While many people alter their lifestyles to lose weight and get into shape, here is another reason to monitor your diet and take up a cardiovascular activity like walking, running, swimming, and so on. Your cholesterol levels dictate if you have a healthy heart or if you are running the risk of an attack or other heart diseases.
Cholesterol is the fatty waxy substance produced in the liver and is a component of bile secreted through our natural digestive process. Its basic function is to protect and insulate our nerve fiber.
There are two types of cholesterol: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is considered as "good" cholesterol because it helps prevent arteries from becoming clogged. Higher HDL cholesterol levels generally mean that you run a lower risk of heart disease. On the other hand, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in arteries, leading to heart disease. The HDL cancels out the effects of LDL and clears it from your blood.
Therefore, what you want to concentrate on is to lower cholesterol (LDL) and raise your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
Whether you have been diagnosed with cholesterol or you want to maintain lower cholesterol levels, you can lower cholesterol naturally with regular exercise and a lower cholesterol diet.
• Here are a few ways to lower cholesterol numbers and beat the risk of heart diseases.
Start with breakfast
Lower cholesterol foods are high in complex carbohydrates and fibers. Start your day with a wholesome breakfast consisting of oatmeal or whole grain or multi grain cereals or cereal bars. Other examples of complex carbohydrates that form a part of lower cholesterol foods can include wild or brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, brown or multi grain bread, quinoa, and so on.
• Say no to junk
Take control of snacking and concentrate on eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Include different varieties of vegetables to fill up your platter and satisfy your diet. Turn to the local farmer’s market to get seasonal vegetables. The reason we sometimes turn to junk food is is that we are not ready to experiment with different kinds of healthy food. Invest in cookbooks or magazines to fire up your imagination and get creative with recipes. Fruits and vegetables contain anti-oxidants that fight bad cholesterol and help to lower cholesterol naturally. Try to include low fat yogurt or other low fat diary products as part of your lower cholesterol diet. The probiotics and active cultures in yogurt help to breakdown cholesterol for better absorption.
Can’t kick that snacking habit? Try a handful of nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecan or pine nuts. These are high in monosaturated fat and can help lower cholesterol. Remember that nuts are high in carbohydrates and fat and will increase your intake of calories.
• Exercise portion control
Even when you are eating right, the amount of food you eat is a deciding factor to achieve lower cholesterol numbers. Eat five to six small-portioned meals every two hours. Measure your approximate food serving by the size of your palm for meats and the size of your balled up fist for rice and pasta. Better still, have a dietician recommend food portions for daily meals and different kinds of food items.
• Get Fishy
Include seafood as part of your lower cholesterol diet. Steamed or grilled (not fried), fish is low in saturated fat and high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids in seafood help lower levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. It also slows down the growth of plaque in the arteries and helps to lower cholesterol levels. Not all kinds of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids. Try oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines. Avoid shrimp and lobster. These shellfish are high in cholesterol.
• Cut Grease
Use minimal oil to cook your food. As far as possible, try to eat steamed or grilled fish, meat and vegetables. They are tastier and without the oil and frying, they retain most of their vitamins and nutrients. If you must use oil, try oils such as canola, corn, sweet almond, olive or sunflower, which have fewer saturated fats. Reduce the consumption of saturated fats such as butter, margarine or palm oil.
• Ordering at a restaurant
Even when you go to a restaurant, you can ensure that you stick to the diet. Order salads and skip the dessert. Pack a portion of your meal-to-go; most restaurants do serve larger portions. Share a plate, so you are not tempted to finish it all. Many restaurants will allow you to ask for reduced or low sodium in your dish.
• Get moving
Any kind of physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart diseases, stave of diabetes and ensure lower cholesterol levels. Even moderate intensity workouts like walking can help to burn off calories and maintain ideal body weight. The more physically active you are, the fewer the chances of clogged arteries and cholesterol.
• Reduce stress
While diet and exercise can help you lower cholesterol, learning to live a stress free life will also help to lower blood pressure, diabetes and other heart related conditions. Release your stress with relaxation exercises or meditation and Yoga.
Work with your doctor and discuss strategies to lower cholesterol levels. Ask your dietician to help you formulate a lower cholesterol diet and stick to it. However, know that there is no easy solution to lower cholesterol numbers. It is a lifelong process, so monitor your condition regularly and get medical examinations to update your health and heart.