Tiva Luckett

Naturopath

Cardiovascular Disease and Food


If you have high cholesterol also see healthy eating for high cholesterol.

To Lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol
- Decrease total fats in diet
- Decrease cholesterol in diet
- Increase essential fatty acids
- Increase fibre (especially oats and psyllium husk)
- Increase complex carbohydrates
- Decrease caffeine and nicotine
- Supplement nutrients: Vitamin B3, B6, B12, C; chromium; EPA & GLA; garlic; red rice yeast.

To Increase HDL ‘good’ cholesterol
- Get regular aerobic exercise
- Do not smoke
- Decrease body weight
- Supplement nutrients: essential fatty acids; niacin; EPA, fibre and L-carnitine.

Risks of CVD include high blood pressure, high cholesterol (especially high LDL levels), high triglyceride levels, and obesity, as well as some cases of diabetes. High fat consumption, low fibre intake, high cholesterol and excess sodium intake are influential nutritional risks. Non-diet risks include smoking, stress and lack of exercise. Proper diet alone can decrease cholesterol levels by 30% or more. It is clear that a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol leads to increased blood cholesterol levels and increased atherosclerosis. It takes dedication, and sometimes a complete lifestyle change, to make these changes.

Fats
The primary dietary focus for preventing CVD is reducing fat intake. The diet should be low in fat and particularly low in:
- saturated fats (especially animal fats, including dairy)
- hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated fats (margarine and most packaged refined foods), and
- poor quality oils, especially when heated in cooking.

Fat intake should be reduced to a maximum of 20% of total calories. This is not easy because it includes all fried foods, meats,dairy products, eggs, nuts, and seeds, which also clearly reduces protein intake. Supplementing with essential fatty acids,and using good-quality cold-pressed vegetable oils (poly/monounsaturated); and avoidance of many of the less healthy fats is best, such as refined cooking oils and hydrogenated fats like margarine.

Particularly helpful oils are contained in deep sea cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring. These contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (dicosahexaenoic acid), which have a positive effect on lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. Consuming these oily fish two or three times a week has been proven be beneficial.

To prevent atherosclerosis, a diet low in cholesterol and high in fibre is recommended. Fibre reduces CVD risk by binding cholesterol and fats and passing them out of the body, therefore reducing their absorption and subsequently decreasing blood cholesterol and LDL. Increased fibre levels can also help to reduce blood pressure levels. Oats has been shown to help reduce cholestrol levels, and reduce weight in those who suffer from obesity.

In addition, a low-salt and low-sugar diet is also suggested. Excess sugar causes an increase in calories, weight, and blood fats, and is a direct risk factor in CVD. More complex carbohydrates, including whole grain and vegetable foods, are important for CVD prevention.

Dietary Suggestions to Reduce CVD Risk
- Eat more fruits and vegetables, and leave skin on.
- Eat more whole grains, legumes and beans.
- Fat intake no more than 25% of the diet.
- Reduce cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day.
- Reduce consumption of eggs to about three per week.
- Minimise use of whole milk and dairy products.
- Avoid red meats, eliminate all cured/processed meats, chicken can be eaten occassionally but without skin.
- Eat more deep sea cold water fish.
- Use fresh, cold-pressed oils, such as olive or flaxseed, to provide the essential fatty acids, and do not heat oils.
- Replace snacks with low fat foods such as corn thins, rice cakes, Finn crisp or ryvita.
- Add oat bran to cereals and use whole grain cereals in place of sugary ones, such as oats.
- Substitute ice-cream for fruit juice ices.
- Use low-fat cheeses such as cottage cheese or ricotta.
- Increase salads in summer and veggie soups in winter.
- Consume cookies and treats with no saturated fats and lower/no sugar content, sweeteners can include dried fruit, xylitol or stevia, or fruit-juice-sweetened sweets.
- Include garlic in your food, it has a cholesterol lowering effect, as do onions, ginger and cayenne pepper.
- Soybeans and soy products such as tofu, tempeh, miso and soy lecithin may have a positive effect on cholesterol and atherosclerosis; and are low in fat and high in protein.
- Millet and buckwheat, okra, asparagus, apples and bananas, red rice yeast, and flaxseed (linseed) oil may reduce cholesterol.
- Ground flaxseeds are a good source of soluble fibre and essential oils and may help reduce blood fat levels and fatty deposits.

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