High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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High cholesterol is often the product of poor dietary decisions. Worryingly, the fatty substance can hike your risk of serious health problems, ranging from heart disease to strokes. However, certain foods could pose as an antidote against this danger. Furthermore, research suggests that plant stanols and sterols hidden in certain creamy foods are rather good at this job.
A cholesterol-lowering diet usually focuses on cutting back on creamy and fatty foods like butter and cheese.
These naughty saturated fats are usually replaced by their unsaturated counterparts like olive oil, soya products, nuts and more.
However, there are still some creamy foods that you can enjoy as long as they are enriched with plant stanols and sterols. What’s more, they are considered “the most effective single food for lowering cholesterol”, according to Heart UK.
Plant sterols and stanols are chemicals, similar in shape and size to cholesterol, naturally occurring in plants.
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When these foods get into your body, they compete with dietary cholesterol for absorption in your intestines.
As a result of this competition, less cholesterol gets absorbed into your bloodstream.
Heart UK explains: “We get a small amount of sterols from plant-based foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, but it’s not enough to lower cholesterol.
“So, food companies have developed foods with plant sterols or stanols added to them, such as mini yoghurt drinks, fat spreads, milk and yoghurts.”
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In the UK, companies like Benecol and Flora fortify their products with these plant chemicals.
What’s more, research suggests that enjoying these creamy foods could bust your cholesterol levels by a whopping 35 percent.
A review paper, published in the journal Nutrients, compiled and reviewed existing data from 55 studies to determine how to reduce the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) through diet.
Because “bad” cholesterol lays the groundwork for ASCVD, lowering the fatty substance can consequently cut the risk.
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The research team focused on the intake of dietary fat, cholesterol and plant stanols esters.
Their findings suggested that consuming just two to three grams of these plant goodies reduced the absorption of cholesterol by up to 44 percent.
What’s more, pairing plant stanol esters with a heart-healthy diet was able to reduce “bad” levels of cholesterol by 35 percent.
Holly Roper, Science Communication and Nutrition Manager at Raisio Nutrition Ltd, said: “The amount of information in this paper, and the implications of this new model, which appears to show in a quantifiable way that daily consumption of plant stanol ester may not just reduce bad cholesterol levels, but might also help to reduce the risk of ASCVD events, is potentially of great importance.
“This is because more people die from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) worldwide than from any other cause and two-thirds of these deaths are caused specifically by atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases (ASCVDs), such as coronary artery disease (CAD), ischaemic stroke and peripheral artery disease.
“Foods containing added plant stanol ester are now widely available.
“They can easily be adopted into the population’s diet to improve everyone’s heart health by lowering [“bad” cholesterol concentrations].”
Heart UK recommends aiming for one to three servings of fortified foods a day to achieve 1.5 to three grams of stanols and sterols. “Over three weeks, this could lower your cholesterol by up to 10 percent,” the charity added.
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