Last week I explained how cholesterol was essential for a number of functions in the body and that dropping levels too low could impact the balance of hormones and also brain function. I also shared the latest research on the effectiveness of Statins on cholesterol levels for a large percentage of patients who are prescribed it.
You can find the previous post on Cholesterol here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/smorgasbord-health-column-the-cholesterol-myth-part-one-and-statins-the-new-research-sally-cronin/
Today I wanted to focus on fats which also play a massive role in the balance of LDL – Low density lipoprotein (potentially unhealthy cholesterol) and HDL– High density lipoprotein (healthy cholesterol).
It can be tricky because the good fats are fairly easy to spot but the harmful fats tend to be hidden and disguised in the packaged and processed foods we buy. Responsible manufacturers have mainly moved away from using the highly toxic ‘trans fats’ but unfortunately the cheaper your processed family meal for four is, the more likely it is to have few natural ingredients that might be classified as nutritional.
But back to fats…………………………..
We must not cut fats out of our diet – they have an essential role to play in our health and without fats and cholesterol our bodies will be open to infections, poor function in areas such as the brain, heart, reproductive system and our eyesight.
I use the 80/20 rule because of my past weight issues and 20% of my diet comprises healthy fats – sometimes I will have more because I am out for a meal etc but basically my everyday diet comprises mainly seasonal vegetables and fruit, wholegrain rice, fish, chicken, red meat once a week, eggs, olive oil, moderate dairy.
No one person’s diet is the same and you have to find the perfect balance for you and this includes your fat intake – as long as it is not harmful fats………..
Briefly, a quick look at the fats you are likely to encounter in your daily diet.
One fat to avoid all together, is not naturally occurring at all, and that is manufactured Trans Fats. Liquid oil is hydrogenated to extend its shelf life, but in the process Trans fatty acids are formed – found in most industrially produced foods including margarines -snacks such as microwave popcorn, cakes, biscuits, cookies, pies etc.
The other fat which in large quantities is not helpful in maintaining cholesterol levels is saturated fats – if there is too much in your diet it will raise your total Cholesterol as well as the LDL. Mainly found in animal products but also some seafood. However, provided you are not eating the rich fat around a steak or roast every day, or eating a block of cheese three times a week, or a pound of butter on your spuds, you can enjoy what is very tasty component of your diet in moderation.
The fats classified as healthy fats are Monounsaturated fats – which lower total cholesterol and at the same time lower LDL and increase HDL – this is contained in nuts, such as walnuts and olive oil.
Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL and these are found in salmon, soya, sunflower oils etc and have an important component; Omega-3 fatty acids.
These can not only reduce your LDL and support HDL but are also very helpful in reducing blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. Even with people who have already suffered a heart attack including Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet reduces their risk of a fatal attack.
I love fish and it is very easy to include oily fish at least twice a week, although I do avoid farmed salmon and opt for frozen wild salmon. Some of the best for Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines and Albacore Tuna.
Oils and cooking.
Grilling food or steaming and then adding a drizzle of oil is healthier than frying
Use extra virgin olive oil for cooking (latest research indicates that this can be used at a higher temperature than first identified), and you can combine with some sunflower oil and a small amount of butter for a slightly different flavour. Recently coconut oil has come into focus as an oil to use in the kitchen and I have been using for over a year now and love the flavour it brings to salmon and other fish.
You should not burn any oil, but maintain a temperature that cooks your meat, chicken of fish evenly. I tend to brown the meat in the pan and then transfer to the oven or microwave to finish cooking
For salads, vegetables and on toast drizzle Extra Virgin Olive oil which has not been over processed – do not be tempted to use the light versions on offer as these have been industrialised. Just use the real stuff but a little less. You can now also buy Walnut oil and my favourite which is Avocado oil. Buy organic and whilst more expensive you do find a little goes a long way.
Coconut oil is produced by pressing the white meat from coconuts to produce what is a ‘saturated’ fat which is one that we are normally told to restrict in our diet. However it is claimed that the health benefits of coconut oil is down to its medium chain triglycerides compared to the longer chain forms in vegetable oils, dairy and meat fat.
The health benefits that are mentioned include raising HDL (healthy cholesterol levels) making it better for the heart, brain health, weight loss and thyroid health.
It is important to remember that it is still a fat, and whilst it is important to ingest a healthy balance of good fats, it should only be used in moderation. As with olive oil, a little goes a long way.
One of the most popular cholesterol myths… Eggs and your diet.
For many years the advice from nutritional experts is to remove eggs from your diet if you have high cholesterol.. Actually there is very little connection between the dietary cholesterol to be found in eggs and blood cholesterol.
If you are not eating a high proportion of processed foods containing high levels of Trans fats and sugars, eating an egg a day is actually going to be beneficial.
The liver produces much more cholesterol than you can consume from eggs or other animal products, however if the rest of your diet is full of industrially manufactured foods, then your LDL – Low density lipoprotein is going to be high, and that is the harmful form of cholesterol.
An egg has so much more than healthy fats going for it. The yolk is vitamin rich with A, D and E. Especially in the winter months when we are missing sunshine to work with our bodies to produce the essential vitamin D it is important to find another source and eggs are one of the few that are available. Eggs are also a great source of readily available and easy to prepare protein.
If you are in the process of losing weight then eating an egg, several times a week should be part of your healthy eating plan.
Apart from chocolate… Cheese is probably one of my favourite foods. Unfortunately like chocolate it is something that once I start eating I find it difficult to stop. I did an experiment last summer when I was carrying 14lbs more than I wanted. I ate my normal diet for six weeks and just stopped eating my usual daily ration of cheese. I lost the 14lbs in four weeks.
I do eat an ounce three of four times a week, but I make sure that it is from grass fed dairy rather than corn fed. There is an important distinction. Only grass fed dairy or animal protein contains sufficient amounts of Vitamin K2.
The same applies to real butter – I eat the real thing but make sure it comes from grass fed dairy again. A scrape goes a long way and tastes so much better than margarine.
Research into Vitamin K2 is ongoing and is very exciting.
Dementia – including Alzheimers and neurological diseases including Parkinsons with the vitamin being identified as deficient in patients suffering from irregularities in brain chemistry.
Kidney disease – Most patients with stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD) suffer from extensive vascular calcifications.4 Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is a powerful inhibitor of vascular calcification, and requires vitamin K2 to be fully activated
Cancer -In recent years, various reports have shown that vitamin K2 has anti-oncogenic effects in various cancer cell lines, including leukemia, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and hepatocellular cancer. Although the exact mechanisms by which vitamin K2 exert its antitumor effect are still unclear, processes, such as cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, appear to contribute to the therapeutic effects of vitamin K2.
To read the full report on the research: http://vitamink2.org/?benefit=research-continues
If you suffer from diabetes the body is less able to maintain a balanced cholesterol level with an increase in LDL and VLDL (Very low density lipo protein) this leads to an increased risk of heart muscle damage and it is important that you have your levels monitored regularly.
Having said that, it is even more important that you stay away from processed foods, cook from scratch using healthy fats. It is also essential to stay away from high sugar content white carbohydrates instead using a moderate amount of wholegrains. Whilst monitoring by your doctor is available after diagnosis, there are millions of people in the world you are pre-diabetic and are not aware of it.
This is why it is important to take responsibility and visit a pharmacy who offers a panel of tests for Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Cholesterol at least once a year to have a clear measurement of these key health indicators. That puts you in the driving seat and enables you to take action as well as work with your doctor to get you back within healthy ranges.
Cholesterol Levels measurements.
Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, (mmol/L) UK – you will note that some articles on cholesterol levels will recommend that normal levels should be lower than the recommended levels for healthy or at risk adults.
However, this may encourage people to drive their total levels down too far and puts them at risk of other diseases that result from a deficiency of cholesterol.
It is important to have a picture of where you are with regard to measurements such as cholesterol. If you do need to reduce the levels of the more harmful form then you can agree a target with your doctor, get help from a nutritionist or a the very least do your research into the diet that can help you reduce your cholesterol healthily.
I cannot stress enough how important the role of cholesterol is for the health of our vital organs including the brain. A sensible diet over 6 to 12 weeks is far better for your body than a crash diet where all fats have been removed completely.
5mmol/L for healthy adults
4mmol/L for those at high risk
5.6mmol/L to 6.2mmol/L considered borderline high
Above 6.2mmol/L needs to be lowered.
LDL does have a role in functions within the body and it is only when it is oxidised by free radicals resulting from unhealthy food choices that it becomes dangerous.
3mmol/L for healthy adults and 2mmol/L for those who have high risk factors for heart disease.
3.4-4.1 mmol/L borderline high
4.1-4.9 mmol/ high
Above 4.9 mmol/L very high.
Ideally the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) should be above 1.6 mmol/L.
To summarise –
- Do not take healthy natural fats out of your diet
- Use unprocessed, natural ingredients in your cooking and avoid industrialised foods.
- Use healthy fats and oils in moderation and instead of cooking with fats, eat avocados, eat walnuts and oily fish.
- Eat plenty of vegetables including those high in fibre.
- Enjoy seasonal fruits,
- Eat wholegrains for their fibre and B Vitamins,
- Enjoy an egg a day.
- If you are going to eat cheese or other high fat dairy products, do so carefully so that your total fat intake is kept between 20 and 35% of your daily intake depending on whether you need to lose weight or not. Opt for grass fed dairy to obtain the Vitamin K2 from these sources.
©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 1998 – 2019
A little bit about me nutritionally.
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with over twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/
Thanks for dropping in today and if you have any questions please use the comments or if your prefer you are more than welcome to email me on Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org