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All About Fats (Page 2)


Cholesterol is essential in small quantities for brain and nerve cells and for hormones. Some cholesterol comes ready-made in animal foods but most is made in the body. It is the body’s excess synthesis of cholesterol that causes problems. When the diet is high in saturated fats, more cholesterol is made. Excess cholesterol in the blood, leads to clogged arteries, especially the arteries to the heart and brain. Cholesterol can also block blood vessels to the penis and is the major physical cause of im­potence in men.

Cholesterol is made up of both HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) and LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein). HDL cholesterol is ‘good’ and represents cholesterol being taken back from the tissues to the liver. LDL cholesterol is ‘bad’ and correlates with fatty deposits in the arteries.

Ideally, blood cholesterol levels should be less than 5.0-5.5mmol/L. The higher is the percent­age of HDL cholesterol the better. Those from long-lived families, young women and endurance ath­letes tend to have high HDL cholesterol levels, generally rang­ing from 25 to 40 per cent of the total. Most men and most post-menopausal women have HDL levels less than 20 per cent of the total. 

How to lower your cholesterol Level

Saturated fats lower protective HDL cholesterol and increase the nasty LDL type. Polyunsaturated fats reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and are preferable to saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats can reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and may raise the good HDL cholesterol. These fats are therefore best. They are found in olive or canola oils, avocado and nuts such as almonds.

In trying to reduce blood cholesterol, many people make the mistake of avoiding foods that contain cholesterol (such as eggs) while continuing to eat foods that contain saturated fats. For example, changing from animal fats to vegetable fats may not reduce your intake of saturated fat if the vegetable fat is still saturated, as many are. The best way to reduce your blood cholesterol is to avoid saturated fats and lose any excess weight. Stress can also be a factor in rais­ing blood cholesterol levels.


We convert excess fats, alcohol and sugar into triglycerides. After a meal, the level of triglycerides in the blood rises. Those not used for energy are tucked away in fat depots. If the blood level of triglycerides is still high after a 12-hour fast, it shows the body is not clearing fats properly. This may occur in those with a predisposi­tion to diabetes. High triglyceride levels mean the blood is fatty and the heart must work harder.

Fish fats

The small quantity of fat in most fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These are chemically different from the omega 6 fatty acids in margarines and many varieties of vegetable oils.

The omega 3 fatty acids can pre­vent blood clots forming, make blood less "sticky", lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and can play a role in reducing inflammation in some kinds of arthritis and eczema. They are also vitally important in the retina of the eye and in the development of the brain.

Omega 3 fatty acids are found in all sea foods. Some also occur in some seeds and green vegetables, although the conversion of these to the same longer-chain omega 3 fats found in fish does not occur efficiently if the diet is too high in omega 6 fats.

Ideally, we should have some omega 6 fats and some omega 3 fats. Currently we have about 50 times as much of the omega 6s as the omega 3s. The ideal ratio is thought to be closer to 6 parts of omega 6s to one of omega 3s. In practice, this means eating less margarine and polyunsaturated vegetable oil and more fish. One to three fish meals a week is ideal. Some of this should be fresh fish; some can be canned.


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