To control our cholesterol levels it is necessary that we take into account certain key factors.
Cholesterol is naturally produced in the liver - it is a waxy, greasy substance that exists in all parts of our body - and then it is transported by proteins throughout the body through the bloodstream. It is an essential building block for cell membranes and is also necessary to produce hormones, vitamin D and substances that help us digest fatty foods.
However, lifestyle and genetics can cause our body to produce too much cholesterol. When cholesterol builds up in the arteries, it can block blood flow, which can cause coronary heart disease, a heart attack or stroke.
A healthy diet is one way to help keep cholesterol levels under control.
Although avoiding foods high in cholesterol may be beneficial for some, the American Heart Association, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that the focus The most effective diet to reduce cholesterol is to eat foods that contain unsaturated fats instead of those that contain saturated or trans fats.
Cholesterol is classified into two groups, depending on the type of protein that transports it through the bloodstream:
- The cholesterol transported by low density lipoproteins, or LDL cholesterol, which is prone to accumulate, and which we often know as 'bad cholesterol'.
- The cholesterol transported by high density lipoproteins, or HDL cholesterol, which works like a garbage truck, collecting negative cholesterol from the arteries and taking it back to the liver for elimination. For this reason, it is known as 'good cholesterol'.
The main key in the control of cholesterol is to follow a diet that promotes low levels of bad cholesterol and high levels of good cholesterol.
As we have commented, the consumption of fats affects this balance because the fatty acids bind to the cells of the liver and regulate the production of cholesterol. Let us know another series of key factors to keep cholesterol at bay and enjoy a happy and healthy existence.
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The importance of fats
1. The importance of fats
It is important to pay attention to the types of fat we consume, since each form of fat influences cholesterol levels differently:
Saturated fats are found mainly in meats and dairy products. They tell the liver to make more bad cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats are found mainly in fish and plants, such as nuts, seeds, beans and vegetable oils. Certain unsaturated fats can help increase the rate at which the liver is reabsorbed and breaks down bad cholesterol.
Trans fats are solidified vegetable oils and are usually made by an artificial process called hydrogenation. They are often found in fried, bakery and packaged foods. Not only do bad cholesterol levels increase, but also lower levels of good cholesterol. They are the most unhealthy fats of all.
Testing the types of fat
2. Testing the types of fat
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition counted with the participation of 344,696 volunteers from 4 to 10 years after changing the types of fats they ate. The group of participants who reduced their saturated fat intake by 5% and replaced it with polyunsaturated fats had a significantly lower incidence of coronary heart disease or coronary-related death compared to the others.
3. Trans fats
The intake of trans fat should not only be reduced, but also eliminated completely. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) announced that the main commercial source of trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, were no longer "recognized as safe" due to their strong links to coronary heart disease.
In fact, in the United States a national ban on trans fats will start in 2018 and several American cities have already banned their use in restaurants.
4. Saturated fats
The National Heart Association advises reducing the intake of saturated fats to no more than 5-6% of total daily calories. To do this, they suggest limiting the following foods: lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard, dairy products made with whole or reduced-fat milk, saturated vegetable oils, such as coconut oil or palm oil.
Other foods to avoid
5. Other foods to avoid
We have emphasized the importance of avoiding trans fats. Foods that we should avoid include: cookies, cakes, donuts and cakes.