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Facts on Cholesterol

Cholesterol is only found in the animal kingdom, there being no cholesterol in the vegetable kingdom. Some cholesterol is required to be included in the diet, since it is needed for the production of many hormones, vitamin D, cell membranes and bile. The body produces 75% of its cholesterol requirements and the rest is obtained from the food we eat. Vegetarians, therefore, need to consume one teaspoon of butter or ghee every day. Vegetarians who eat egg may eat a maximum of three egg yolks per week. The whites contain protein and no cholesterol. Non-vegetarians should preferably eat fish since fish oils contain omega 3 fatty acids that actually help lower cholesterol levels. The Japanese eat a lot of fish and soya and suffer from a very low incidence of heart disease. Chicken may be eaten without the skin. Mutton, beef (without visible fat), shellfish (which include prawns) and organ meats like liver and kidney should be eaten once a week. If you boil your milk in the evening and leave it in the refrigerator overnight, you can remove all the cream the next morning, thus ensuring that you can remove much saturated fat from the milk that you drink. However, it has not been conclusively proved that a high cholesterol diet leads to increased cholesterol in the blood.

There are many non-obese, pure vegetarians who do not consume cream, butter or ghee and yet suffer from hyperlipidemia and coronary artery disease. It is therefore very evident that genetic and hereditary factors, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, stress and sedentary lifestyles play important roles in determining whether one will be affected by high cholesterol levels and antheromatous plaques that block our blood vessels sometimes causing excruciating pain, organ dysfunction and even death. In fact, it is now known that saturated fat present in the diet maybe a more important factor in raising blood cholesterol levels, than actual cholesterol in the diet. Egg yolk that contains cholesterol but very little saturated fat is therefore safer than butter or ghee that has a higher percentage of saturated fat. It contains omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in addition to valuable vitamins and protein.

In fact, the yolk contains lecithin that actually helps to prevent cholesterol from blocking blood vessels. Lecithin also contributes to a healthy nervous system. However it is inactive at high temperatures and eggs should therefore be eaten either half boiled, scrambled or as omelettes. Similarly, chicken has very little saturated fat when compared to mutton, beef or pork. Butter, ghee, cream, cheese, visible fat on red meat, organ meats, and coconut and palm oils must be totally avoided by those who have cardiovascular disease. More importantly, the diet should contain essential fatty acids in the right proportion (more MUFA and omega 3 fatty acids) and other antioxidants like dark green leafy vegetables, herbs, fresh fruit, vegetable oils and nuts, so that the cholesterol present in the blood is not oxidized. This would reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease.

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