Nutrition, Cholesterol, Healthy Heart
A diet that is high in nutrient-rich foods (such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and low in fats, saturated fats and simple sugars, contributes to beneficial cholesterol and triglyceride levels, adequate nutrition, and decreased risk of heart disease.
Nutrition, Cholesterol – Folate
Folate, a B vitamin naturally found in leafy green vegetables, orange juice, beans, and wheat germ, helps reduce the risk for heart disease. This is in part because folate lowers blood levels of homocysteine – which in high levels can be very dangerous to the health of your heart. Homocysteine levels vary depending on genetics and nutrition, decreasing with greater intake of food that contains folate, and increasing with high consumption of meat and dairy products.
Current guidelines urge all adults to consume 400 micrograms of folate each day. For pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant, 600 micrograms a day is recommended. Adhering to these guidelines is easy since most breads and cereals are fortified with folate.
Nutrition, Cholesterol – HDL vs. LDL
Total cholesterol consists of two types: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is called “bad cholesterol,” while HDL is often called “good cholesterol.”
LDL cholesterol clogs your arteries, so the less LDL you have, the better for your heart. High levels of HDL, on the other hand, lower your risk for heart disease. Women’s HDL levels tend to be above 45, which is considered favorable. To decrease LDL and increase HDL, you should reduce total dietary fat and saturated fat, eat more soluble fiber, maintain your ideal body weight, increase physical activity and reduce dietary cholesterol.
Nutrition, Cholesterol – Triglycerides
High levels of triglycerides – a type of fat found in the bloodstream – are considered a risk factor for heart disease. Excess body weight and heredity are often causes for high triglycerides. However, simple sugars and refined flours, such as those found in cookies, pretzels and pasta, raise triglyceride levels in some people. To lower triglyceride levels, reduce total fat and saturated fat intake, consume less sugar, avoid alcohol and eat more fish.