Medical experts say cholesterol is one of the most misunderstood terms. They swear that cholesterol is not an enemy but a friend. However, it becomes a “bad guy” if not properly regulated.
The liver is referred to as the “chemical” factory in the body. Cholesterol is needed for the liver to produce bile. The body would lose its ability to absorb oil and fat when production of bile slows down. Cholesterol is needed for the health of the thousands of membranes that line the cells in our bodies. Meanwhile, the production of steroids would also vary with cholesterol levels. This imbalance can cause many physical and mental problems. Cholesterol is present in nerve cells because it is essential for nerve function. The human body can produce vitamin D when sunlight hits the body. Cholesterol supports this process, which leads to the strengthening of bones and teeth. However, when cholesterol levels skyrocket out of control, it can cause many serious health problems.
A healthy person produces the cholesterol required for the proper functioning of the body. The body absorbs small amounts of cholesterol from food. However, when we eat foods loaded with cholesterol, a waxy substance is deposited in our blood vessels. As a result, the vessels lose their ability to expand.
It is a misconception that simply cutting out certain foods can lower cholesterol. After absorbing and digesting carbohydrates, fat, and protein, the body gets a substance called acetate, which is needed for the production of cholesterol. The production of cholesterol would be reduced by reducing the intake of foods loaded with carbohydrates, fat and protein. Too many carbohydrates can be converted into fat deposits. Consuming ¾ cup of coconut sauce is equivalent to eating ¼ kg of rice or wheat. Such unhealthy eating habits are one of the reasons for the high number of cholesterol and diabetics in Kerala.
Our ancestors also ate a lot of coconut or coconut-based dishes. However, they indulged in many physical activities such as working in the fields or taking long walks. In addition, they do not snack on unhealthy snacks or fast food. They didn’t have the problem of overeating as they mostly had home made food which often comes in limited portions. To some extent, high cholesterol can be an inherited condition. Excess cholesterol is usually excreted in the faeces. However, hereditary factors may be the reason that the speed of this process decreases. It is much easier to regulate cholesterol levels in our body. Therefore, it is important to reduce the intake of cholesterol-rich foods. No matter what oil you use, the key is to use it in small amounts. Also, oils that contain saturated fat are better. The saturated fats help in lowering cholesterol levels. Fried foods, baked goods that contain trans fats, and packaged snacks should be strictly avoided to help control cholesterol levels.
Interestingly, cholesterol has been divided into good and bad. HDL, which is good, can prevent a heart attack and also lowers LDL levels. The omega 3 in olive oil and bran oil increases HDL levels in our body. A teaspoon and a half of oil is the ideal amount 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, basil leaves, millet, rice bran, curry leaves, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and skinless chicken can be included in the daily diet. Vegetarians, meanwhile, can try soybean and rice bran oils.
Information courtesy of: Dr. M Raheena Khader