Medical experts say that cholesterol is one of the most misunderstood terms. They vow that cholesterol is not an enemy but a friend. However, it becomes a ‘villain’ when it is not regulated in the right way.
Liver is called the ‘chemical’ factory in the body. Cholesterol is required for the liver to produce the bile. The body would lose its ability to absorb oil and fat if the production of bile goes down. Cholesterol is required for the health of thousands of membranes that wraps the cells in our body. Meanwhile, the production of steroids too would vary with the cholesterol levels. The imbalance of this may cause many physical and mental problems. Cholesterol is present in the nerve cells as it is inevitable for the functioning of the nerves. The human body can produce vitamin D when sunlight hits the body. Cholesterol aids this process which results in the strengthening of bones and teeth. However, if the cholesterol levels shoot uncontrollably, then it might cause many serious health problems.
A healthy person produces the cholesterol that is required for the proper functioning of the body. The body absorbs small amounts of cholesterol from the food. However, when we consume food items that are loaded with cholesterol, a waxy substance gets deposited in our blood vessels. This makes the vessels lose its ability to expand.
It is a misunderstanding that cholesterol could be reduced by simply giving up certain food items. After the absorption and digestion of carbohydrates, fat and protein, the body gets a substance called acetate which is required for the production of cholesterol. The production of cholesterol would be reduced by lowering the intake of food items that are loaded with carbohydrates, fat and protein. Too much carbs may be turned into fat deposits. Having ¾ cup of coconut gravy is tantamount to eating ¼ kg rice or wheat. Such unhealthy eating habits is one of the reasons for high number of cholesterol and diabetic patients in Kerala.
Our ancestors too used to eat lots of coconut or coconut based dishes. However, they indulged in lots of physical activities like working in the fields or walking for long distances. Besides, they didn’t snack on unhealthy snacks or fast food. They didn't have the problem of overeating as they mostly had home cooked food which is often available as limited portions. To a certain extent, high cholesterol may be a hereditary disease. Usually excess cholesterol is eliminated through faeces. However, hereditary factors may be the reason why the rate of this process reduces. It is quite easier to regulate the cholesterol levels in our body. For that, lowering the intake of food items that are loaded with cholesterol is important. No matter what oil you use, the key is to use it in low amounts. Besides, oils that contain saturated fat is better. The saturated fats help in reducing the cholesterol levels. Fried food, bakery items that contain trans fat and packed snacks should be strictly avoided to control the cholesterol levels.
Interestingly, cholesterol has been divided into good and bad. HDL, which is good, can prevent heart attack and reduces the LDL levels too. The omega 3 in olive oil and bran oil increases the HDL level in our body. One-and-a-half teaspoons of oil is the ideal amount to be used for cooking. Fried snacks like banana fritters, vada, dal vada and onion fritters should be part of the regular diet.
Punarnava, spinach, drumstick leaves, fenugreek, shallots, Holy Basil leaves, millet, rice bran, curry leaves, sardines, mackerels, tuna and skin less chicken could be included in everyday diet. Meanwhile, vegetarians can try soybean and rice bran oil.
Information courtesy: Dr. M Raheena Khader