Cholesterol, a lipid found in cell membranes of tissues, can be a cause of concern for health- conscious people since high levels can cause major health issues. Cholesterol is insoluble in blood and is carried in the circulatory system by lipoproteins. Low density lipoproteins or LDL builds up cholesterol in the arteries. High density lipoproteins or HDL takes cholesterol out of the blood. Abnormally higher levels of LDL and lower levels of functional HDL are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease, the harbinger of myocardial infarction, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
Most of the cholesterol is synthesized by the liver itself. This proportion of the cholesterol in the body is not affected by the type of food eaten. However, a substantial quantity of cholesterol is also derived from food ingested, and therefore can be managed with proper diet.
Even though healthy diet choices can keep the arteries free of cholesterol, often a healthy diet is neglected during youth. The reality check on cholesterol generally occurs after the age of forty when the harm has already been done. By this age, people are so accustomed to a particular diet that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to change over to a diet that is heart-friendly.
Unlike the so-called healthy weight loss plans that are inclined towards slimness with no regard to nutritional needs, the cardiac diet is based on sound medical principles. The diet proposes gradual and natural weight loss with focus on reducing the risk of heart disease or stroke. It aims at managing cholesterol levels through dietary modifications and a more active lifestyle. Though the diet is primarily meant for those who have experienced cardiac problems, doctors recommend that the diet should also be adopted by those at a higher risk of heart disease (due to hereditary or genetic reasons).
The target of the diet is to lose weight, since obesity increases the risk of a heart disease to a large extent. It also aims at maintaining healthy levels of HDL and LDL.
The cardiac diet recommends choosing healthier foods and does not promote the denial of a specific food group. Some of the choices that you can make are:
- Whole grain breads and low-fat rolls versus butter rolls and commercial doughnuts.
- Vegetables, frozen or fresh, over fried vegetables with cream or butter.
- All types of fruits, except coconut or avocado. Fruits in cream or custard are recommended.
- Lean meat (three ounces of meat is sufficient for daily requirement of proteins) instead of prime and fatty meats.
- Low fat dairy products in place of whole milk and yogurt.
- Homemade, low-fat soups in place of cream soups.
- Homemade deserts with recommended oils rather than high sugar foods like candies, chocolates and brownies.
- Adoption of cooking mediums like canola, olive and soybean oils as against solid fats, butter and gravy with meat fat.
- All beverages, including alcohol, are allowed in moderation-- except for those containing fats, salts and egg yolks.
The cardiac diet is about a balanced diet with recommended ratios of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. There is an equal emphasis on exercise depending upon tolerance levels. A 10-15 minute walk before breakfast and dinner is recommended, even for those who already have a cardiac condition.