With all of the media focus when it comes to heart health being around cholesterol and keeping ‘healthy cholesterol levels’, are we really sure about the dietary and lifestyle measures needed to be in place to maintain heart health, reduce inflammation and manage lipid levels?

The majority of the time we are told to reduce fat and increase carbohydrate intake. Cholesterol is vital to our health, and roughly 25% of our diet is contributing to cholesterol in our bodies, the liver makes around 75% of cholesterol. In the liver Cholesterol is vital for:

  • The function of our cell membranes
  • Production of hormones
  • Vitamin D
  • Bile acids
  • Reducing inflammation

Dietary measures to manage inflammation and improve lipid profile:

Plant sterols found in olive oil and almonds, nuts and seeds, lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, cause inability of cholesterol to past intestinal wall.

  • Dietary Fibre found in psyllium, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, chia, flaxseed, oat bran. Binds to cholesterol promoting excretion from the digestive tract (Hechtman, 2014, p. 983). Psyllium particularly, alters cholesterol metabolism and reduces LDL (nasty guys!) cholesterol levels (Braun & Cohen, 2015, p. 797).
  • Antioxidant rich foods to reduce inflammation: berries, brassica vegetables (broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts), other leafy green vegetables, eggs, turmeric, citrus fruits.
  • Oats contain beta-glucans, a form of fibre that increase bile synthesis (needed for digestion of fat) and reduce cholesterol levels (Braun & Cohen, 2015, p. 722).
  • Garlic and onions help to reduce elevated cholesterol levels and should be crushed first to obtain the active constituents (Hechtman, 2014, p. 983). Garlic is also a great antioxidant and reduces collection of cholesterol in the tissues (Hechtman, 2014, p. 989).
  • Vitamin E maintains health of the arterial walls and assists in blood circulation to reduce deposit of oxidized LDL to the arterial wall (Hechtman, 2014, p. 987).
  • Vitamin C may help to decrease LDL cholesterol and is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the cells from damage and lowers platelet aggregation (formation of blood clots).
  • Green Tea contains flavonoids that assist in liver detoxification and studies have demonstrated possible LDL lowering activity along side increase in HDL (the good guys!), decrease in total cholesterol and triglycerides (Braun & Cohen, 2015, pp. 519-520).
  • Artichoke leaf extract has been studied for its affect in lowering cholesterol levels and LDL (Braun & Cohen, 2015, p. 467).

Lifestyle intervention:

  • Reduce stress to support immune function and digestive health
  • Ensure adequate intake of fruits and vegetables daily (Minimum 5 serves veg, 2 serves fruit)
  • Participate in regular exercise accounting for a minimum of 30mins moderate activity on most days

Emily Bingham
EMpower Fitness and Nutrition
April 2016

 

References

Braun L. & Cohen M. (2015). Herbs & Natural Supplements. (4th ed.). Chatswood, Australia: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
Hechtman, L. (2014). Clinical naturopathic medicine. Sydney, Australia: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier Australia.