Eat wholemeal sandwiches. Photo: Thinkstock
High cholesterol poses a significant health risk for New Zealand, with one in 12 adults taking cholesterol-lowering medication. If you have high cholesterol, it means that harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels are too high and ‘good’ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels are too low. ‘Bad’ LDL carries cholesterol into your arteries, contributing to artery-clogging plaque and increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke, while ‘good’ HDL carries cholesterol away to the liver and out of the body.
Even if you’re taking cholesterol-lowering medication, remember that diet can also help to balance LDL and HDL and regulate your cholesterol levels. Research also suggests that, by eating the right foods and taking good care of yourself, you could slash your risk of dying from heart disease by an incredible 80 per cent.
1. Eat foods enhanced with plant sterols. Studies suggest that eating products enhanced with plant sterols and stanols – naturally occurring substances similar to cholesterol in terms of their chemical structure – may help to reduce levels of harmful LDL cholesterol. Consuming around 2g of plant sterols can lower LDL levels by 10 to 15 per cent, although the amount varies from one person to another. So seek out sterol-enhanced margarine spreads and other milk products and include some in your diet every day. Names to look out for include Flora pro-activ and Benecol.
2. Down more orange juice. Some studies suggest that drinking 2 glasses of orange juice a day helps to cut total cholesterol, and a Canadian study found that drinking 3 glasses a day for four weeks raised healthy HDL levels by 21 per cent and improved the ratio of good to bad cholesterol by 16 per cent.
3. Eat six or more small meals a day. A large study of British adults found that people who ate this frequently had significantly lower cholesterol than those who ate twice a day, even though the ‘grazers’ got more kilojoules and fat. In fact, the differences in cholesterol levels were large enough to reduce the grazers’ risk of heart disease by 10 to 20 per cent. Just be sure those six meals really are small.
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