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Anti-Aging: Cholesterol Levels Can Be Lowered With A Good Diet And Phytosterols
Phytosterols, also called plant sterols, are phytochemicals -- substances naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables. According to many epidemiological studies, phytochemicals significantly reduce the risk of cancer, most likely because of their powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on our bodies. A new Canadian research study shows that phytosterol supplements can lower cholesterol levels no matter what we eat.
Published in the journal Metabolism, the study found that even if we consume a high-cholesterol diet -- one rich in fried foods, red meat, whole milk cheese and all the other goodies we're supposed to avoid -- and take our daily dose of phytosterols, our LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) will continue to drop. This is good news for those of us who have heard or read about the dangerous side effects and lack of effectiveness of some of the cholesterol-lowering pharmaceuticals such as Zetia and Vytorin.
In other words, the study showed that cholesterol in our diet has no consequence on our cholesterol levels if we include enough of the right kind of fruits and vegetables. And other research has shown that cholesterol levels do decline when we eat a largely plant-based diet.
The trouble with trying to get enough natural phytosterols in our diet without supplementation is two-fold:
1. It is difficult for the average American to suddenly switch to a plant-based diet, especially when it needs to be raw for maximum bioavailability of the nutrients.
2. Many of us have a serious cholesterol problem that needs to be addressed right away, and only supplementation plus a dietary change can lower our cholesterol levels fast enough.
While we're enjoying our cholesterol-reduced diet -- less red meat, fried foods and dairy, and more vegetables and fruits -- and taking our daily phytosterol supplements, we can really deliver a one-two punch to high cholesterol by adding oats to our diet too. Breakfast cereals, oat breads and unsweetened oat-based desserts will do the trick.
Dr. James Anderson, who started the oat bran craze back in the 1980s, just published findings that show how oats not only lower LDL cholesterol, but may reduce smaller LDL cholesterol particles which may be a greater riskier for heart disease than the bigger particles. The soluble fiber in oats binds with cholesterol and limits its absorption in our gut.
Oats can also reduce inflammation through the action of phenolic compounds called 'avenanthramides' that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties and alleviate damage to the lining of our blood vessels. Eating oat-based foods on a regular basis can also help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity -- all concerns for aging Americans looking for the right kind of anti-aging diet. Oats are unlike many other carbohydrates, because they help us feel satisfied and less hungry, and stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels rather than crash them.
Finally, Dr. Anderson says, oats can reduce LDL cholesterol even further when combined with weight loss. As many of us who have embarked on a weight loss and exercise program may know, losing weight and exercising both help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
To sum up, we can lower our cholesterol levels by using a phytosterol complex supplement, adding more vegetables and oats to our diet, cutting out high cholesterol foods, and getting onto an exercise and weight loss program. If we do just this, we’ll be on our way to achieving an effective anti-aging diet with years of healthy living ahead of us.
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