Finding out you have high cholesterol can be a cause for concern. One type of this waxy substance may cause blood vessels to narrow and harden, which may then become a problem for your heart health.
But the good news is that cholesterol levels can be lowered thanks to making changes to your lifestyle and diet – changes that can be as easy as eating a new Weet-Bix™ product for breakfast.
There is now a version of the popular cereal that is specially aimed at lowering blood cholesterol.
Weet-Bix™ Cholesterol Lowering is enriched with plant sterols, which act to lower cholesterol as part of a healthy diet low in saturated fat.
Plant sterols help to block Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – the bad type that can have a detrimental effect on blood vessels – from being absorbed from the digestive system into the bloodstream.
A clinical trial carried out last year in Australia found that eating just two Weet-Bix™ Cholesterol Lowering every day for four weeks lowered LDL cholesterol by up to 9%.
The trial was led by Dr Peter Clifton, Professor of Nutrition at the University of South Australia. The study supported Weet-Bix™ Cholesterol Lowering as an effective, easy and nutritious food for people managing their cholesterol.
Many people don't realise our bodies actually need cholesterol, a naturally occurring fat-like substance which is vital for a number of functions including maintaining cell walls, producing vitamin D and enabling the body to make certain hormones.
As well as the bad LDL cholesterol, our bodies produce good cholesterol called High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), which works to clear bad cholesterol from our blood.
High levels of LDL cholesterol can be the result of a number of factors, such as age, gender, weight, lifestyle and diet. Foods that are high in bad fat (saturated and trans fat) – such as processed and fatty meats, baked goods like pies or pastries and fried foods – increase the chances of having high LDL cholesterol levels.
Contrary to a popular belief, cholesterol in food only has a small effect on the level of cholesterol in the body.
"The most effective cholesterol-lowering dietary strategies are to replace saturated and trans fats with healthy unsaturated fats and to increase your intake of plant sterols each day, as part of a healthy diet," says Dr Clifton.
He adds that positive lifestyle changes, like regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, as well as eating a healthy diet, are important when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart.
Weet-Bix™ Cholesterol Lowering can be served in a variety of ways, including with fruit or yoghurt.
See www.sanitarium.co.nz for ideas.
Avocado and cottage cheese on Weet-Bix™ Cholesterol Lowering
Preparation time: 5 minutes
• 1 avocado, stone removed
• 1 lemon, juice of
• ½ cup cottage cheese
• 2 tbsp snipped chives
• 4-6 Weet-Bix™ Cholesterol Lowering wheat biscuits
1 Peel and remove stone from avocado. Slice thinly. Drizzle with lemon juice to reduce browning.
2 Mix the cottage cheese with the chives, and season to taste.
3 Spread the top of each Weet-Bix™ Cholesterol Lowering wheat biscuit with a spoonful of cottage cheese. Top with a few slices of the avocado.
4 Serve immediately, garnished with a few baby spinach leaves, microgreens or herbs.
• Use already prepared cottage cheese with chives to save time.
• Mix a little cayenne pepper into the cottage cheese for a little extra spice.
How do you know you’ve got high cholesterol?
You don't until it is picked up in a blood test. High LDL cholesterol does not cause any symptoms, so it can go unnoticed. Speak to your health professional about getting your cholesterol levels tested.
What are plant sterols?
They are substances that occur naturally in very small amounts in many grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.
When they travel through your digestive tract they bind with LDL cholesterol, preventing it being absorbed into your bloodstream. The cholesterol is then removed from your body with other waste products.
Because plant sterols have this ability, they can be added to certain approved food products (for example, table spreads and breakfast cereals) to help lower cholesterol.
Does age affect cholesterol levels?
While high levels of LDL cholesterol can affect anyone at any age, it is more common in middle to older age groups.
Women can experience elevated cholesterol after menopause, when the protective effect of oestrogen is no longer available.
Did you know?
One in every four Kiwis has high cholesterol