Good heart health also includes a healthy diet. Here are the foods not to be missed on the table to keep cholesterol down
With the heart you don't mess around. In fact, this organ keeps the body alive thanks to its continuous transport of oxygen to every part of the body and then receives carbon dioxide directed towards the lungs. By virtue of this, it is very essential to take care of it.
Small precautions are enough, such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, performing regular checks (electrocardiogram and blood tests to monitor cholesterol levels) to keep away the so insidious cardiovascular diseases. In fact, as indicated by the Ministry of Health, in Italy alone these pathologies are responsible for 35% of all deaths.
- When it can be said that cholesterol is high
- What causes cholesterol to rise
- Foods that lower cholesterol
- Cholesterol: foods to avoid
When it can be said that cholesterol is high
But what is the correlation between heart and cholesterol? Cholesterol is a type of fat that is produced in part by the body (about 80%) and is essential for the proper functioning of some processes. Specifically, it participates in the production of vitamin D, promotes the construction of cell walls and is involved in digestion. Cholesterol is transported in the blood, but when it exceeds what are considered "normal" levels it can lead to the development of atherosclerosis, which is a condition in which the accumulation of bad cholesterol (LDL) on the walls of the arteries causes them to narrow. This can cause the onset of a heart attack or stroke.
On the other hand, we find good cholesterol (HDL), so defined because its action aimed at removing bad cholesterol from the arterial walls, has a protective value.
To understand if the cholesterol levels in our blood are normal, just perform a simple blood sample and read the results with the help of your doctor. The levels to be considered in the norm vary according to the health condition of the subject. Those who do not suffer from cardiovascular diseases can reach LDL cholesterol levels of 130 mg / dl (milligrams per deciliter), beyond which attention must be paid. Otherwise, those who suffer from hypertension, diabetes or have faced cardiovascular problems – therefore subjects at high risk – should maintain very low levels of LDL cholesterol, i.e. no more than 70 mg / dl.
HDL values, on the other hand, should not be less than 50 mg / dl. By adding HDL and LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol is obtained, the values of which should not exceed 200 mg / dl. When this happens we speak of hypercholesterolemia.
What causes cholesterol to rise
High blood cholesterol can be related to a number of factors including:
- being overweight;
- the absence or reduced sporting activity;
- the smoke;
- an unregulated diet.
Not surprisingly, pathologies such as diabetes are often related to hypercholesterolemia, but there are also cases in which this condition is genetic and the subjects in question have a predisposition.
High cholesterol does not cause obvious symptoms, however it is possible to monitor its levels by taking a routine blood draw.
Foods that lower cholesterol
As we have seen, nutrition is one of the risk factors that can lead to high cholesterol levels, as if it is true that this fat is naturally produced by the body, it is also true that it is present in some foods. However, it is not a healthy and balanced diet, like the Mediterranean one, that causes hypercholesterolemia, but an unbalanced lifestyle that includes the consumption of foods rich in saturated fats or trans fats.
Therefore, nutrition is certainly one of the factors that influences the level of cholesterol in the blood. Here are the foods that should never be missing on the table to help keep cholesterol levels low.
- Fruits and vegetables
They are rich in fiber, vitamins and antioxidants which contribute to reducing cardiovascular risk by lowering the "bad" cholesterol in the blood. They also have a good satiating power and provide few calories: even the waistline will thank you. The ideal would be to consume 2 portions of vegetables and 2 of fruit every day. And to maximize the intake of fiber, it is best not to throw away the peel from vegetables such as pumpkin and carrot.
Barley, oats and whole grains are a concentrate of beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that helps lower LDL cholesterol levels.
They contain fiber, minerals and proteins and promote the right levels of cholesterol in the blood. They are versatile foods, excellent in soups and salads and with great satiating power. The ideal intake would be 2-4 servings per week.
Nuts are high in heart-healthy fats and fiber and help keep cholesterol in check. Better to opt for unpeeled, unsalted and toasted nuts.
- Soy-based products
Soy milk, tofu are soy based products that help to slightly reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
This particularly nutritious fruit is a source of fats and fibers that help reduce bad cholesterol levels in favor of the good one.
- Blue fish
Mackerel, sardines, salmon contain healthy fats that reduce the risk of heart disease. A consumption of 2-3 times a week is recommended, to be cooked in the oven or steamed.
- Cocoa and dark chocolate
Its virtues are numerous as well as being a real treat for the palate: according to a study, in fact, the intake of cocoa would reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood and increase those of the good cholesterol.
It can be included in the diet as long as it is preferably white, with no fat visible to the naked eye and in the case of chicken, it must be eaten without its skin.
Cholesterol: foods to avoid
On the other hand, there are also foods and bad habits that can increase blood cholesterol levels. In fact, types of cooking such as frying or condiments such as those made with fats of animal origin should be avoided. Also be careful to limit the consumption of:
- vegetable oils (such as palm oil often found in baked goods);
- packaged foods (sweets, chips, ready-made products);
In fact, this type of food has large quantities of fats which in the long run can represent a serious risk for the development of cardiovascular diseases. When it comes to dairy products, opt for low-fat yogurt, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and low-fat cheeses.
To keep the heart healthy, it is therefore important that blood cholesterol levels are not high. To do this, simply review your diet (possibly with the support of a nutrition specialist) perhaps including foods that can reduce the levels of this fat, practice sports frequently and periodically carry out checks to monitor levels in the blood. In case of heart disease, risk factors or high cholesterol levels, it is good to talk to the doctor to undertake the most suitable therapeutic strategy.