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It's a myth that all fats are bad for you. In fact, some kinds can actually help you to combat the effects of over indulgence. So if your cholesterol is sneaking up the scale, here's what you need to know to get it back to normal.
Very high levels of blood cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that our body needs to form cell membranes and hormones. It's transported in the blood by carriers called LDL and HDL (see below).
Scientific studies have shown that linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids from vegetable oils can lower LDL, but saturated and trans fatty acids increase it. Making sure that you eat foods containing linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids is essential, because the human body can't make these itself. Linoleic acid is found in many vegetable oils, including sunflower seed oil and corn oil. Alpha-linolenic acid can be found in soya bean, rapeseed and linseed oil. Both of these fatty acids are part of the polyunsaturated group of fats.
You need essential fatty acids to keep your skin hydrated and to produce several hormone-like compounds. Our bodies then use these compounds for:
Blood pressure regulation
Body temperature regulation.
Fat is also key for absorbing a range of vitamins:
Vitamin A (retinol) – vital in maintaining healthy vision
Cell function – enhances our immune response and growth
Vitamin E – protects cell membranes from oxidative damage
Vitamin D – essential for absorbing calcium and bone formation
Vitamin K – helps blood clotting and bone health.
Scientists have found that plant sterols, extracted from vegetable oils, decrease our cholesterol absorption from food. Even more importantly, they'll prevent our absorbing the cholesterol that has been eliminated by the liver back to our bloodstreams, so less cholesterol circulates in our systems. Unilever has harnessed the cholesterol-lowering properties of plant sterols in a range of products, such as: margarine, milk and yoghurt, under the brand names Becel, Flora and Fruit d'Or Pro·Activ and Take Control.
So the next time you find yourself worrying about the fat content of your food, relax. If you've been careful about the kind of fat in your food, it's good for you!
Cholesterol - Know the score with Flora proactiv
The heart of the matter
Watch out for weekend binges