Nature comes to us as a whole, not in select pieces of our choice. Similarly, life is both black or white – and often ‘grey’. Both the good and the bad co-exist, and need to be managed together, to get the desired optimal result. The same quest for ‘duality’ applies to Cholesterol and its role in heart diseases. Cholesterol is a natural waxy substance that is found in all the cells of the body. Our liver manufactures it, and small amounts go towards creating healthy hormones that help build the body’s cells. There are as many as 18 kinds of Cholesterol. However, to keep it simple we divide them into two categories: HDL (Good) and LDL (Bad). While Total Cholesterol (TC) count is to be watched, even more critical is managing the ratio between the Good and the Bad. The Cholesterol-carriers in the blood stream are the lipoproteins. The low density versions (LDL – Low Density Lipoproteins) tend to deposit Cholesterol on artery walls, where it builds up as ‘plaque’ and eventually interferes with blood flow and leads to heart disease or stroke. High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) are the saviours; they re-circulate Cholesterol back to the liver, from where it can be eliminated. For long ignored, HDL is now taken seriously by the medical profession as a heart-protection factor. HDL can help remove cellular Cholesterol. Importantly HDL has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-clotting properties – which together help inhibit atherosclerosis and reduce cardiovascular risk. Conversely, genetic factors, Type 2 diabetes and certain drugs lower HDL cholesterol levels. Of course our lifestyle choices have the single largest impact on the prevention of chronic diseases. Our daily habits, especially the focus on an ‘active lifestyle’, combined with a no smoking and no/moderate drinking rule, can greatly impact our Cholesterol ratio. Poor lifestyle choices lead to extra kilos of body weight, which take their (heavy) toll.
Tip of the Week
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults age 20 or older have their Cholesterol (and other risk factors) checked every 4-6 years; it is a good idea to check more often after 40. A Total Cholesterol score of less than 180 mg/dL is considered optimal. However, one must take into account risk factors such as age, family history, smoking and blood pressure before ‘setting’ the target for each individual. Research suggests that for every 0.03 mmol/l increase in HDL, cardiovascular risk is reduced by 2-3 percent.
Nature’s Wonder Food(s) of the Week: Optimal HDL/LDL ratio Foods
A healthy diet contains fat that can give us between 25 to 35 percent of our required daily calories. Within this, saturated fat or trans fat should account for less than 7 percent and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats should be maximized - as these tend to improve HDL.
Some of the best foods that help us get an optimal HDL content, and therefore a more optimal HDL/LDL ratio, are:
Fatty fish - like salmon or tuna, fish oil supplements, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil – all of which give us the important Omega-3 fatty acids
Avocado - an excellent source of quality fats
Olive Oil - probably one of the best for Omega 6
Nuts - a study showed that about 67 grams of nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, brazil nuts and macadamia nuts) per day helped increase HDL cholesterol and improved the HDL/LDL ratio by 8.3%
Garlic - has been found to lower Cholesterol levels, prevent blood clots, reduce blood pressure and protect against infections. Loaded with sulphur-containing antioxidants, garlic plays a crucial role in regulating Cholesterol levels. A study conducted by the Bastyr College (Seattle) showed that participants having three fresh cloves of garlic everyday boosted their Good HDL by 23 per cent in one month
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar - another very strong arrow in the quiver. In addition to a whole host of other benefits (of improving metabolism, especially as an early morning or pre-meals ‘master cleanse’), it can also help lower Bad Cholesterol and Triglyceride levels (the most common type of fat in the body)
High fibre whole grains and beans (black, kidney or pinto beans) - which help us maintain a good HDL/LDL ratio. Oats are a rich source of Beta glucans, which interfere with the absorption of Bad Cholesterol as well as help eliminate it from the body – which in turn boosts good HDL Cholesterol levels
Fresh oranges, tangerines or cranberries - delicious fruits rich in polyphenolic compounds. Several studies suggest that the increased consumption of these fruits or their juices may increase the plasma HDL Cholesterol level
Black or green tea, taken without milk or sugar - to provide a similar effect (as above)
Red Wine - its consumption in moderation (less than 250 ml a day) can also increase HDL Cholesterol
Spinach - which ontains lots of Lutein, the sunshine-yellow pigment found in dark green leafy vegetables and egg yolks. In addition to guarding against age-related macular (eye) degeneration, Lutein also helps build an optimal HDL/LDL ratio
Eggs - help increase the amount of HDL
Dark Chocolate - contains polyphenols that prevent oxidation of Cholesterol and help improve our lipid profile.
The new science of ‘Positive Psychology’ talks of ‘Optimalism’ as the best route for attaining a high Emotional Quotient (EQ) level, which is said to be twice as important as our IQ (intelligence Quotient) level, (which is) focused on ‘Perfection’.
For Education purposes only; always consult a Healthcare Practitioner for medical conditions