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Cutting down on cholesterol

Cholesterol is a wax like substance found in our blood stream. Though the liver is responsible for the production of two-thirds of the cholesterol, the rest of it comes from what you eat. Dr Anjali Mukerjee tells more.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 03, 2009 19:33 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee

Cholesterol is a wax like substance found in our blood stream. Though the liver is responsible for the production of two-thirds of the cholesterol, the rest of it comes from what you eat.

Most of the cholesterol that ends up narrowing your arteries and contributing to heart disease comes from whole-milk products and meat. However, some cholesterol is required by the body to maintain cell membranes, insulate the nerve fibres, manufacture bile and Vitamin D and, most importantly, to produce steroid and sex hormones.

But when the level of total cholesterol crosses 200 mg/ dl (milligram per decilitre), heart attacks, strokes and arthrosclerosis aren’t at bay anymore.

The power of oat bran
Healthy eating habits form the cornerstone of any cholesterol control regime. You must have heard of oat bran’s power to lower the cholesterol count. It has a special kind of fibre called beta-glucan, which binds with the cholesterol in your digestive tract and helps in its elimination. But oats are not the only source of beta-glucan.

Barley has more of this special cholesterol-reducing fibre, so your chapatis should be ideally be made from barley flour. Whole pulses like rajma, kabuli chana, green chana and black chana are a few other sources of beta-glucan.

To incorporate oat bran in your diet, you can mix it with wheat flour in a 1:1 ratio to make high fibre
chapatis. These foods have significant cholesterol-reducing properties. Include these in your daily diet, and your cholesterol count reduces naturally.

In my endeavour to bring about a balance between taste and health, I have tried to create a recipe that lowers the cholesterol count in the body.

Cholesterol-cutting chutney
You will need: Coriander — 50 g; Mint — 20 g; Green chillies (as per requirement); Garlic — 20 g; Flaxseeds oil — 15 g; Isabgol — 15 g; Salt (as per taste); Lemon Juice — 10 ml; water as needed.

Procedure: Blend the above ingredients to make a fine paste.

How the ingredients of this chutney help you
Garlic is known to reduce the cholesterol levels of your body and also have some other amazing health benefits. It clears your blood of cholesterol and thins the blood in a bid to prevent blockages. A substance called allicin, which is found in garlic, is believed to be responsible for this effect. It also helps prevent constriction of blood vessels, which in turn helps lower blood pressure. Along with the health benefits that garlic provides, it adds a lot of flavour to your chutney.

ISABGOL — Also known as Psyllium, seed husk has several
benefits.
* It helps regulate bowel movements by eliminating
constipation.
* It binds with the cholesterol secreted in bile acids and excretes it before it is absorbed in the bloodstream. It’s a well-known health claim that when three to 12 g of fibre from psyllium seed husk are added to a diet already low in saturated fat and cholesterol, total cholesterol and LDL levels may reduce.
* Husk adds bulk to the stomach by absorbing water and keeps you full for a longer time, thus reducing food intake.
* Additionally, it can also aid blood sugar management by aiding in the gradual release of glucose.
FLAXSEEDS — Known commonly as Alsi, it’s the best vegetarian source of Omega-3 fats (alpha linolenic acid).
* Regular consumption has shown to significantly reduce the total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In many studies, those consuming flaxseeds have shown better results as compared to those taking statin drugs for cholesterol reduction.
* Omega-3 fats can help improve HDL levels and reduce the pain and inflammation that is an irrefutable symptom of conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches and
osteoporosis.
* Flax seeds also contain lignans (fibre) which can lower cholesterol levels and help stabilise blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Coriander and mint — These fresh herbs are found in every Indian home. They are rich in chlorophyll, aid digestion and provide a supply of fibre, which in turn can lower your cholesterol when taken in considerable amounts.
When you use food as a medicine, your body will benefit in more ways than one, making your visits to the doctor more and more infrequent. Just give it a try!

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre