Although understanding the working of cholesterol can be a hard task, a diet for cholesterol doesn’t have to be. Actually, if there is something clear in all this cholesterol business is that what you eat can have a tremendous effect on LDL cholesterol, the “bad guy”. Your diet can modify LDL in such a way that it becomes less damaging to your blood vessels.
Your diet is a powerful weapon
If you want to prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or if you already have the condition, your diet should aim at reducing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL. Why? Because LDL can clog your arteries while HDL’s role is to get rid of LDL. So, as you can see, if you have high levels of HDL cholesterol, they can “take care” of your LDL and your arteries are better protected.
The theory behind LDL cholesterol
According to Dr. Daniel Steinberg, a researcher at the San Diego University, California, Department of Medicine, arteries get clogged when blood LDL cholesterol gets oxidized by the free radicals navigating in the blood. When cholesterol oxidizes, it becomes rancid just as it happens to non-refrigerated butter.
Once LDL cholesterol molecules have been altered due to oxidation, they are devoured by cells called macrophages. These cells which contain a lot of fat become large and foamy and “glue” themselves to the walls of the arteries, provoking an inflammatory process which ultimately leads to heart disease.
A genetic defect in the receptors of the cell membrane or a thyroid problem can be, among others, the cause of both a higher production of LDL cholesterol particles and they’re circulating for long periods of time in the bloodstream. This means that the cholesterol molecules are exposed to sugars and free radicals for longer periods of time which results in oxidation.
But what if the level of LDL is high, but the level of antioxidants is also high? If the oxidation process is minimized by the antioxidants in your blood, cholesterol does not become so harmful. Thus the real problem is the number of oxidized LDL particles. Dr. Steinberg and many other scientists believe that LDL cholesterol is not dangerous for the arteries until it becomes toxic due to the action of free radicals.
And here is where your diet becomes a powerful weapon. There is a lot of evidence showing that the oxidation of LDL cholesterol can be prevented by ingesting foods rich in antioxidants. This, in turn, will prevent the obstruction of arteries, heart attacks, and cerebrovascular accidents.
You can start your diet for cholesterol by eating two apples a day
Apples are rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol. A study was conducted in France with a group of older males and females in good health. The participants were asked to include in their diet 2 or 3 apples every day for a month. By the end of the study, 80 percent of participants had a reduction of LDL cholesterol; half of them had a reduction of about 10 percent in their cholesterol level.
At the same time, HDL, the good cholesterol, went up. It is worth mentioning that the apples had a larger effect on the women in the group. One of them had a 30 percent reduction in her cholesterol level.
David Gee Ph. D, at Central Washington University, tested high-fiber apple slush left over from making apple juice. When 26 men with high levels of cholesterol ate three apple-cookies a day, their cholesterol dipped an average of 7 percent. Each apple cookie contained 15 grams of apple fiber, the quantity in 4 or 5 apples. Many health experts credit the pectin in apples for lowering cholesterol although they agree that other apple components also play a part.
Other foods with a high content of soluble fiber
- Green beans
- Dry beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Green peas
To help lower cholesterol you need to eat about 6 grams of soluble fiber a day.
The bottom line
As you can see, a diet for cholesterol doesn’t have to be complicated. Of course, there are other factors involved in lowering cholesterol levels, but a diet high in soluble fiber is a good place to start. Just do not forget that physical activity such as walking fast 5 days a week is a component that cannot be absent in a program aimed at having a healthy level of LDL and HDL cholesterol.