Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like compound primarily obtained from food but also made in the liver.
Cholesterol is found in all cells in the human body, and acts as a crucial building block in many biochemical pathways, including acting as a backbone for some hormones, vitamin D, and forms bile which helps digest certain foods.
Good vs. bad cholesterol
It is important to distinguish between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. Bad cholesterol refers to low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol accumulates on the inside of blood vessels as plaque; if there is too much plaque built up, it may block the blood vessel or dislodge and form a blood clot in another area of the body, such as the lungs or brain.
Good cholesterol refers to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which scavenges and sequesters bad cholesterol, bringing it to the liver, and flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL may therefore reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke.
Since our body operates as one system, sometimes it is more clinically relevant to look at lab markers in relation to one another. While LDL and HDL levels provide a glimpse of your overall cholesterol picture, your triglycerides-to-HDL cholesterol ratio is clinically significant in examining your cardiometabolic risk, specifically your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.
In fact, a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation concluded that individuals with the highest triglyceride-to-HDL ratios had up to a 16-fold greater risk of heart attack compared to individuals with the lowest ratios. A separate study conducted with 1,452 obese youth published by the American Diabetes Association found that the triglyceride-to-HDL ratio is associated with insulin resistance.
Lowering "bad" cholesterol
When it comes to lowering your “bad” cholesterol and your triglyceride-to-HDL ratio, fibre and healthy fats are your best friends. Below are 7 cholesterol-lowering foods that are easy to add into your daily diet:
1- Oats. Oats are one of the best sources of fibre, which can impact cholesterol levels by promoting their excretion through the digestive tract. For maximum effect, add a healthy fat to your oats – such as a few slices of avocado or nuts – to cause the gallbladder to contract and release bile. The high fibre content in oats will bind to the cholesterol in the bile and facilitate its elimination from the body.
2-Extra virgin olive oil. This heart-healthy fat can reduce the inflammatory action of LDL cholesterol in the body, and also help increase HDL levels. Try adding 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on your veggies or mixed in with quinoa.
3-Eggplant and okra. These mucilaginous vegetables are low-calorie, low-carbohydrate options that provide a good source of soluble fibre.
4-Fatty fish. Fatty fish such as salmon or albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower triglycerides and therefore positively impact the triglycerides-to-HDL ratio.
5-Nuts. Nuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help impact your LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Hungry? Try eating a handful of walnuts – their high healthy fat content will keep you satisfied, too.
6-Flaxseeds. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is a precursor to forming omega-3 fatty acids. Flax and its oil can therefore impact cholesterol levels.
7-Fruits high in pectin. Fruits such as apples, strawberries, grapes, and citrus fruits contain high pectin content – a soluble fibre than can lower LDL cholesterol.
National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. National Institutes of Health. Accessible au : http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc
Centres for Disease, Control, and Prevention. LDL and HDL: “Bad” and “Good” Cholesterol. Accessible au : http://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm
Gaziano, J.M. et al. Fasting Triglycerides, High-Density Lipoprotein, and Risk of Myocardial Infarction. Circulation. 1997;96:2520-2525. Accessible au : http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/96/8/2520
Giannini, C. et al. The Triglyceride-to-HDL Cholesterol Ratio. Diabetes Care. 2011; 34(8): 1869-1874. Accessible au : http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/8/1869
Murguía-Romero, M. et al. Plasma triglyceride/HDL-cholesterol ratio, insulin resistance, and cardiometabolic risk in young adults.
The Journal of Lipid Research. 2013 Oct; 54(10): 2795-2799.
The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Fatty Fish. Web MD. Accessible au: http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/features/low-cholesterol-diet-fatty-fish