Smorgasbord Health Column – Cholesterol and Fat Myths Part Three, Vitamin K2 and Healthy Fats by Sally Cronin

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.

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 is a slightly longer post and I know from comments and emails that you are keen to get to the dietary changes that may encourage a healthy cholesterol balance.

First a look at some of the reasons behind why your cholesterol levels are out of balance.

  1. Obesity in itself is unhealthy but it usually comes with lack of exercise and high blood sugar levels.
  2. Exercise has been found to boost HDL levels in relation to LDL so if you are static you will see the reverse effect.
  3. High sugar levels damage the walls of the arteries.
  4. In combination with the sugar, the foods eaten to raise the amount in your bloodstream comes with unhealthy transfats in industrially produced foods.
  5. If you are a smoker it also causes the arteries to harden.
  6. Your liver is not functioning effectively and it’s LDL receptor cells are not managing the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. This can be down to a genetic predisposition but is more likely because of a poor diet, drinking too much alcohol or a natural effect of aging. You can find out more about the liver here
  7. A diet lacking in the nutrients and fibre needed to cleanse and rejuvenate your body.
  8. Certain medications can increase the levels of LDL in your cholesterol

A closer look at LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein)

Hopefully in my last post I established that Cholesterol is something to be cherished and maintained to ensure a healthy balance of hormones and other functions within the body, I will now focus on the LDL – low density lipoprotein, which is the cholesterol with smaller particles, and is the type that can cause the arteries to clog with plaque leading to cardiovascular disease.

Free radicals are formed when we ingest white fats (Trans fats) in processed foods and snacks, too much sugar in the diet (including sodas, light or otherwise) smoking and other bad habits. The LDL and the VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein) particles seem to like the bad boys and react with them making the particles unstable. They in turn react more aggressively with the surrounding tissues, including the lining of the arteries in the body called the endothelium.

This will affect the blood vessels with vital access to your brain and your heart, the carotid artery and the coronary artery, as well as those to your arms and legs.

Once that damage occurs in the endothelium, as with any tissue damage in your body, platelets and blood cells rush to the area, and it becomes a hot spot to catch anything that is moving through the blood stream that can adhere to the growing plaque mass. This includes the smaller particles of LDL that have been compromised by the free radicals. Obviously over a period of time this will grow to block the artery, then the blood flow and that is when heart attacks and strokes are likely.

So whilst cholesterol has a vital role in the body and the HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is stable and with its larger particles not going to cause you a problem, you have to keep an eye on the unstable member of the family. The key to maintaining a healthy balance of cholesterol is to make sure that you keep the LDL lower than the HDL and that your diet does not encourage an excess of free radicals.

There are some conditions that will elevate cholesterol – apart from the hereditary factors, if someone is diabetic or has low thyroid function their levels can be quite high. This is when it makes sense to take the prescribed medication to maintain a lower overall level, but particularly the LDL.

A healthy balanced diet is still essential however, you cannot just take the pills and expect them to do all the work. However there are other prescribed medications that can also cause the levels to rise such as steroids and hormonal replacement and you should be aware of these possible side-effects and have regular cholesterol checks on your LDL levels.

Back to the diet and healthy fats

And whilst the headlines and medical profession maintain that eating healthy saturated fats is bad for your health and will automatically result in an unhealthy imbalance in your LDL and HDL, this is not the case.

In fact eaten in moderation, healthy fats contain vital nutrients the body needs and do not result in inflammation and diabetes.

One of the main reasons millions now have raised blood sugar levels that contribute to an imbalance in cholesterol levels is that they have been following the 50 year recommendation of governments around the world to eat a food pyramid that is focused on eating a much higher proportion of carbohydrates every day. Here is the old FDA food pyramid

Old FDA Food Pyramid | Food pyramid, Dry beans, Fda

All those carbohydrates.. particularly the white, nutritionally sterile breads, cakes, biscuits, cereals with added sugar and transfats, when eaten in large quantities raise blood sugar levels. Resulting not only in our obesity epidemic but the increasing number of Type II diabetics around the world. After 50 years of following this advice (and I was no exception until I was in my 40s) Obesity and diabetes is increasing each year along with heart disease.

CDC figures for Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes 2019

  • Total: 34.2 million people have diabetes (10.5% of the US population)
  • Diagnosed: 26.9 million people, including 26.8 million adults
  • Undiagnosed: 7.3 million people (21.4% are undiagnosed)

And Pre-diabetes

  • Total: 88 million people aged 18 years or older have prediabetes (34.5% of the adult US population)
  • 65 years or older: 24.2 million people aged 65 years or older have prediabetes

This is mirrored around the Western world and now tell me that the government advice we have been following for the last 50 years is working.

To reverse lifestyle diseases such as obesity, unhealthy cholesterol and diabetes we just need to make some fundamental changes to the food pyramid which is how I prefer to eat with a small amount of wholegrains each day.

Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid Guidelines in 2020 ...

But back to fats…………………………..

We must not cut the good 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.

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.

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 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 those that have an important component; Omega-3 fatty acids.

Flaxseeds, salmon, tuna, mackeral and other oily fish, olive oil, walnuts, chicken, beef, avocado and even spinach.

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

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: K2 research ongoing


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.

Dietary and lifestyle changes to improve unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Though the first few days might be tough.. it is important that you cut back the refined sugar in your diet and the amount of industrially produced foods in packets, tins and jars you are consuming. This includes shop bought cakes, biscuits, white bread (buy wholegrain) white rice, white pasta, icecream, sweets, milk chocolate, processed cereals, and for six weeks alcohol.

Cook your foods fresh and from scratch using herbs and seasoning to flavour.

  1. Eat lots of vegetables and moderate fruits such as apples and blueberries daily
  2. Eat onions daily both raw and cooked and also some garlic as both may have a cholesterol lowering effect. I certainly eat an onion a day and believe they do help. ( Research)
  3. I have been drinking a large glass of coconut water (a brand that uses just coconut water without additives) the potassium it contains aids in management of Blood Pressure and also in lowering LDL and increasing HDL levels of Cholestoerol.  More clinical studies are being done into coconut water but here is an example. Beneficial effects of Coconut Water
  4. Eat a handful of wholegrains daily such as brown rice, porridge oats homemade bread (2 slices) each day. It is important not to give up carbohydrates completely as wholegrains provide fibre and B vitamins.
  5. Cook with healthy fats
  6. Use real butter and moderate amounts of cheese three times a week.
  7. Enjoy eggs, chicken, oily fish three times a week and other meat proteins twice a week.
  8. Enjoy a meat free day twice a week substituting with avocados and other omega 3 rich foods.
  9. Take a 30 minute walk every day.
  10. Eat a couple of squares of 70% dark chocolate every day.
  11. Drink green tea preferably, three cups a day and a cup of black coffee with a dash of milk is not going to break the process. In fact green tea has been the subject of a number of studies which show promising results in regard to lowering LDL cholesterol.. I drink three cups a day and consider it along with coconut water to be effective components in my daily diet in maintaining both BP and LDL.
  12. Keep hydrated with water.

Cholesterol Levels measurements.

You should fast before a cholesterol test for at least 12 hours, and I suggest that you skip the cheese the day before and have a plant based meal.. fats you have eaten do register in the test so having a Big Mac fully loaded is not going to be helpful!

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/HDL levels

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.

I suggest that if you are making changes to your diet that you have your cholesterol checked prior to starting.. and then six weeks later. If there has been a significant improvement you can introduce some of your favourites back in again, in moderation such as a glass of red wine. But try to avoid industrial foods and stick to your cook from scratch approach.

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 every day, 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 at least three times a week.
  • If you are going to eat cheese or other high fat dairy products, opt for grass fed dairy to obtain the Vitamin K2 from these sources.

I recently ran a series that might help you get started on becoming healthier:Project 101 – Resilience – An opportunity to get fighting fit – Round Up

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two 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 my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the posts that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it. If you have any questions you can email me on

Men’s Health Week Revisited – Reduce Blood Pressure and LDL Cholesterol levels in Six Weeks.

men's health


Following on from the post last week on testosterone and cholesterol, here is a six week programme that can reduce both your blood pressure and unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels. It can be followed with some tweaking, by both men and women.

If you are currently on medication for both Blood Pressure or cholesterol do not stop taking but if you follow this programme, I suggest at the end of the six weeks, particularly if you have lost weight that you visit your GP and ask if you might work together to reduce the dosage. You may with further work be able to come off medication completely.

R  Reduce your salt intake. You should not have more than a level teaspoon per day or 6 grams. If you eat a lot of processed foods you will be consuming far in excess of this. Sodium is essential for our bodies to keep a correct water balance: it is also necessary for nerve impulse transmission and prevents your blood from becoming too acidic or alkaline. However, take in too much and not only will it cause weight gain it can also drive your blood pressure too high. Look at the labels on the food and your mineral water currently in your cupboard and fridge and see how much sodium is in 100gms. Multiply by 2.5 which will give you the salt equivalent. So if a Pizza has 8400 mg of sodium you would times that by 2.5 giving you 21000mg of sodium or 21gm of salt which is 3.5 teaspoons or 3 times the recommended salt intake.

E Eat whole grain bread, oats, rice and pasta and avoid all white, starchy foods. This means cakes, sweets and white industrial loaves. Store baked baguettes that have no preservatives are fine occasionally, but you should focus on wholegrains. Not only will you be consuming more fibre which is essential for clearing out arteries of fatty deposits it will also provide you with B vitamins, essential for the metabolism of the carbohydrates and proteins that you eat. It will provide you with slow release energy throughout the day without spikes in your blood sugar.

There is much debate as to whether we should be eating grains. I believe that we should in moderation. There are important B vitamins in wholegrains and unless you have been tested by a qualified therapist or medical practitioner for Celiac disease, there is no reason for you not to eat moderate amounts. Although our activity levels may drop off as we get older, you still need the nutrients contained in oats, rice and good quality wheat. The reason many people react to grains is that the rest of their diet is full of sugar. If you are Celiac then by all means pay extra for gluten free flours but try to make your own bread. Much of the gluten free ready prepared products contain a lot of sugar.

D Drink plenty of fluids. If you are dehydrated your blood pressure will be higher. Avoid too many caffeine high drinks – restrict to one cup of coffee per day – decaffeinated would be best. Tea is still caffeinated but is fine drunk in moderation. To actively lower your blood pressure drink 4 cups of Green Tea per day – use a slice of lemon or ginger to taste or a teaspoon of honey. In addition to Green tea – drink 1 litre of low sodium mineral water per day or tap water. Do not drink diet or fully leaded fizzy drinks. Even the artificial sweeteners react with your body and trick it into thinking you have just had several teaspoons of sugar.

U Up your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables – not only will this provide more fibre to detox your whole system it will also provide you with anti-oxidants that will prevent normal healthy cholesterol becoming harmful. Clogged arteries full of LDL cholesterol will result in high blood pressure. Also up your intake of healthy fats including olive oil, oily fish, avocados and use a scrape of butter rather than industrial spreads. Use lean proteins but eating an egg a day will pack in nutrients and has been shown to encourage a healthy cholesterol balance.

C Calm down. Stress elevates blood pressure and if you lead a busy and hectic work and family life you need to find ways to relax. Learn to breathe correctly. Take in a breath through the nose slowly to the count of ten and let out slowly through the mouth to the count of 15. Repeat several times first thing in the morning – last thing at night and any time you feel you are becoming stressed. Listen to your favourite music – switch off your phone and take a relaxing bath. Take mini-breaks to relax and make sure that you are sleeping at least 7 or 8 hours per night.

E Exercise and lose weight if you need to. Your BP and Cholesterol will drop significantly after the loss of just one stone.   You will have to carry less weight putting your body and your heart under less strain. The closer to your optimum weight the better your blood pressure is likely to be. Exercise will help clear your arteries of debris, fill your system with oxygen rich blood and improve muscle tone. Not just in your legs but in your heart and lungs too. A strong heart can work harder. Walk a mile a day. Measure the distance and then time yourself. Each day work towards walking a 15 minute mile. Then increase the distance until you are walking a mile out and a mile back in 24 minutes. If you enjoy swimming then increase your swim until you are completing a kilometre three times a week in 45 minutes or less.

B Be proactive. Understand how your body works and how you can make positive changes to your lifestyle and diet to reduce this potential silent killer. Work with your doctor so that you do not face a lifetime on pills to control a condition that in 9 out of 10 people can be managed with diet and exercise.

P Pack in smoking. Most people believe that smoking relieves stress. In fact it increases it. The several thousand chemical compounds in each cigarette are toxic to the body. Your arteries will harden and become brittle resulting in narrowing and apart from high BP you are also at a severe risk of strokes and aneurysms.

What foods can you enjoy during this six weeks.


The rule of thumb is if it is completely natural and does not come in a package then you can eat it. Cook from Scratch… If you enjoy milk in your coffee or tea and some on your porridge that is fine but to be honest use a smaller amount of full fat and get the taste. A little extra mature cheddar a couple of times a week is not going to hurt either.


It is very important that you use olive oil for cooking.. Latest research has discovered that it is in fact healthier than sunflower at the higher temperatures. I suggest that you cut the frying out completely and use a griddle pan with a sprinkle of oil, steam or roast in the over without skin. You might also like to use organic coconut oil which is something I have been using the last few months. Another healthy fat that is great for all the body including the brain. If you are trying to lose weight you still need to use in moderation. Also eat lean cuts of meat but do not worry about the occasional marbling of fat in meat as this too has benefits.

When using ground beef get steak mince rather than the cheaper cuts and have less of it. You can buy frozen wild salmon which has not been farmed and is therefore healthier for you. Instead of too much butter sprinkle extra olive oil on your bread or vegetables.. If you like garlic which helps to reduce both BP and cholesterol then crush two cloves and put into the bottle of olive oil and shake it up.. Adds a wonderful flavour to dishes and helps overcome any salt withdrawal symptoms you might have


Here is an example of the delicious meals you could be eating in the six weeks. This comes to approximately 1500 calories per day which is the minimum a woman should be eating daily. If you are a man then you need to add another 300 calories in the form of an extra piece of wholegrain toast at breakfast, and extra spoonful of rice at lunchtime and add a medium jacket potato to your suppers.  If you do not need to lose weight then a woman requires around 1800 to 2000 calories per day and a man 2000 to 2300. These of course are dependent on activity levels.  I don’t tend to focus on calories for this particular exercise as it is more important that you are eating fresh produce and not eating pre-prepared packaged foods.  Just cutting those out for six weeks will make a huge difference.


Start each day with a room temperature glass of water with the juice of one lemon.

Avoid all packaged cereals as they have too much added salt and sugar.

Porridge oats with some chopped fresh fruit, apricots, peaches, banana, stewed apple, papaya, pineapple



A poached or boiled egg with a piece of granary toast with a scrape of butter.


A two egg omelette with red peppers, tomatoes and a dessert spoon of wholegrain rice.

With a tea or coffee.

Mid Morning

Coffee or Green Tea with two rye crackers with mashed banana or a sprinkle of olive oil, a little garlic and sliced tomatoes.


An Apple with two thin slices of very mature cheddar..



Savoury wholegrain rice.. Two large tablespoons with chopped cooked onions, peppers, fresh basil, unsalted cashews, dessert spoon of sultanas and a handful of wilted spinach. Topped with roasted skinless chicken breast or other lean protein. A spoonful of fermented vegetables such as beetroot or cabbage.


Lean protein, potatoes (mashed, baked, boiled with a drizzle of olive oil) Carrots, two green vegetables and a homemade tomato and basil sauce.


A large mixed salad with a roasted piece of salmon and new potatoes


Depending on your activity level -multi-grain ryvitas with tomato, cucumber topping or from occasionally a dash of set honey.  Or Fruit.

Supper as a light meal without carbohydrates.


Large portion of vegetables or salad with fish, chicken or lean meat. If you are a man or have a high activity level you can add a jacket potato etc to the meal.

Snack if you need an extra mid-evening.

Fruit or handful of unsalted nuts and seeds.

Drink your teas and water throughout the day

I suggest that you do not drink alchohol for six weeks. I love a glass of good red wine but from time to time I give my liver a break. Especially as it is the liver that stores your cholesterol.

The purpose of this programme is to reduce your LDL cholesterol which is dangerous when it is oxidised.

Sugars do this very effectively so by not ingesting cakes, sweets, biscuits or alcohol for the six weeks you should find that your LDL levels are reduced and that you have a higher level of HDL which is much healthier.

It is tough to give up your favourite foods but if I could put it into perspective.

A bar of chocolate is 500 calories. If you are in the habit of eating one a day, over a week you will be adding 1lb of body fat into your diet. In six weeks that is 6lbs.


Here is a basic shopping list that provides all the basic nutrients the body needs to be healthy. Feel free to print off and mark up for your next trip to the supermarket.

Thanks for dropping by and if you have any questions then please comment or if you wish you can email me on


Vitamin of the Week Part Two – Vitamin B3 – Niacin – Link to cholesterol

smorgasbord health

Earlier in the week I posted on Vitamin B3 – Niacin – and included reference to this nutrient’s effect on the balance of unhealthy and healthy cholesterol in our bodies.

Enzymes in the body are unique substances that speed up chemical reactions in the body. They are responsible for producing the energy we need, the breakdown of dietary fats, the production of certain hormones and cholesterol. In addition they are needed for the processing of genetic material (DNA) and the growth and healthy maturing of cells. B3 is essential for the efficiency of many of these enzymes.

One of the areas that B3 is used therapeutically is in the lowering of cholesterol. B3 actually lowers LDL (lousy cholesterol) and raises HDL (healthy cholesterol). In tests, supplemented B3 proved more effective than many of the normal cholesterol lowering drugs

First a little more about Cholesterol.

I respect and manage my cholesterol levels because without it there are certain vital functions in my body that would not happen. I am rather attached to my steroidal hormones including the sterol Vitamin D (thinks it’s a hormone) that keeps me happy in the winter and free of colds and flu and my bones strong by regulating calcium in my blood. Also in the production of cortisol (there when I need it) and DHEA, very important for my bone density now I am in my 60s; as well as helping keeping me young looking and remembering what happened yesterday!

I am also hoping that my cholesterol, which is very important for my eyesight, will prevent me from developing cataracts in my 70s and 80s. Cholesterol will help prevent me from developing dementia and keeping me active until a ripe old age

Cholesterol is not some demon substance that has invaded our bodies and is rampaging out of control through our blood stream, but essential to our fundamental health and wellbeing. There are a number of people who are genetically prone to cholesterol health issues and of course then medication may be the right decision, but it should never be something that is given to all over a certain age. Something that is often suggested for Statins which have known side-effects.

Those who follow a healthy and balanced diet without many industrially produced foods rarely have a cholesterol imbalance.

How can cholesterol cause a problem in the body?

I admit that I do use the term lousy cholesterol for low density lipoprotein– because this is the one form of cholesterol in our body that can get contaminated and cause health problems. Although when talking about cholesterol we refer to high density lipoprotein (healthy cholesterol) and very low density lipoproteins (not usually in substantial amounts) as well, they are all the same molecularly but have different packaging to be transported in the blood stream.

HDL and LDL sub-divide into different types of lipoproteins and at the moment more is still to be discovered about this. It is the LDL that is associated with the plaque that forms in the arteries leading to blockages.

LDL cholesterol does have a role in the body but has much smaller particles than HDL cholesterol and becomes unstable when it is oxidised – this is where the particles react with free radicals, produced through a number of activities including smoking and eating a diet high in white fat as found in industrially manufactured foods, crisps, pastries and cookies that contain high levels of refined sugars.

If the walls of the arteries are damaged in any way, the smaller and denser particles of the oxidised LDL can push their way through that break in the tissue and start clumping together to form the plaque; whilst the larger HDL particles would not gain purchase. This leads to coronary artery disease.


I think it is important to remember that our bodies have been evolving for a very long time – in a hundred thousand years our DNA will only have altered about ten times which means that we are physically very similar to our first ancestors. I have said before that the body does not react to sudden changes very well!

However, in the last 300 years and particularly the last 150 years since the industrial revolution we have thrown some curved balls at our bodies. Industrially produced foods with manufactured artificial ingredients is just one area where our nutritional needs are not being met – one of the others, which is the real demon in our diet, is refined sugars – addictive -available from birth to grave, within hand’s reach in shops, in our own fridges and store cupboards.

Add these to the laboratory constructed (ugly) fats to extend the sell by date on ready meals and other processed foods in our daily diet and it is no wonder our bodies are in melt down with increased health issues that lead to Heart disease, cancers and dementia.

Coming up tomorrow.

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.

Tomorrow I will post about the various forms of fats that are currently in our diet and which to enjoy and those to avoid.

It is however, important to make sure to include specific nutrients in your diet, including foods rich in Vitamin B3 which has a vital role in balancing the cholesterol in our diet. You can find out more here.

I hope you have found this of interest and of course as always welcome your feedback and if you can please share.. thanks Sally

©JustFoodFor Health 2009.





Size Matters Serialisation – Chapter Seven- Part One – Calories in, Fat in, Exercise it out.

41mynoqwwnl-_uy250_3Chapter seven of Size Matters is quite long so have split into two with the second part on Wednesday.. Faced with losing 150lbs. I knew that I had to form a project plan and then stick to it. I had a great deal more questions than answers 20 years ago and over the years and with more and more nutritional research available it is much easier today to get it right.

  1. Creating Your Own Plan

So now it is your turn. Weigh yourself. I hate bathroom scales with a vengeance. They can sabotage a healthy eating programme as quick as anything. They are not always reliable, if old, the measurements are off and if you do not lose weight one week you can get demoralised and give up. I suggest that you find a chemist or other outlet that has accurate scales and visit every two weeks – same day and time if you can – on the way to work perhaps. I try to find one that does not shout the results across the shop floor! Some of these also have a blood pressure cuff so another measurement to check on a regular basis. Do still have your BP taken officially along with your LDL cholesterol levels and Blood Sugar with your doctor or the pharmacy after 6–8 weeks.

To be honest, I find using a different method to measure progress can be more motivating. One is to take a photograph, full length of you today and stick it somewhere you see it every day. In 6 weeks’ time having been following your new regimen of natural unprocessed foods and got into an increased activity programme, take another and compare them.

Another option is to find an item of clothing that is a size too small and every week on the same day, try it on. Keep going until you fit into it. A note here, unfortunately, we women lose weight from the top down usually. One of the reasons being is that we have different hips and thighs to men. We bear children and the fat in those regions would be used to nourish the baby when we are pregnant. So perhaps an idea would be to find a top of some kind or jacket to compare sizing for the first few weeks.

Determine your frame size and decide what weight you need to be by using the BMR calculator and the addition of normal activity and exercise per day. Remember: It is not healthy to lose masses of body weight too quickly. You can start to lose muscle instead of fat and that is not good in the long term. Having said that, if you are steadily increasing your activity level, you can sustain a healthy loss of 2–3 lbs. (1–1.5 kg) a week, because you are building muscle as you lose the fat.

Most one-dimensional diets work on the assumption that you walk three times a week for 20 minutes. This is hardly enough time to get out of breath! If you are walking for an hour every day, you will be achieving seven times that amount of exercise and will soon see the benefit in additional weight loss and toning. The weight loss will always be quicker at first, but, if you average it out over a 20–week period, it usually works out to 2.5 lbs. (1 kg) per week. You do not need to do the entire hour at once. Intensive and brisk walking for 20 minutes, three times a day can actually be more effective. Also, you are more likely to sustain the level of exercise in smaller segments. For me, I find that if I listen to rock music it keeps me at a good pace although does solicit some odd looks from passers-by.

As always, especially if you are very overweight, you should not launch into an aggressive exercise program without first talking to your medical adviser.

Without the use of technical equipment, and complex calculations, it is generally difficult to calculate an individual’s calorific usage during an hour of exercise. To keep it simple, I have listed only a few exercises and divided them into two main groups: Moderate and Heavy (see Chapter seventeen for the types of exercise and activity that will benefit you most).

Moderate exercise:

Walking, cycling and swimming. These use approximately 300 calories an hour. You should then add 10 calories for every 14 lbs. (6.5 kg) you are overweight.

Heavy exercise:

Aerobics, mountain biking, running, and football. These use approximately 500 calories an hour. Here you need to add 20 calories for every 14 lbs. (6.5 kg) you are overweight.

Basic Summary:

  • Weigh yourself.
  • Determine your frame size.
  • Decide on your ideal weight.
  • Calculate the weight loss required to achieve this weight.
  • Determine the amount of calories you need each day to provide basic nutrition – BMR – then add in basic daily activity and exercise.
  • Without going below your BMR – around the 1500 calories for a woman and 1800 for a man – design your healthy eating programme to provide a 500 to 750 calorie deficit per day to achieve 1–2 lbs. weight loss per week.

You will find more details on how to work out how much you should weigh in the previous chapter.

This is not exercise.. except for the bull who was never the same again!

This is not exercise.. except for the bull who was never the same again!

It is worth noting that some weeks you may lose less than in others. As you increase your activity level, you will be toning up and this will create more muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat and so you may find that you have lost inches instead of pounds. However, in my experience, it usually seems to average out to about 2–2.5 lbs. (0.9–1.1 kg) per week. Think long term, and do not become too obsessed with the day-to-day loss of weight.

You will find a personal information sheet in the section on ‘Designing your own Program’ where you can record the information you have just calculated. However, before continuing, let’s get a few more questions out of the way.

How much fat should I eat each day?

At this point I think it is important to remember that our bodies have been evolving for a very long time – in a hundred thousand years our DNA will only have altered about ten times – I have said before that the body does not react to sudden changes very well! However, in the last 300 years and particularly the last 150 years since the industrial revolution we have thrown some curved balls at our bodies. Industrially produced foods with manufactured artificial ingredients is just one area where our nutritional needs are not being met – one of the others, which is the real demon in our diet, is refined sugars – addictive – available from birth to grave, within hand’s reach in shops, in our own fridges and store cupboards – and laboratory constructed fats to extend the sell-by-date on ready meals and other industrial foods in our daily diet. No wonder our bodies are in melt-down with increased health issues that lead to Heart disease, Cancers and Dementia. 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 with my diet because I have to be watch my weight – 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, whole grain rice, fish, chicken, red meat once a week, eggs, 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 processed foods including margarines and snacks such as microwave popcorn etc.
  • The other fat type, which in large quantities is not helpful in maintaining cholesterol levels, is saturated fat – if there is too much in your diet it will raise your total Cholesterol as well as the unhealthy 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, like walnuts and olive oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL and these are found in salmon, soya, sunflower oils etc and have a very 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 living in Spain we are blessed with an abundance and variety so it is very easy to include oily fish at least three times a week. Some of the best for Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines and Albacore Tuna.

Cholesterol is a natural occuring substance in the body which means that it needs to be there and is essential for health. One of the types of cholesterol has smaller particles and can become unhealthy when it is oxidised, usually because we have too much toxic sugars and industrially inserted additives in our diet.  For more information and how to reduce the LDL levels… here is the link


At this point a word about cooking your healthy meals – Olive oil is great and recent research has indicated that you can use at a higher temperature to cook your steak or fish. For cooking you can use the unrefined olive oil which is cheaper, but if you are drizzling over vegetables and salad I recommend Extra Virgin Olive oil so that it has not been over processed – do not be tempted to use the light versions! Cook smart and steam bake your food – if you are eating steak put in the oven in a pan with a grid so that the excess fat drains off – if you fancy a little butter on your vegetables, why not – great taste.

A little more info on Olive Oil – great stuff – potent mix of anti-oxidants that can lower the LDL but leave the HDL untouched – obviously if you are overweight it does have a high fat and calorie count but much better to use the Extra Virgin version and get the health benefits than use the diet alternatives.

The greatest gift you can give your body and its cholesterol is to avoid eating manufactured store bought cakes, biscuits, crackers some cheap breads, pasta dishes etc. If you make your own from scratch using butter and eat occasionally you will get a better tasting and healthier alternative.

To summarise – do not take fats out of your diet – use fresh, natural ingredients in your cooking, use fats and oils in moderation, eat plenty of vegetables, seasonal fruits, whole grains, dairy and eggs.

To view the other six chapters please follow this link

If you have any questions please feel free to email me on – very happy to help in any way that I can.

Please leave a comment or share.. best wishes Sally

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001 – 2015