A quick word about cholesterol:

We are all aware of the importance of checking our cholesterol levels to ensure that they are at an ideal level. If our cholesterol levels are too high then this can lead to ‘furring’ of the arteries which eventually narrows those arteries. This leads to a condition called atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is caused by the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries, often as a result of a high cholesterol levels. What happens then is that these deposits cause the artery walls to narrow and lose elasticity. This eventually results in damaged or blocked arteries.

A blocked artery can cause any of the following conditions:

  • Stroke
  • Thrombosis (blood clot)
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Renal failure (kidney failure)

So, it is important to keep an eye on your cholesterol levels and choose foods which are low in saturates but high in poly/monounsaturated fats.

Cholesterol in itself isn’t a bad thing: it is an important part of the body and is used in a variety of ways, for example, hormone production and generating energy. Most of the cholesterol in our bodies is produced by the liver and then transported into the bloodstream.

But, what we eat can have an affect on our cholesterol level. How does this work?

First of all there are 2 types of cholesterol in the blood:

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

High density lipoprotein is the ‘good’ type of cholesterol in that it lowers this level and helps protect against atherosclerosis. A light to moderate alcohol intake, for example, red wine can help to raise this as can exercise.

Low-density lipoprotein is the ‘bad’ type of cholesterol which can lead to circulatory disorders and heart disease. Foods that are high in saturated fat will cause this to rise.

Your risk of coronary heart disease can be attributed to your HDL/LDL levels.

Medication such as statins, a low fat diet and exercise can help to lower your ‘bad’ LDL levels and raise your ‘good’ HDL levels.

Men tend to have higher LDL levels than women due to the protective effects of oestrogen although this levels out after menopause.

Unfortunately, our cholesterol levels increase as we age which is why it is important to stick to a healthy diet and exercise especially in middle and old age.

Cholesterol levels fall into one of four categories but the ideal level is one in which cholesterol is no higher than 5mmol/l.

This all sounds rather complex and time consuming. We understand that people lead very busy lives and don’t want to spend hours studying food labels in their supermarket. They want to pick up a food item, have a quick look at the nutritional information and then make a decision from this on whether to buy it or not.

However, supermarkets and food manufacturers have provided help in the form of a ‘traffic light’ system.

Food Labelling Guide Index:

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