Monday, October 25, 2010

Cholesterol and Omega-3's

As discussed in my previous post on cholesterol, increasing dietary consumption of Omega-3 fats aids in the reduction of LDL lipid levels. It has long been shown that people who follow a Mediterranean style diet have better lipids profiles than those who consume a North American diet. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by: fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, fish 2x per week, lean meats, very little red meat, extra virgin olive oil, herbs and spices instead of salt, and red wine in moderation.

A recent study looked in-depth the the role of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in the Mediterranean diet. Following a six week period of increasing EVOO consumption at breakfast participants showed decrease in gene expression for genes related to obesity, bad cholesterol, type two diabetes and the inflammatory process. In short they decreased their risk of serious disease and most importantly heart disease. Please remember that every study has its short comings, however we can still take principles away from this one. (1)

So this is all great information but how do we apply it to our lives?
1.) Decrease the intake of saturated and trans fats.
2.) Increase your intake of unsaturated fats.

  • Most importantly increase your omega-3 consumption. A great way to increase omega-3's, one of the most important unsaturated fats, is to add fish to your diet. Studies have shown that consuming just two servings of fish, 6oz each, twice weekly can decrease your risk of heart disease. Tuna and salmon have the highest levels of omega 3's. In addition it is suggested that you take a Omega-3 DHA/EPA supplement on the days that you do not consume fish.(2) 
  • If you are not a fan of fish some of the best non-seafood sources of omega 3's are flaxseeds, walnuts and fortified soy beverages. Keep in mind nuts are high in calories and perhaps try to only consume a 1/4 cup a day. 
  • In addition, when cooking try to move away from peanut oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. Try using  EVOO and canola oil. When using these oils you should also try to have them at room temperature where possible. Cooking of these oils actually breaks down the good fats and reduces their nutritional power. Try adding them to salad dressing etc.
Hope these tips help. As I close my night I am exhausted from class but look forward to the coming posts regarding our upcoming fitness challenge! And I close with this amazing quote.
He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician.” – Chinese proverb

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