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Cholesterol is found in the blood in two forms.   LDL and HDL.  LDL is bad, and HDL is good.   You can think of these like the good guy and the bad guy scenario.

LDL is the bad guy.  Actually, think of it more like a gang.  When too many are in the blood, it spells trouble.  As a result, the LDL starts clogging up arteries and blood vessels.   The same as if this gang started dumping all their trash in our water pipes, streets etc.  Things will eventually back up over time and create a blockage.

In our case, the heart and the brain.  Not a good thing.

HDL is the good guy – or for our analogy let’s say they are the good police or military.   HDL actually goes around and keeps the LDL gang under control, not letting them succeed at growing their numbers.

Now that we have the analogy down, we can talk about what gives LDL it’s ammunition to take over more and more space in our veins and arteries. Your body naturally produces cholesterol – in fact 75% of it comes from the liver and other cells.  The rest is due to food which contain bad fats such as saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.

How to Fight the LDL Gang:

  1. Read labels on everything you buy. By law, companies are required to state the amount of trans fat, sat fat and cholesterol in their products.  So start reading when you shop.   At first, it will seem like it takes forever and is slowing you down.  But before you know it, it will become second nature – especially once you realize how sneaky many of your so called trusted brands are with their marketing.
  2. Buy more vegetables and fruit. You cannot argue with nature.  The Italians are known for using lots of fresh veggies in their recipes and their love for fresh fruit for dessert.  It is important to eat a mix of vegetables because various vegetables and fruit provide different vitamins and nutrients.   Keep changing it up and you’ll soon be on the right path to a healthier diet – or rather lifestyle.
  3. Use Herbs! Many herbs used in Italian cooking also help keep your LDL at bay.  Examples are rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme.
  4. Red Wine (in moderation!).  There are different schools of thought on this so in my opinion the jury is still out.   However, some doctors believe having red wine helps build up your HDL levels thanks to the resveratrol and catechins which it contains.  These are antioxidants.
    Remember, women should have no more than 1 glass a day and men should have at most 2.  If you find yourself requiring more than what is recommended, you might want to slow down before it becomes an addiction.
  5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This type of oil has what is called polyphenols which is a healthy monounsaturated fat.  It helps protect your blood vessels.  Use olive oil in placement of butter when possible.

You will notice a lot of the foods which are part of the Mediterranean diet, are also good for your cholesterol levels.  But as with most things – remember moderation.

What is your cholesterol?

To find out, ask your doctor to check.  They will take a blood sample and can run tests to find your LDL and HDL levels.

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Liz
www.simpleitaliancooking.com