Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance that is found in the blood. Cholesterol is bad in itself – it helps our cells to function properly and allows our body to produce essential vitamins and hormones, including bile. However, high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, can clog up your arteries, thereby raising your risk of heart disease.
What you put into your body can either counter or promote LDL cholesterol build-up in the body.
According to Doctor Kathryn Basford, Asda Online Doctor by ZAVA, you could do a lot worse than snacking on pumpkin seeds.
“The seeds of a pumpkin contain a compound called phytosterol, which is very effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels,” explained Doctor Basford.
What the research says
Several rat studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of pumpkin seeds on cholesterol.
In their concluding remarks, the researchers showed that “treatment of atherogenic rats with pumpkin seeds significantly decreased” LDL cholesterol levels.
Other important dietary tips
According to Doctor Basford, adding fruits such as berries to your diet can also help to reduce cholesterol.
The doc explained: Berries are rich in polyphenols, a plant compound with proven heart-related benefits.
This particular compound has been proven to help reduce the risk of strokes, improve insulin resistance and systemic inflammation and lower blood pressure.”
“If you’re not a fan of berries you can also get polyphenols from tea, cocoa and fruits, as well as vegetables.”
What to limit
Many foods contain saturated and unsaturated fats so your diet can have a “huge impact” on your cholesterol levels, warned Doctor Basford.
She said: “Consuming high amounts of unhealthy fats from processed food such as sausages, butter, cakes and biscuits, can increase the amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood which can lead to blockages in your arteries.”
Other key lifestyle tips
Exercise also offers a robust defence against high cholesterol.
According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol picks up LDL cholesterol and transports it to your liver where it is flushed out.
“With your doctor’s OK, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week,” advises the Mayo Clinic.
Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you’re working at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
“In general, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity,” says the NHS.
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