Google's search for the best diet to improve people's health is sometimes confusing.
Considering the different types of diets that claim to lose weight quickly, one even wonders what the truth is. Various studies have been conducted to find out which diets support a healthy lifestyle. These diets should include a variety of items from the main food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins, including beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds and healthy fats.
Food portions are a major problem in weight gain, so healthy diets should provide guidance on how much food to choose from each group; after all, this involves adapting your lifestyle so that it has to fit your taste, lifestyle and budget.
Statistics show that hypercholesterolemia is a common condition among the Maltese population. Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. It is mainly made from the liver, but can also be found in some foods. Cholesterol is carried in your blood by protein. When the two are combined, they are called lipoproteins.
The two main types of lipoprotein are: high density lipoprotein (HDL), which transports cholesterol away from cells and back to the liver, where it is broken down or transmitted from the body as waste (hence HDL is called "good cholesterol" "So higher levels are better); and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which carries cholesterol to the cells that need it, but if there is too much of it to use the cells, it can accumulate in the walls of the artery, leading to arterial disease ( for this reason LDL is known as "bad cholesterol".
Cholesterol can accumulate in the walls of the artery, limiting blood flow to various organs, including the heart and brain. Evidence strongly suggests that high cholesterol can increase risk of: narrowing not at the arteries (atherosclerosis); heart attack; stroke; and peripheral arterial disease.
If a person has high cholesterol levels, he or she should take a healthy diet and exercise regularly, as both can help bring it down. This does not exclude the need for medicines
Scientific evidence shows a link between trans fat and heart disease. Trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to liquid fat to help it solidify. Food manufacturers have started using trans fat because they extend the shelf life of packaged reusable cookies and are relatively inexpensive.
Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, which are mainly fats derived from animal products, are unhealthy and should be reduced. They include meat pies, sausages and fatty cuts of meat, butter, melted butter and lard, cream, hard cheeses, cakes and biscuits, as well as foods containing coconut or palm oil. Reducing the fat in your diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease
2. Eat More Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids help lower bad cholesterol and low-fat lipoproteins and therefore healthy fats. Most vegetable oils, including rapeseed, saffron, sunflower, olive, grape and peanut oil, contain both. Oily fish (such as salmon, tuna, trout, herring and mackerel), seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds, nuts such as almonds and cashew, avocado and soy are also good sources.
3. Increase Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables have cholesterol lowering ingredients. They include molecules that block fiber and cholesterol, called sterols and stanols. These include leafy green fruits, yellow pumpkins, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, plums and blueberries. Aim to eat at least five servings of various fruits and vegetables per day
4. Increase fiber intake
Increasing fiber intake helps reduce the risk of heart disease by eating high Fiber content also tends to lower cholesterol. Adults should aim for at least 30 grams of fiber per day. Good sources of fiber include: whole grains, bran and whole grains; Fruits and vegetables; potatoes with their skins; oats and barley; brews like beans, peas and lentils; and nuts and seeds. 5. Avoid refined sugars and cereals
Whole grains are another good source of fiber, including whole grain flour and brown or wild rice. Reduce sugars from the diet.
6. Reducing Total Fat
Reducing the total amount of fat in your diet can also help reduce the risk of heart disease. Instead of baking or frying, consider: grilling; steam; poaching; boiling; or microwave.
7. Be Active
An active lifestyle can also help lower cholesterol levels. Activities can range from walking and cycling to more vigorous exercise such as running and vigorous dancing. Doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week can improve your cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol control is useful for reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. It's part of a risk reduction strategy that includes smoking cessation, weight control, diabetes control, blood pressure control and regular exercise.
Prof. Charmaine Gauci is the Public Health Supervisor.