Cholesterol Free Diet is an eating plan that is focussed towards lowering the bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol levels in order to improve the overall cholesterol profile of an individual. Therefore such a diet does not only embrace eliminating cholesterol rich foods from the diet to avoid further elevation but also consuming certain other foods that have the potential to lower existing cholesterol level. Apart from reducing total fat intake, one needs to focus on having the right type of fats because as such it is not advisable to completely eliminate fat from the diet for the different functions it performs in the body.
Dietary Laws governing Cholesterol Free Diet
It is the appropriate ratio of three different types of fats- Saturated, poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats that has an appreciable impact on the body’s cholesterol. The standard recommendation is that not more than 30% of daily calories should be obtained from fat. In simple terms, less than one-third of daily total fat intake should be saturated fat. Approximately one-third should be poly-unsaturated fat and the rest may comprise mono-unsaturated fats. This can be achieved by dietary modifications such as-
- Use of red meat, pork, full cream milk, butter, lard, margarine, egg yolks which are high on saturated fats must be avoided or limited to only once a week in small quantities. Similarly, use of coconut or palm oil should be minimal as also hydrogenated vegetable oils.
- Use of fish, fish oil, safflower, sunflower, soya bean, rice bran, and sesame oil is recommended owing to the intake of poly-unsaturated fat through these sources. The Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that increase HDL (good cholesterol), decrease triglycerides, and prevent irregular heartbeat and blood clot formation.
- Use of healthful nuts like walnuts, almonds, peanuts, fruits like avocado, use of olive oil, flaxseed oil etc. that are packed with vitamins and minerals, apart from being good sources of mono-unsaturated fats is also encouraged.
- Another food component that plays a significant role is fibre. Soluble fibre such as that found in whole grain cereals, oats, vegetables like carrots, okra, green leafy vegetables, fruits like strawberries, guavas, apples etc. have been studied for their ability to bind cholesterol and eliminate it from the system. Therefore fibre-rich food like legumes, pulses, wheat bran, rye, barley must be made necessary inclusions in the diet.
- It becomes important to not only limit the use of concentrated fats like oil, margarine, butter etc. but also employ healthier methods of cooking, e.g. Steam, poach, grill, roast, bake food like fish, poultry, and meat instead of deep frying them.
- It is advisable to always opt for more healthier alternatives- eating fish more often than red meats like pork, beef etc., using an avocado dip/spread instead of applying butter on bread, using fat-free or skim milk and yoghurt. Blend of fruits like strawberries into low-fat yoghurt can be consumed as a dessert rather than opting for high calorie full-cream dessert options.
- Anti-oxidant vitamins like Vitamins A, C, E have the ability to reduce accumulation of fats that lead to hardening of arteries. Hence the consumption of Beta-carotene rich foods like mangoes, carrots, sweet-potatoes, spinach; Vitamin C rich foods like guavas, broccoli, peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi fruit; Vitamin E rich foods like wheat germ, soya beans, sesame seeds, flax seeds, hazel nuts, almonds, maize etc. is recommended.
- Green tea is another anti-oxidant rich source that various studies have proven beneficial in cholesterol reduction. Wine consumption, in moderation, has proven benefits with the innate ability of resveratrol and saponins to inhibit cholesterol oxidation and absorption.
- Trans-fatty acids that are produced by excessive and repeated heating of oils should be avoided in cooking as these have a cholesterol-raising property.
- A sample menu that is recommended for cholesterol reduction is-
- Breakfast: Oats/ bran cereal with skim milk + 1 sliced banana/apple
- Midmorning: Fruit- 1 orange/guava
- Lunch: Grilled fish with boiled vegetables and tomato, bell pepper salad
- Evening: Brown bread vegetable sandwich -1
- Dinner: Pumpkin, Spinach & Broccoli soup, mixed bean salad -1 bowl
Benefits of Cholesterol-free diet
A cholesterol free diet holds immense benefits for individuals who have a history of cardiac concerns, hypertension and diabetes. Such a diet helps in reducing fat accumulation in arteries which could lead to coronary artery disease, as mild as arrhythmias and as severe as heart attacks or strokes. Weight maintenance is another goal that can be achieved through this diet which is helpful in such cases.