Cholesterol: enemy or friend?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Cholesterol is a lipid produced by the liver and necessary for a healthy functioning body. However, it is usually considered as a thing to eliminate! This is a mistake because it has many different functions, even vital ones in your body. 
Cholesterol circulates in the blood by lipoproteins called LDL (low-density lipoprotein), HDL (high-density lipoprotein.
LDL and HDL make a complex: HDL-cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol.
When someone gets older, he is often said not to eat butter or red meat for example, because it is full of cholesterol! But this is not exactly the truth. 
Indeed, meat, oil, butter, biscuits, cakes … are good for your body and… your mind. But it is true that you have to be careful with fat quantity. 
Let’s take the example of butter: we often see advertisement explaining that butter is full of fat so you have to replace it with shortening, low-fat margarine. The new ones are enriched with plant sterols. 
So what do we have exactly in butter?
Butter is compound of about 60% of saturated fat, 35% of unsaturated fat, and about 5% of trans-fat. As we can see, it is true that butter is full of lipid! However, these lipids are necessary for our body to function. 
Saturated fat is supposed to increase LDL cholesterol, whereas unsaturated fat (polyunsaturated fat) is supposed to increase the good one. According to different studies on fat and cholesterol rate, polyunsaturated fat increases HDL cholesterol which is a vascular protector.
LDL? HDL? What is it exactly?
LDL cholesterol, also called as “bad cholesterol”, carries cholesterol from the liver to cells. It is important to have a low level of LDL because it can increase the risk of arterial disease: LDL-cholesterol collects on arterial cell walls. This buildup is called plaque. Plaque reduces, or even stops, the blood flow and causes high-blood pressure, heart attacks etc.
HDL, also called as “good cholesterol”, carries cholesterol from cells to liver so the liver can destroy it. It acts like an arterial protector: it prevents arterial disease.
That’s why, it is important to have a low level of LDL-cholesterol and a high level of HDL-cholesterol. But you need a small amount of LDL cholesterol because it is necessary for cell membrane, production of bile salts etc. 
Let’s talk about trans-fat in butter
When you go shopping, this is the new fashionable slogan. Take a look to food wrapping: “trans-fat free” is written everywhere, on biscuits, cakes etc.
Most people think that trans-fat are bad for health. And it is true but you have to know that trans-fat can be natural (in butter for example) or artificial (in shortening, hydrogenated oils). 
It is proved that artificial trans-fat has negative effects on health : it increases LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and decreases HDL cholesterol, so it is better for you to avoid it.
Natural trans-fat is completely different, it is not produced from chemical or physical process and is not associated with high cholesterol rate or dyslipidemia.
Saturated fat, unsaturated fat have a role to play in our body: don’t throw it away!
There is also a small amount of cholesterol in butter but it is not associated with a high cholesterol blood rate. In general, cholesterol directly from food does not have a role in dyslipidemia.
Moreover, butter is an important source of vitamin A, which is benefit to your skin, protects again infection. It is a liposoluble vitamin so you need fat to assimilate vitamin A. And butter is rich in fat as we have seen before…
So cholesterol and fat are not an enemy, it is necessary for your body, for a good health and it is better to eat a small amount of butter spread on bread than shortening rich in artificial trans-fat.
So don’t listen to all that propaganda which wants you to eat fat-free food, the truth is in balance!
Just a few words about plant sterols which are said to decrease LDL cholesterol. Until now, The American Heart Association has recommended phytosterols in hypercholesterolemia because lipid disorders are associated with cardiovascular disease. However, a recent study published this year by the European Heart Journal shows no evidence of any beneficial effect on cardiovascular disease. 
In conclusion, keep in mind that you need to diversify your diet, giving priority to natural food instead of artificial preparation. Choose reasonable quantity and do exercise!
You can find a lot of good recipes with low cholesterol ingredients to help you when you have to control your diet. Here is an example to show you that a good meal is possible even when you have to reduce cholesterol rate.
Moroccan lentils soup:
 2 onions, chopped
 2 cloves garlic, minced
 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
 6 cups water
 1 cup red lentils
 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
 1 (19 ounce) can cannellini beans
 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
 1/2 cup diced carrots
 1/2 cup chopped celery
 1 teaspoon garam masala
 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
 1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Put in a large saucepan the onions, garlic, and ginger in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes. 
2. Add the water, lentils, chick peas, white kidney beans, diced tomatoes, carrots, celery, garam masala, cardamom, cayenne pepper and cumin. Bring to a boil for a few minutes then simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or longer, until the lentils are soft. 
3. Mix half the soup in a food processor or blender. Return the mixed soup to the pot, stir and enjoy!
Asian Beef with snow peas 
 3 tablespoons soy sauce
 2 tablespoons rice wine
 1 tablespoon brown sugar
 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
 1 tablespoon olive oil
 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
 1 tablespoon minced garlic
 1 pound beef round steak, cut into thin strips
 8 ounces snow peas
1. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, brown sugar and cornstarch. Set aside. 
2. Heat oil in a wok or skillet over medium high heat. Stir-fry ginger and garlic for 30 seconds. Add the steak and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until evenly browned. Add the snow peas and stir-fry for an additional 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture, bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and simmer until the sauce is thick and smooth. Serve immediately.
An interesting site to find more recipes: 

Cordially yours,
Laure Martinat,


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