Posted by Sherry C. on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), you may already know the importance of keeping your cholesterol levels low as part of the Alzheimer’s diet. If you have high cholesterol, your physician may have prescribed medication to lower your bad cholesterol level, but for some individuals, simply changing the diet may be sufficient in lowering cholesterol. It’s pretty common knowledge that avoiding fried foods and processed foods high in saturated fat can help lower cholesterol, but are there foods that can really fight high cholesterol?
What are good and bad cholesterol levels?
It’s important to note that there are different types of cholesterol and one type seems to be protective against heart disease. Good cholesterol is also called HDL. Bad cholesterol or LDL on the other hand adheres to the walls of blood vessels and contributes to forming plaques which can block blood from flowing through the arteries and inhibit the transportation of oxygen and other nutrients to the heart and brain.
If you are over 20 years of age, your cholesterol levels should be measured at least once every five years. The test is called a “lipid profile” and it conducted via a blood test. LDL levels should be under 190-in general, the lower the LDL level, the better. The opposite is true of HDL or good cholesterol. A higher number means lower risk. This is because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the “bad” cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries.
Although it may seem like a contradiction, adding healthy oils with unsaturated fats can help lower overall blood cholesterol levels. How does this occur? With foods such as olive oil, flaxseed oil and sunflower oil (which are considered monounsaturated fats) these foods can directly lower LDL cholesterol and boost good cholesterol levels (HDL)-according to the American Heart Association. How does this work? The foods that have unsaturated fats take up the extra fat molecules circulating in the body, changing the chemical makeup of unhealthy fat molecules. Replacing saturated fats such as butter and lard with these more healthy oils can really make a difference in the bottom line blood cholesterol levels.
Oatmeal is a great source of soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol. This type of fiber, referred to as “beta glucan” helps to absorb extra cholesterol in the digestive system and move it out of the system through elimination. Fruit such as oranges and apples offer a type of fiber called pectin which has been found to lower blood cholesterol levels by as much as 10% when eaten as part of the daily diet. Pectin has a thick, sticky consistency helping it to bind to cholesterol-ridding the body of excess fats and glucose. Pectin has been known to help lower blood sugar as well.
Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pecans also contain monounsaturated fats that can lower cholesterol much in the way healthy unsaturated oil works in the body. In fact, eating a small amount (7 to 8 per day) has been shown to lower cholesterol by as much as 10%.
Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that doesn’t dissolve in water such as that found in supplements. It goes through the system pretty much unchanged and as it’s digested, it carries with it unhealthy fats and sugars. Insoluble fiber, also found in foods such as bran cereal or bran muffins is known to lower cholesterol levels and help people lose weight. It’s important to check labels to make sure you are not eating muffins or cereal high in sugar.
Sterols are substances which are found in many different fruits and vegetables and are also available as a daily supplement. One study at UC Davis discovered that those who ingested sterol supplements daily lowered their cholesterol levels by as much as 12%. Sterols work to lower cholesterol by blocking absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine.
According to Web MD recent research indicates that plant sterols lower LDL most effectively when eaten in small amounts throughout the day. In fact LDL cholesterol was lowered by six percent in a study group that ingested small amounts of plant sterols 3 times per day.
Suggested amount of plant sterols is around 2,000 mg per day, but the average American diet contains only around 500 mg per day.
Plant sterols naturally occur in many fruits and vegetables including; whole grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Foods with the highest amount of plant sterols include:
Avocado, 1 small = 132 mg plant sterols
Soybeans, 1 cup = 90 mg plant sterols
Chickpeas, 1/2 cup = 25 mg plant sterols
Almonds, 1 ounce = 34 mg plant sterols
Extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon = 30 mg plant sterols
There are many foods that can help lower blood cholesterol levels. If your cholesterol is high, be sure to consult with your physician before going on any type of special diet. Depending on the level of your cholesterol, you may need to start taking medication for quicker and more effective results to lower dangerous levels of cholesterol that could lead to serious conditions such as stroke or heart attacks. Learn more about foods that are good for the Alzheimer’s Diet by picking up a copy of “The Alzheimer’s Diet” written by Harvard trained neurologist, Dr. Richard Isaacson.