A high lipid count in the blood is a risk factor for heart disease. High cholesterol ranks right along with the dangers of diabetes, smoking, inactivity and obesity, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy.
Some of the recommendations for reducing blood cholesterol levels are to decrease the intake of total fat and cholesterol, lose weight if overweight and increase activity. Additionally, Roy says soluble fiber is known to reduce cholesterol levels.
As part of a blood-cholesterol-lowering diet, the LSU AgCenter nutritionist recommends olive oil and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids and also is known to reduce total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein concentrations. She says some of the latest research shows that plant sterols are known to be heart-healthy by improving blood lipid profiles.
Phytosterols reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein concentrations anywhere from 9 percent to 13 percent when consumed as part of a regular diet. Phytosterol-containing margarines are available in the market. With the increase in overweight and obesity and the resulting unfavorable changes in blood lipids, Roy says, research is focusing on creating oil blends that improve blood lipids. A recent review of studies on phytosterols shows that an average 10 percent reduction in total cholesterol and 13 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol levels were seen due to phytosterol intake. Phytosterols may also affect other aspects of cholesterol metabolism that contribute to their antiatherogenic properties and may interfere with steroid hormone synthesis.
Oils blended with phytosterols can improve low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and total cholesterol significantly. Additionally, an improvement in a type of low-density lipoprotein particle can be seen. The low-density lipoprotein particles were of a healthier kind after phytosterol intake.
Roy notes that the American Heart Association has updated its guidelines for a healthy heart:
- Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables and grain products, including whole grains.
- Include fat-free and low-fat dairy products, fish, legumes, poultry and lean meats in your meals. Include plant phytosterols and/or soluble fiber if LDL cholesterol is above normal.
- Match intake of energy (calories) to overall energy needs; limit consumption of foods with a high caloric density and/or low nutritional quality, including those with a high content of sugars.
- Maintain a level of physical activity that achieves fitness and balances energy expenditure with energy intake; for weight reduction, expenditure should exceed intake.
- Limit the intake of foods with a high content of saturated fatty acids, cholesterol and trans-fatty acids.
- Substitute grains and unsaturated fatty acids from vegetables, fish, legumes and nuts.
- Limit the intake of salt (sodium chloride) to less than six grams per day.
- Limit alcohol consumption (no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men).
- Maintain a healthy body weight and a dietary pattern that emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
Roy also suggests contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about heart-friendly diets. In addition, visit the Food & Health section of the LSU AgCenter Web site.
Source: Heli Roy (225) 578-4486, or e-mail.