In our weight-conscious culture, fat is usually viewed as the enemy. But the fact is that fat is an essential part of every healthy diet.
The key is keeping it under control — and distinguishing good fat from bad fat. Join our Just Health blog on health and nutrition and understand how fat can — and should — be a part of a healthy lifestyle.
For years, a low-fat diet has been promoted as a key to a heart-friendly lifestyle. One problem with a generic low-fat diet is that it takes away the fats that are good for the heart along with those that are bad for it. Another problem is that most people who switch to a low-fat diet usually replace their fats with pasta, white rice, or white bread, which are basically simple carbohydrates and without much fiber.
Hence, complete avoidance of all types of fat from our diet is NOT at all recommended as we Do need some fat in our diet to absorb vitamins like A,D,E,K and provide our bodies with essential fatty acids.
Although it is still important to limit the amount of cholesterol you eat, especially if you have diabetes or family history of heart diseases, its equally important to understand that the Cholesterol in the bloodstream is what’s most important. High blood cholesterol levels greatly increase the risk for heart disease. But the average person makes about 75% of blood cholesterol in his or her liver, while only about 25% is absorbed from food. The biggest influence on blood cholesterol level is the type of fats ingested along with the amount.
Basics of Cholesterol–Heart Disease Connection Cholesterol is a substance, quite similar to wax. The liver makes it and then links it to certain carrier proteins called lipoproteins which gets dissolved in blood and is subsequently transported to all parts of the body.
Too much of cholesterol in the blood can build up deposits of cholesterol inside arteries. These deposits, called plaque, can narrow an artery enough to slow or block blood flow. This narrowing process, called atherosclerosis, commonly occurs in arteries that nourish the heart (the coronary arteries). When one or more areas in the heart fail to get enough blood, and thus the oxygen and nutrients they need gets adversely affected, resulting in chest pain known as angina. Additionally, if plaque gets ruptured, it might lead to blood clotting and hence even heart attack, stroke, or sudden death may result.
Fortunately, the buildup of cholesterol can be slowed, stopped, and even reversed.
The Good and the Bad CholesterolCholesterol-carrying lipoproteins play critical roles in the development of the plaque and the progression of cardiovascular disease. The two main types of lipoproteins, LDL and HDL, basically work in opposite directions.
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol from the liver to different parts of the body. When there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood, it might get deposited on the walls of the coronary arteries, leading to blockages and heart complications. Because of this, LDL cholesterol is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) on the other hand, carry cholesterol from the blood back to the liver, where the cholesterol is processed and finally eliminated out of the body. HDL makes it less likely that excess cholesterol in the blood will be deposited in the coronary arteries, which is why HDL cholesterol is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol.In general, the higher your LDL and the lower your HDL, the greater your risk for atherosclerosis and coronary heart diseases.
It therefore becomes imperative to understand the effect of different types of dietary fats on the levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol so as to improve health and protect ourselves from heart diseases. Read on to our next section on ‘Different types of dietary fats’ and their influence on blood cholesterol levels for better disease management. Also find a few practical suggestions and easy tips to assist you to reduce bad fats from your diet.