit & Vegetable Coalition &
SA Health. Facts & Figures. Jan 2008.
3. Deakin Uni
‘Diet & Disease’ lecture notes, Fontbonne A et al. Diabetologia.
4. Libby P. Inflammation & CVD
mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr 2006; 83S;456S-60S.
5. Braun L,
Cohen M. Herbs & Natural Supplements-an evidence based guide. Elsevier
6. National Heart Foundation of Australia. www.heartfoundation.org.au
7. Wardlaw, Hampton, DiSilvestro.
Perspectives in Nutrition ed 2. McGraw Hill. New York 2004.