The word cholesterol is often related to heart diseases and is considered harmful for our body. This is because high levels of cholesterol have shown to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The fact is that, cholesterol is also important for the human body as our body requires cholesterol for various processes within. Our body is capable of producing this waxy substance. It is a fat, or lipid which is synthesized in our body by liver and is also obtained from food sources.
Cholesterol is required for a number of important functions in the body. It is an important component of cell membrane and is needed for both, to build and maintain membranes and maintain integrity and fluidity of the membrane. It also aids in producing important hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, aldosterone and cortisone, bile acids and vitamin D.
HDL cholesterol: The Good Cholesterol
The composition of HDL shows that it has a lot of proteins instead of fats. The function of HDL is to get rid of excess cholesterol from the cells and send it back to the liver. Here, the cholesterol is removed from the particles and is either recycled or is used to synthesize bile. Thus, HDL helps to regulate & reduce the cholesterol levels in the body. This reduces the chances of cholesterol getting deposited in the artery and prevents plaque formation that may clog the artery. Therefore, HDL is considered as heart friendly or good cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol: The Bad Cholesterol
LDL is called the “bad” cholesterol because it can build deposits in the walls of the arteries and form plaques. This leads to narrowing of artery and reduces the flexibility. It can further lead to a clot formation and block the artery leading to heart attack or stroke.
Top 5 heart healthy foods
Here are some foods that are known to make the heart healthy:
- Oats: Oats or oatmeal contains a specific type of soluble fiber known as beta glucan that helps in lowering LDL cholesterol. In addition to beta glucan soluble fiber, oats contain a unique compound named avenanthramides, which has anti-oxidant properties and also helps to lower the LDL cholesterol. FDA authorizes oats as a heart friendly food.
Dose recommendation: 2-3 tablespoon per day
- Nuts: Nuts have a balance of fats, proteins, carbohydrates and fiber which is needed for good health along with important micro nutrients as well as other beneficial biologically active constituents. Nuts are good sources of vitamin E and other tocopherols (alpha/ gamma) which act as natural antioxidant, while nuts also provide some niacin, pyridoxin, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper and potassium. Nuts are rich in both omega-9 and omega 3 fatty acids which have cardio- protective effect.
Dose recommendation: Handful per day (after controlling total fat intake)
- Fish: Oily Fish such as Herring, Tuna, Trout, Sardine and Mackerel are healthy for heart. Fatty fish as they are known are rich in EPA and DHA omega 3 fatty acids which are helpful in reducing triglyceride levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels. It also helps in slowing the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries.
Dose recommendation: 2 servings, 100 gm, twice a week
- Green Tea: It contains catechins which are powerful antioxidants. Green tea contains ten times more polyphenols (antioxidants) than black tea. It helps in reducing the effects of bad cholesterol and also helps in smooth blood flow. It helps in reducing free radical formation in the body thereby preventing heart diseases and improves the heart health. It is also believed to possessantioxidative, anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic properties.
Dose recommendation: 3-4 cups per day
- Canola oil: It is low in saturated fat and high in heart friendly fatty acids MUFA & PUFA. It is also rich in omega 3 fatty acid. Consumption of MUFA rich oil along with omega 3 fatty acid helps to lower the risk of heart diseases. It supports heart health and has the ability to reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Dose recommendation: 15-20 ml per day
Also, try our homeveda recipe to reduce your cholesterol level! Watch the video here.