Cholesterol

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance, which circulates in blood, as it is found in all body cells. Cholesterol is essential for the body, being a key component of cell membranes. However, increased levels of cholesterol may in the long-run adversely affect the function of the cardiovascular system. Foods that raise cholesterol levels in blood are foods rich in saturated fat, such as fatty meat, cheese, butter and products thereof, as well as foods rich in hydrogenated vegetable oils such as chips, crisps, biscuits, donuts, croissants and sweets. Moreover, fried foods, especially those prepared in fast food restaurants, increase levels of cholesterol in blood. By contrast, foods of plant origin, such as fruits, vegetables, pulses and cereals do not contain any cholesterol, saturated fat and hydrogenated vegetable oils.

What is LDL and HDL cholesterol?

Cholesterol is transferred in the blood within molecules called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins, which carry cholesterol in the blood, are divided into two main categories: LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol can pile up in the arteries’ walls and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases in the long term. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol, or "good" cholesterol, positively contributes to the health of the cardiovascular system.
 
What are the desired levels of cholesterol?
 
It is quite common for disorders to occur in the rates of LDL and HDL cholesterol in the blood. However, considering that usually there are no symptoms, the best manner to check the levels of cholesterol is to occasionally take blood tests. The tables below show the established limits for rates of total, LDL and HDL cholesterol for adults and children:
 
TABLE 1: Categorisation of whole, LDL & HDL cholesterol in adults
 

Total cholesterol

 

<200

Desired

200- 239

Marginally high

≥240

High

LDL cholesterol

 

<100

Excellent

100- 129

Almost excellent

130-159

Marginally high

160-189

High

≥190

Very high

HDL cholesterol

 

<40

Low

≥60

High

TABLE 2: Categorisation of total, LDL & HDL cholesterol in children

Total cholesterol

 

Marginally high

≥170 mg/dL

High

200mg/dL

LDL cholesterol

 

Marginally high

≥100 mg/dL

High

≥130 mg/dL

HDL cholesterol

 

Low

<40 mg/dL

How can I reduce “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels?

Among the factors adding to the increased levels of “bad” cholesterol are diet rich in animal fats, reduced physical activity and increased body weight. Thus, for reducing “bad” cholesterol levels, the following actions are recommended:

  • Complying with the principles of healthy eating, with particular emphasis on replacing foods rich in saturated fat and hydrogenated vegetable oils with foods low in this kind of fats.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight & regular physical exercise.

How can I increase “good” cholesterol (HDL) levels?

Apart from keeping us fit, regular exercise also contributes to the increase of “good” cholesterol. It is recommended that we take regular aerobic exercise of medium intensity for 30 minutes per day. Such exercise is any form of athletic activity, as well as walking, gardening, cycling, dancing, swimming, etc. Moreover, refraining from smoking and maintaining a healthy weight bring us high levels of "good" cholesterol.

Useful tips on improving cholesterol levels:

Prefer:

  • Variety of vegetables and fruits
  • Variety of starchy foods such as bread, cereals, pasta
  • Whole-grain products
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Low-fat cured meats
  • Pulses and oily foods
  • Fish and no-fat poultry

Reduce:

  • Whole dairy products such as cheese, cream and butter.

Alternatively, prefer low-fat dairy products, such as Katiki Domokou cheese, which contains only 13% fats, but it is as tasty as any sheep and goat product can be.

  • Cured meats rich in fats, such as sausages, bacon, etc.

Alternatively, prefer low-fat cured meats. Cured meats of the NIKAS Viveur range contain only 0-3% fats and 30% less salt, while they do not contain any gluten. Moreover, NIKAS gives you the chance to even enjoy turkey sausages with 50% less fat.

  • Margarine, mayonnaise and hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Alternatively, prefer pure olive oil.

  • High-fat meat, such as: liver, lamb, sausage, salami, ham, veal.

Alternatively, prefer fish, no-fat meat and skinless poultry.

  • Confectionery, pastries and snacks rich in fat (croissants, cookies, cakes, chips, crisps etc).

Alternatively, select no-fat pastries (whole-grain rusks etc.).

  • Fried foods in fast food restaurants.

Alternatively, select healthy homemade snacks (sandwiches, homemade pies, etc.).

  • Egg yolks in cooking and pastry making.

Alternatively, prefer using egg whites.

Cooking methods:

  • Strain your foods (with a slotted spoon). 
  • Select roasted or boiled foods. 
  • Remove visible fat and skin from meat. 
  • Use olive oil as the main fat in your cooking. 
  • Serve smaller portions of foods rich in fats. 
  • Consume alcohol in moderation: No more than 1 glass of wine per day for adult women and 1-2 glasses of wine per day for adult men.

 

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