Cholesterol Part 2

Here is part two on cholesterol written by my intern. Enjoy! Part 3 with be the final installment next week.

“Bad” fats “Good” fats – Tell me something I don’t know… So you already know to avoid food and products with cholesterol and you may even know the importance of avoiding saturated fats (found in animal-derived foods like meat, dairy, butter and many baked goods) and trans fats (found in fried food, shortening and many commercially packaged products, such as cookies, crackers and chips) since these “bad” fats are the true culprit of raising LDL “bad” cholesterol.

But did you know that…. In the United States, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, it can be labeled “trans fat-free”? If there are several servings in the product 0.5 grams can add up quick, especially if it’s a favorite item you consume regularly. So don’t rely on a claim that says “trans fat-free”. Rather always check the ingredient list and avoid anything that say’s “hydrogenated oils” even if the nutrition label says 0 for trans fat.

Also did you realize…. that consuming unsaturated “healthy” fats is just as important as avoiding saturated fats? These fats are called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and come from plant-based foods such as nuts, olive, peanut and canola oils. They have the ability to improve HDL “good” cholesterol. Remember you want your HDL number high, because HDL cholesterol is responsible for reducing LDL “bad” cholesterol and has anti-inflammatory abilities. In addition, foods containing omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, walnuts, almonds and flaxseed have the ability to improve your HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio.

Take home message…. Not all fats are created equal. Rather than following a low-fat diet, make sure your diet consists of the right types of fats so you don’t miss out on all the healthy benefits from unsaturated fats.

What about fiber?…. So you may also be well informed that fiber helps reduce cholesterol and that you need 25-30 grams per day. But do you realize why, what kind of fiber, and where to get it? There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber means that it doesn’t dissolve in water and for this reason it increases stool bulk and aids in digestion. Insoluble fiber foods include whole grains, wheat bran, nuts and many vegetables. Soluble fiber however dissolves in water to form a gel-like material and is the type of fiber responsible for lowering cholesterol. It travels through the bloodstream and helps to lower LDL cholesterol. Foods that contain soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, flaxseed and psyllium.

Take home message…. Both types of fiber are beneficial so continue to consume both but if you want to see the benefits of lower cholesterol you’ll have to make sure you are incorporating the right types of fiberous foods more soluble fiber rich foods.

Carboyhydrates??? What do carbohydrates have to do with cholesterol?…As though you didn’t already have enough to worry about, now carbohydrates too? Don’t get too worried, you still get to have your carbs and eat them too. Nowadays carbohydrates get a bad rap and they are commonly thought as “bad” or “fattening” or that they will lead to weight gain. The truth is that carbohydrates are the single most important nutrient for energy and the only form of energy that your brain can use. They should make up the majority of daily caloric intake from 45-65 percent of calories depending on your goals. The problem only arises when we consume more than what our bodies can utilize. But this stands true for any nutrient. When you eat, your body converts any extra calories it doesn’t need right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, you may have high triglycerides. For this reason, the infamous low carbohydrate diets have actually shown to be affective in lowering cholesterol. But don’t be fooled, “low carbohydrate” does not mean to cut out all breads, grains, cereals and pastas and live off tuna and vegetables forever. It simply means to aim on the lower end of the daily percentage while adding lean proteins and healthy fats. Restricting carbohydrates too much can be just as detrimental as over-consuming them.

Kaloni Hepworth, Dietetic Intern
Emily Fonnesbeck RD,CD