Blood carries cholesterol along with oxygen and nutrients to the body's tissues and organs. The heart pumps this nutrient and oxygen rich blood through the body via blood vessels called arteries. When cholesterol levels are consistently high, some of it remains and attaches itself to the walls of the arteries. Over the years, this fat-like, waxy substance builds up and hardens along the walls of the arteries causing plaque; it reduces the flow of blood through the arteries.
The substance that is essential for cell development then becomes a hazard to the good health that it helps to build. Organs cannot receive any or enough of the life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients from arteries that are clogged with cholesterol; thus they become damaged. For example, when build up of cholesterol blocks the flow of blood to the brain, a stroke takes place. When cholesterol plaque completely blocks a coronary (heart) artery, a heart attack occurs.
Therefore, it is essential to keep a healthy balance of cholesterol within the body. For people who do not have high cholesterol maintaining a well-balanced diet will help prevent the condition. However, for those who have high cholesterol or who are on the borderline, a low cholesterol diet will help lower cholesterol levels.
Since consuming animal fats increases cholesterol in the body, a low fat diet goes hand-in-hand with a low cholesterol diet. One low cholesterol diet, the National Cholesterol Education Program's Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet (TLC) can help lower total cholesterol levels by 15 percent. According to the TLC diet, people should follow the guidelines listed below.
•Less than 7% of daily calories should come from saturated fats that are found in meat and dairy products.
•Approximately 25-35% (or less) of the day's total calories should come from fat.
•Consume less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day.
•Sodium intake should not exceed 2,400 milligrams per day.
•Take in only enough calories to maintain a healthy weight and decrease blood cholesterol levels.
Those who are following a low cholesterol diet should eat foods that are low in saturated fats such as the following:
•Fat free or low fat (1%) dairy products
•Lean meats such as chicken and turkey
•Fish and shellfish
•Whole grain foods
•Fruits and vegetables
•High fiber foods (e.g., oats and dried peas and beans)
If you are battling high cholesterol, maintaining a diet that excludes cholesterol-building foods alone with daily exercise will help control the problem.