Diet and cholesterol

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:47 pm
Controlling intake of dietary fat, cholesterol, and excess calories can help lower blood cholesterol. Keeping blood cholesterol within reasonable medical guidelines is important, since high levels are often directly related to an increased risk of heart disease. Nutrition is closely tied to blood cholesterol for many reasons. First, large amounts of dietary fat and extra calories can cause weight gain. Overweight people tend to have higher blood levels of 'bad' cholesterol, or 'LDL' (L-D-L), and lower levels of 'good' cholesterol, or 'HDL' (H-D-L). Second, dietary intake of saturated fat tends to raise blood LDL very quickly. In fact, since the body manufactures all the cholesterol it needs, adding any cholesterol to the system can result in an oversupply. Any unused LDL in the bloodstream is usually deposited along arterial (art-EAR-ee-al) walls. Over time, these deposits can cause narrowing and hardening of the arteries, presenting a significant risk of heart disease. Fortunately, a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol can be used to effectively reduce or control blood cholesterol. High cholesterol foods to avoid include high-fat animal foods, whole-milk dairy foods, egg yolks, fatty poultry, and some kinds of fatty fish. Foods to emphasize are those naturally low in fat and lacking cholesterol, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, and whole-grain cereals. Other helpful foods may include those high in starch and fiber, like whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals. Finally, foods high in soluble fiber may actually help lower cholesterol. These include oat or barley bran, dried peas, and dried beans. If you're concerned about your cholesterol level, or would like to know more about diet and cholesterol, contact a health care provider.

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