As we get older, our cholesterol levels change. Doctors are not really sure how aging affects the composition and function of HDL, aka high-density lipoproteins levels; however, research has proven there is a significant change from our youth, and the food we eat plays an intricate part.
Cholesterol in the bodyCholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in all of your cells and has several useful functions, including helping to build your body’s cells. It’s carried through your bloodstream attached to proteins. These proteins are called lipoproteins. Our LDL or low-density lipoproteins, build up within the walls of our blood vessels and narrow the passageways, as we age. Significant clots can form in these passageways, causing a heart attach or stroke. LDL is know as the “bad cholesterol.” Our HDL or high-density lippoproteins pick up the excess cholesterol in your blood and take it to your liver, where it is broken down and removed from your body. HDL is your “good cholesterol.” However, be aware of your triglyceride numbers too. High triglyceride levels combined with high LDL (bad) cholesterol or low HDL (good) cholesterol increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. Triglycerides are basically excess fat in your body.
Cholesterol and FoodHDL and LDL proteins are NOT components found in food. These proteins are only made by our bodies and, for the most part are genetically determined. However, everyone has the ability to influence their HDL and LDL levels through food and exercise. The American Heart Association says monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Monounsaturated fats are basically, fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. Cooking oils which are liquid at room temperature, but turn solid when chilled are monounsaturated fats. Like most fats, monounsaturated fats have 9 calories per gram; however, when consumed in moderation, the benefits far out weigh the impact of the calories. In 2015, the Canadian Medical Association Journal said by adding monounsaturated fats to a high-fiber, vegetarian diet will NOT ONLY reduce LDL [bad cholesterol levels] BUT ALSO, INCREASE your HDL [the good cholesterol] thereby, reducing risk of heart attack or stroke in patients who are genetically susceptible.
Omega-3 Foods and Your CholesterolOmega-3 Fatty Acids can only slightly lower your LDL numbers; however, the stronger benefit is they RAISE your HDL! Known as polyunsaturated fats, Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, plant based sources and certain supplements.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID SOURCES
Foods That Suppress Your Good CholesterolAVOID the following foods as they tend to suppress your HDL:
- White Sugar
- White Flour
- White Pasta
- Sweetened Fruit Juices
Additional Tips to Increase Your HDL Numbers
Losing Weight – Read about kick starting your weight loss strategy here
Increase Your Fiber Intake – Here is 5 ways to increase your fiber intake.
Choose Lean Meat such as fish, chicken or turkey. The prefered cooking method: bake, grill or broiled. Limit your red meat to 1-2 times a week.
Avoid Trans Fats. If the ingredient list includes “partially-hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils DO NOT USE THEM. They promote the build-up of plaque inside your arteries. Read more about Trans Fats here.
Practice Good Plating Methods, by filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables and 1/4 with a whole grain starch and leaving 1/4 of the plate for your lean protein. Read more about portion control here.
Recipes promoting good cholesterol
Pico De Gallo
- 1 medium tomato, about 1/2 lb, seeded and diced
- 1/2 cup diced sweet onion
- 1/2 Serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, or parsley
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 pound white fish, such as cod, rockfish or tilapia cut into 1 - 2 inch chunks (I used cod)
- 2-3 Tablespoons butter or olive oil - NOT MARGARINE
- 1 lime, halved
- Warm whole-grain corn or flour tortillas for serving
Make the pico de gallo, in a medium bowl, toss together all the ingredients.
Prepare the fish.
- Mix the flour and seasonings on a plate. Dip the fish chunks into the flour, coating all sides. Transfer to a clean plate.
- In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the fish and cook until the fish is golden brown on the bottom, 3-4 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).
- Flip and cook until it is golden brown on the other side and the center is white, flaky and cooked all the way through, 7-8 minutes.
- Add more butter to the pan if necessary to keep from drying out.
- Squeeze lime on top.
- Serve the fish with warm tortillas and freshly made pico de gallo.