Contrary to popular belief, we all need cholesterol to be healthy. But, not just any cholesterol. The good cholesterol (HDL – High-Density Lipoprotein) must be distinguished from the bad cholesterol (LDL – Low-Density Lipoprotein). Good cholesterol helps build cell walls, while too much bad cholesterol can cause problems. A high level of LDL cholesterol puts you at risk of atherosclerosis, i.e., narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks.
It is, therefore, important to try to reduce foods that promote bad cholesterol as much as possible. For an anti-cholesterol diet, Nidhi Dhawan, HOD – Dietetics, Saroj Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi, suggests reducing the following categories of foods as much as possible:
1. Fried foods: Oils used for deep-frying are sources of unhealthy fats. High temperatures alter the fatty acids present in the oil, which form highly carcinogenic and harmful derivatives for the arteries. Foods cooked at such high temperatures also lose their nutritional value. Consumption of fried foods, thus, contributes to the formation of trans fats and affects cholesterol levels.
2. Trans fats: Baked goods, prepackaged foods, desserts, cookies and many types of chocolates contain trans fats. These increase the ‘bad’ cholesterol, reduce the HDL (good cholesterol) and aggravate the risk of clots forming inside the arteries. Check labels for hydrogenated oils or trans fats as an ingredient and avoid these to keep your LDL levels in check.
3. Processed red meat: Meats, especially processed meats such as sausages or hamburgers, increase the bad cholesterol in the body. When preparing your meat, you can reduce the amount of saturated fatty acids present in it by removing any visible fat. If you are buying products like sausages or hamburgers, check the nutrition labelling and choose lower saturated fat options.
4. Soda: Aerated drinks are the biggest culprits. The high sugar content in sodas elevates triglycerides in your body and also leads to weight gain. Both these can cause a rise in LDL levels.
5. White bread, pasta, and rice: Refined sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread and pasta reduce good HDL cholesterol and should be avoided while on an anti-cholesterol diet. These simple carbs break down in your body with ease and may lead to inflammation. They also contribute to an increase in bad cholesterol levels.
Do not deprive yourself of anything, but pay attention to the above list of foods and consume them in moderation to keep high cholesterol at bay.