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Going Nuts on Health – The Good Fats and Others to Avoid

Cholesterol is too broad of a healthcare lingo that it oversimplifies the other kinds of fats that people should know. For most patients and consumers, having a general sense of what is HDL, LDL, and Triglycerides is enough to make plans for health progress and improvement, if any. 

There is ‘good’ cholesterol known as HDL, which carries anti-inflammatory properties and prevent the build-up of plaques on the arteries, and removes free-flowing cholesterol from the bloodstream for removal from the liver; Therefore, lowers amounts of HDL translates to a higher risk for heart disease [1].

LDL is the measure that you want to keep low because high levels over time can restrict blood flow and carry a future risk for strokes or heart attacks. Consider a mixture of oil and water. Well, both of these liquids don’t mix well at all together. Now consider that happening within narrow tubes such as blood vessels, and it becomes clear blockage could occur. LDL and further worsen this blockage by recruiting inflammatory cells, which can lead to the hardening of the artery walls and the formation of plaques [2]. We have just described an overview of atherosclerosis – a medical term reduced blood flow and risk for clots.

Triglycerides could also join the mix in the inflammation process and the development of atherosclerosis. Additionally, high triglycerides carry the risk for pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas of causes unknown. A possible reason is the high fatty acid content contributing to an acidic environment conducive to pancreatitis [3].

With an overview of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides, now here are the levels which are considered healthy [4]:

  • HDL: Above 40 mg/dL in men or above 50 mg/dL in women
  • LDL: Less than 130 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL [5]
  • Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL

Revisit these numbers as references the next time you get a blood test done at your annual health physical. If any of your results are not at healthy levels, check if any of the following applies [4]:

  • Are you a smoker?
  • Does your typical diet contain high amounts of saturated fats?
  • Do you make time for exercise?
  • Are you overweight?

If so, consider talking with your doctor or healthcare provider on quitting tobacco, committing to an exercise plan, or planning a healthier diet. Dieticians are helpful and available healthcare resources at your service. For another overview of healthy and safe dieting, portion control will take willpower, but it does well for health. There’s a lot of antagonism against red meat, but having a piece of steak larger than the size of a deck of card puts you above the allowed limits of saturated fat.

Fiber is known for being “heart-healthy,” and the media would be right since brown rice, oatmeal, and fiber-rich vegetables prevent the absorption of saturate fats and cholesterol [6]. Finally, having nuts in your diet is associated with the lowering of LDL by 4.8 mg/dL in 4 weeks on average [7]. So if you want to munch on something, consider snack on a bag of peanuts, almonds, pistachios, or walnuts. Have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

A diet made up of fiber, antioxidants, fruits, vegetables, and nuts is a source of a healthy diet. Go nuts on your health!

References

[1] Elshourbagy, N. A., Meyers, H. V., & Abdel-Meguid, S. S. (2014). Cholesterol: the good, the bad, and the ugly – therapeutic targets for the treatment of dyslipidemia. Medical principles and practice : international journal of the Kuwait University, Health Science Centre23(2), 99–111. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5586853/

[2] Huff T, Boyd B, Jialal I. Physiology, Cholesterol. [Updated 2020 Apr 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470561/

[3] Laufs, U., Parhofer, K. G., Ginsberg, H. N., & Hegele, R. A. (2020). Clinical review on triglycerides. European heart journal41(1), 99–109c. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6938588/

[4] InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. High cholesterol: Overview. 2013 Aug 14 [Updated 2017 Sep 7]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279318/

[5] MedlinePlus. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/cholesterollevelswhatyouneedtoknow.html

[6] Rosenthal R. L. (2000). Effectiveness of altering serum cholesterol levels without drugs. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center)13(4), 351–355. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1312230/

[7] Chen, G. C., Wan, Z. X., & Qin, L. Q. (2016). Nut consumption, lipid profile, and health outcomes. The American journal of clinical nutrition103(4), 1185–1186. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4807707/

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