Improve Your Cholesterol Profile With Unsaturated Fats
Nuts Are Sources of Good Oils
Good fats and oils support good health. Bad fats and oils are harmful to health. The functional integrity of various organs and processes in the body is supported by good fats and oils. In the cardiovascular system fats and oils have profound effects on the cholesterol profile. Good fats and oils raise the level of good cholesterol and promote good health. Bad fats and oils promote bad cholesterol and set the stage for atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, hypertension and numerous other related chronic diseases.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance (steroid compound) produced in the liver. Cholesterol plays important roles in the body, including its role as the substrate for the synthesis of substances such as vitamin D, sex hormones (testosterone, progesterone and estrogen), mineralocorticoids (sodium and blood volume-regulating hormones), glucocorticoid (stress hormone) and cholic acid (a component of bile for fat digestion). It is also an important component of the cell membranes and myelin sheath (insulating material for the nerve fibers that support proper impulse conduction by the nerve fibers).
Cholesterol is moved in and out of the liver by carrier protein molecules called lipoproteins. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) moves cholesterol out of the liver to other parts of the body. High density lipoprotein (HDL) moves cholesterol from various parts of the body back to the liver where it can be reused. Thus, HDL prevents the deposit and build-up of cholesterol in the blood vessels and other parts of the body. LDL is called the bad cholesterol because it can deposit cholesterol in the blood vessels and set the background for cardiovascular diseases, particularly, the ischemic heart diseases. HDL is called the good cholesterol because it clears excess cholesterol from the blood vessels and supports good health.
Cholesterol Deposits in the Blood Vessels
The risk of cholesterol deposits in the vascular walls rises when the blood level of bad cholesterol becomes too high relative to the level of the good cholesterol. The ratio of HDL to LDL is an important determinant of a good cholesterol profile. An HDL level of 60 mg/dL or higher, and an LDL level of 100 mg/dL or lower are cholesterol profiles that support good health. The best cholesterol profile is obtained if the total cholesterol level (LDL + HDL) is 200 mg/dL or lower while a good balance of HDL and LDL is maintained.
Fats and Oils
Avoiding all fats and oils to improve cholesterol profile is a dietary mistake. A better result on cholesterol profile is achieved by including good fats and oils in your diet, albeit, in moderation, and avoiding the bad oils and fats. Good oils such as olive oil and alpha omega-3 fatty acid-rich oils support the production of good cholesterol, whereas, bad fats and oils promote the synthesis of bad cholesterol. Good oils and fats are the unsaturated (mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated) fats and oils. The short chain and medium chain fatty acid-rich oils (such as the coconut oil) are also good.
The bad fats and oils are the long chain saturated fats and the trans fats. The saturated fats are primarily from animals sources, whereas, trans fats are largely produced by modifying good oils. Goods oils can be transformed to bad fats by processes such as hydrogenation and partial hydrogenation. Hydrogenated oils and trans fats are usually solid at room temperature.
Dietary sources of Good Fats and Oils
Most plant-based oils are good oils provided that they have not been refined and transformed to bad oils and fats. These include oils from fruits, seeds and nuts. Some animal based oils, mainly the fish, are also good. Examples of good oils and sources of good oils are shown below.
l Olive oil
l Coconut oil
l Peanut oil
l Canola oil
l Palm oil
l Flax seeds
l Macadamia nuts
l Hazel nuts