In the interest of protecting the health and function of our cardiovascular system, for many years we have been advised to limit dietary intake of high cholesterol foods. The belief behind this dietary advice was that foods high in cholesterol raised the blood levels of harmful LDL cholesterol, a known contributing factor in the development of cardiovascular disease. As people were told to avoid foods such as shrimp, eggs, and full fat dairy, dietary cholesterol garnered a bad reputation. Now, decades later, it appears that avoiding dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood levels of circulating cholesterol.
As nutrition science evolves, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are revised every five years. At the end of 2015, the scientific advisory guidelines committee suggested that consumption of cholesterol-laden foods should no longer be concerning. Current research indicates that genetic make-up, not diet, is the driving force behind cholesterol levels. Approximately 85% of cholesterol circulating throughout the body does not come from diet, but is manufactured by the liver. Perhaps in response to the demonization of cholesterol, some may not realize that cholesterol is vitally important to brain function, and the manufacture of cell membranes, as well as vitamin D and reproductive and adrenal hormones.
There is no doubt that high LDL cholesterol is worrisome, as excess cholesterol can build up along arterial walls, restricting blood flow and oxygen, greatly increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. While the new guidelines may be slow to change medical advice and peoples’ behavior, we do know that the body needs sources of healthy dietary fats for optimal function. Secondly, we now know that the low-fat diet recommendations were a disaster for public health, as when fats were branded unhealthy the benefits of healthy fats were not recognized. This resulted in increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar, likely contributing to the current obesity, diabetes and chronic disease epidemics we are facing today.
The new recommended guidelines suggest reducing red and processed meat consumption and eating more plant-based proteins, high fiber beans, fruits, vegetables, and high fat, unsalted nuts and seeds. The American Heart Association and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommend dietary fats not exceed 30% of daily dietary intake. They also note that other dietary factors contribute to a reduction in LDL cholesterol, supporting cardiac health and overall wellness.
Get to know the healthy fats – As the type of fat you eat may be much more important than limiting overall fat intake, the focus now is on beneficial fats. Beneficial fats include omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as found in oily fish, and mono-unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and dark chocolate.
Increase dietary fiber – Soluble fiber, such as found in oats, beans and pulses, helps to reduce total and LDL cholesterol by binding to cholesterol in the digestive tract, eliminating it before it gets into circulation. Dietary fiber aids digestive health, supports a healthy weight and helps to keep inflammation in check.
Eat more fruits and vegetables – Fruits and vegetables provide fiber and pectin, shown to help reduce the progression of atherosclerosis. Whole plant foods provide heart protective antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, as well as sterols and stanols that block the absorption of cholesterol.
Supplements for cardiac health support – Supplements that support overall cardiac health include CoQ10, which may help to lower blood pressure and relieve muscle pain and weakness, a known side effect of cholesterol lowering medications. Omega-3 essential fatty acids can help to lower triglyceride levels and decrease the inflammation that contributes to atherosclerosis. Magnesium supports nerve function and normal heartbeat and may help reduce elevated blood pressure.
Work out more – While the Cleveland Clinic suggests that healthy people strive for 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily for optimum heart health, many of us can’t meet that goal. Work up to 30 – 60 minutes of any activity that uses large muscles repetitively and increases heart rate, such as walking, cycling, rowing, swimming or dancing. Once you master moderate intensity exercise, you may want to consider high intensity interval training, which can help to raise good HDL cholesterol.
Choose whole grains – Whole grains are good sources of fiber and nutrients that support cardiac health and aid blood pressure regulation. For a healthier cardiovascular system, substitute 100% whole grains for refined grains, chose brown rice over white, and high-fiber, low-sugar whole grain cereals.
Watch alcohol consumption – Although a small amount of alcohol is believed to be cardioprotective, it will not in itself prevent heart disease. Regular excessive alcohol consumption contributes to serious liver, pancreatic, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases and increases the risk for certain cancers.
Professional Supplement Center carries these and other high quality formulas from Integrative Therapeutics in support of overall wellness:
Fiber Formula – This proprietary blend provides both soluble and insoluble fiber, and is suitable for daily use in support of regularity and colon health. Soy, wheat and dairy free, vegetarian formulation.
Pure Omega Ultra HP – This product supplies a high level of sustainably sourced purified EPA and DHA omega-3 essential fatty acids in triglyceride form. No fishy burp back. Natural peppermint flavor. Gluten, soy and dairy free formulation.
CoQ10 100 mg – One softgel provides 100 mg of CoQ10, as highly absorbable ubiquinone in support of energy production, brain function, and heart health, as well as overall wellness and healthy aging. Gluten and dairy free formulation.
CoQ10 200 mg (Vitaline) – This tablet provides 200 mg of natural CoQ10 as ubiquinone for easy absorption. Gluten, soy and dairy free, vegetarian formulation.
Why You Should No Longer Worry About Cholesterol in Food. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/02/why-you-should-no-longer-worry-about-cholesterol-in-food/
Panel suggests that dietary guidelines stop warning about cholesterol in food. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/panel-suggests-stop-warning-about-cholesterol-in-food-201502127713
About Cholesterol. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/About-Cholesterol_UCM_001220_Article.jsp
Nutrition and Heart Health. http://www.pcrm.org/health/heart/nutrition-and-heart-health
Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/1/30.full
The Link Between Magnesium and Heart Health. http://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health-specialist/magnesium.aspx