Cholesterol does not go high overnight, nor does it happen only to people who eat a diet rich in cholesterol. It is important to eat healthy whether you are fat or thin, because we Indians are prone to diabetes and heart disease. Sixty per cent of the world’s cardiac patients live in India — there are over 100 million heart patients in our country. Raised cholesterol levels (more than 240 mg/dl) increase your risk for heart disease.
What not to eat
Food high in trans fats and saturated fats tops the list. Junk food (French fries, pizzas and burgers), high-fat meats, shellfish (crabs, prawns and lobster), milk cream, full-fat milk and curd, high-fat paneer, baked goods (biscuits, cakes, pastries and cookies), processed foods, non-dairy creamers and organ meats fall into these categories. Saturated fats raise LDL (low-density lipoprotein; bad cholesterol) as well as HDL (high-density lipoprotein; good cholesterol) but trans fats raise LDL and reduce HDL, which can prove to be dangerous.
Trans fats also raise a highly atherogenic protein called lp(a) and triglycerides. Trans fats are 10 times worse than saturated fats in causing heart disease and lurk in most supermarket staples — cookies, fried potato chips, crackers, whipped toppings, cake mixes, etc. Most restaurants don’t tell you that they are using vegetable oil for cooking which is probably hydrogenated and this process creates ‘stiff plastic fats’ which are rich in trans fatty acids.
Did you know?
* Eggs just have a bad rep: Eating foods rich in saturated and trans fats can increase cholesterol more than eggs?
* Sugar is not so sweet: Eating sugary foods raises blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. So cut down on soft drinks, colas, sherbets, sweetened teas and coffees (especially those made with powdered milk and non-dairy creamers), pudding, candies and mithai.
* Potatoes can be a vehicle for bad cholesterol: Hash browns and mashed potatoes that you order at restaurants can raise cholesterol levels as they are mashed with a large portion of butter, cream, whole milk and/or cheese.
* Chocolates are not always good for you: Eating chocolates (the ones that are commercially manufactured) in excess can increase the risk of heart disease as they are made with hydrogenated fats, milk fats and sugar.
* Movie-theatre popcorn can ruin your heart: Cinema hall popcorn is not only rich in hydrogenated fats (more than 25 gm fats in a medium-size tub), but also have excess salt, sugar and cheese powder that can wreak havoc with your cholesterol levels.
* Your favourite snacks are high in salt: The snacks and salty biscuits that you love to eat contain trans fats that can raise cholesterol levels and destroy your heart’s health.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre