HIGH cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. More specifically, it implies you have too much of the harmful type in your blood. LDL cholesterol aka the “bad” cholesterol, sticks to your artery walls, blocking the passageway to your vital organs, such as the heart. The “good” type, also known as HDL cholesterol, counteracts this harmful process by picking up LDL cholesterol and transporting it to your liver where it is flushed out.
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The key difference is that LDL cholesterol raises your risk of heart disease whereas HDL cholesterol lowers it.
It is therefore critical to lower LDL cholesterol while boosting HDL levels.
Researchers have put different foods to the test to assess which ones perform these vital functions.
In one study, different milks were compared to see how they fared.
In the three-week crossover study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the University of Copenhagen tested the effects of having 500ml per day of either skimmed milk or whole milk for three weeks and then repeating the test with the other type of milk.
The study was randomised so that some participants started with skimmed milk whereas others started with the whole milk first.
Cholesterol tests were taken to measure how the different types of milk affected LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol.
Eighteen healthy adults took part in the study and all but one completed it.
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The results of the study showed that LDL cholesterol did not differ significantly between the two types of milk.
However, whole milk was shown to increase the level of HDL cholesterol which reflects a healthier effect on cholesterol levels.
Other dietary tips to lower cholesterol
You should cut down on fatty food, especially food that contains a type of fat called saturated fat, advises the NHS.
Foods high in saturated fats include:
- Meat pies, sausages and fatty meat
- Butter, lard and ghee
- Cream and hard cheese, like cheddar
- Cakes and biscuits
- Food that contains coconut oil or palm oil
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You can still have foods that contain a healthier type of fat called unsaturated fat.
The NHS says to try and eat more:
- Oily fish, like mackerel and salmon
- Brown rice, bread and pasta
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruits and vegetables
Many of the above can be found in a Mediterranean-style diet.
In fact, this popular diet has been proven to reduce your heart disease risk.
A study published in BMC Medicine found people with greater adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet had six to 16 percent lower risk of future cardiovascular disease compared to individuals who had poor adherence.
Responding to the research, British Heart Foundation dietitian Tracy Parker, said: “This large study adds to the significant body of evidence showing that eating a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
“For those wanting to follow a Mediterranean diet, the Government’s healthy eating advice set out in its ‘Eatwell Guide’ is similar and shows how much you should eat of each food group to have a healthy balanced diet.
“This includes eating plenty of starchy foods, such as bread and pasta, plenty of fruit and vegetables, eating some fish, less meat, and choosing products made from vegetable and plant oils, such as olive oil.”
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