Lower Your Genetically High Cholesterol – Omega 3’s and Hydrogenated Fats

Or:  A Tale of Spinach, Flaxseed, and Tortillas.

Background: Many of us find that following the standard prescription (lose weight, eat less fat, eat less meat, eat more vegetables, exercise, statin drugs) still doesn’t result in a lower cholesterol level. Why? It’s genetics. Tired of the statin side-effects roller coaster, three years ago I decided to take matters into my own hands and lower my genetically high cholesterol levels on my own.

Most of us are under the assumption that the correlation between cholesterol and heart disease is pretty simple; high cholesterol means heart disease, lower cholesterol means no heart disease. That’s how it’s portrayed in the media, and often that’s the litmus test our doctors use to determine treatment. But…… if half of the people with heart disease have a normal cholesterol level and half of the people with high cholesterol have no heart disease, that tells us it’s a bit more complicated. I won’t bore you with the details here, but delving into that “complication” led me to the next step in my cholesterol lowering plan; increasing the Omega-3 fatty acids in my diet and eliminating hydrogenated fat.

In a nutshell, Omega -3’s help the heart two primary ways; by decreasing inflammation and by reducing blood clots. Less inflammation means less arterial plaque, fewer blood clots means fewer heart attacks. I increased my omega-3’s by eating more vegetables in general, more greens (thus the spinach) in particular, more walnuts, and more flaxseed. Salmon and other fish are also excellent sources of omega-3’s but as a vegetarian I don’t eat fish.

Increasing Omega-3’s really works, but only if we decrease Omega-6’s at the same time as its the ratio between the two that is important. So, if your eyes are glazing over at this explanation just remember this: eat more fresh vegetables, nuts and fish –  eat less processed food (sunflower, safflower, corn oil).

I also completely gave up hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats (better known as trans fats). Hydrogenated fats promote arterial hardening and plaque. It really wasn’t too difficult to give these up. Since the trans fats amount is now listed on all products, many manufacturers have re-formulated their products. The only food item I have had to completely give up is flour tortillas. All the commercially available flour tortillas are made from shortening, a hydrogenated fat. Corn tortillas are fine though. Read the labels of everything. Chips, crackers and cookies/breads often contain hydrogenated fat too.  Look for brands that are healthier.  My downfall is potato chips – I love them. But health food they are not, so I now usually have baked chips that have no hydrogenated fat (beware – some BBQ chips still do), and then only occasionally. If I can do it, you can too. And my lower cholesterol level is proof that it can be done – even for someone with a genetically high level.

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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