Top 5 foods for lowering cholesterol

The risks from high cholesterol aren’t immediate. The damage accumulates over years — even decades. High cholesterol in your 20s and 30s can take its toll in your 50s and 60s. Because the effects take time, you may not feel the urgency to treat it. You may think you can deal with it later – but you may wait too long before heart disease has taken it’s hold.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 80% of heart disease may be preventable. The good news is that simple changes can really improve your heart health, like lowering cholesterol, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, giving up smoking and avoiding stress.

Here are 5 cholesterol lowering foods:

  1. oily fish – salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna and sardines all contain very healthy omega 3 fats
    Salmon - omega 3 oils

    Salmon – omega 3 oils

    called DHA & EPA that lower cholesterol. Aim to eat oily fish twice a week, if you find that difficult, take a daily fish oil supplement that contains 500mg EPA & DHA.

  2. oats – contain beta glucan, which is a soluble fibre that lowers cholesterol. It also has the added benefit of steadying blood sugar levels, helping in the treatment of diabetes and weight loss. Oat breakfast and Oaty Flapjacks2013-09-11 11.50.38
  3. Olive oil – high in monounsaturated fats, which lower cholesterol. Also in rapeseed oil (vegetable oil). Be careful with how much you use if you are watching your weight, one tablespoon has 125kcal.
  4. Nuts – high in vitamins, minerals, and good monounsaturated fat, which can lower cholesterol. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts, and pistachios. Basically, all nuts are good. Avoid salted or dry roasted, the plainer the better. As with olive oil, if you’re watching you weight, just have a handful, not the whole bag!
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  5. Plant Stanols – these are probably not a term you have come across. Plant stanols are ingredients in products such as Flora Proactive and Benecol. Three servings of these can reduce cholesterol by up to 10%. Plant seterols are also found in fruit and veg, but in much smaller amounts.

Pre-season Overload Week – we’re on a high. Why?!

Mid-way through the intense Overload week of pre season rugby training, and Dec’s exhaustion levels don’t seem too extreme.

He was even able to hold a conversation last night, and levels of irritability appear low (at dinner he soldiered on admirably when there was no pesto for the pasta – he rescued it with a dollop of hot pepper sauce).

Possible reasons for being cheerful: 

  1. the old body is feeling good: during previous pre seasons he was heavier, weighing in at up to 110kg, making training a bigger effort and therefore more tiring. The attention to diet may be making a difference to fatigue levels…..a balanced intake of real nutritious foods, rather than over emphasis on high protein, low carbohydrate and supplements.
  2. pre season training is going well, with the squad bonding
  3. today was a day off training, just a pilates session and physio
  4. he’s enjoying coaching the boys at Ealing Rugby two nights a week…..a new routine is as good as a holiday!
  5. our two eldest children are in N. Ireland with their Granny and Grandpa for a week. This means a bit of peace (we do like to spend time with our children, it’s just that these two nutters are the antithesis of the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ parenting philosophy)
  6. he’s beside himself with joy at the birth of the nation’s new Prince

So last night’s dinner was rescued with some hot pepper sauce. It had me thinking, what are the food items we always have in the fridge or cupboard? The “Desert Island” products (idea poached from Radio 4 Desert Island Discs, this is my Kirsty Young moment). Obviously we do eat other things, like the staples of meat, fish, vegetables and pasta/rice etc.

Our Desert Island List:

    1. Oats – for the porridge in the morning, essential slow release carbohydrate for the training day ahead. Made with milk for calcium and protein, raisins and some sugar for faster releasing carbs and to make it taste better. Also use oats to make biscuits, flapjacks and in smoothies.image
    2. Eggs – powerhouses of nutrition. One of the best sources of protein, containing all the essential amino acids, including leucine (big selling point of many protein supplements). Don’t worry about the cholesterol as it is poorly absorbed by the body. Scrambled, boiled, omelettes, egg fried rice.
    3.  Yoghurt – I prefer to buy natural unflavoured yoghurt as it has no added sugar and usually has probiotics (good for gut health and immunity). Any brand will do, but I’m a fan of the massive tubs from Lidl (about £1.50 for 1kg). I can add berries/chopped fruit/put in smoothies etc. Dec likes the new Danone ‘Danio” higher protein yoghurts (13g protein/pot) which are sweetened with fruit and sugar.2013-04-01 15.58.55
    4. Fruit – for snacks, no explanation needed for the benefits of the vitamins, antioxidants, fibre, carbohydrate etc.
    5. Nuts – a handful of almonds as a snack, or peanut butter on toast. Healthy fats (cholesterol lowering), high protein so filling and good for muscle repair/building
    6. Coffee – for a wake up kick, afternoon kick, evening kick. Means we don’t have to physically kick each other to wake up! Contrary to imagepopular belief, it’s not dehydrating and has many health benefits. Also useful to have pre training as caffeine enhances performance (ergonomic)! At London Irish, some of the boys are in their Coffee Club, where they enjoy a swift Nespresso before hitting the training field/weights room.
    7. Hot Pepper Sauce – as previously discussed, this can rescue a meal
      Hot Pepper Sauce

      Hot Pepper Sauce

      that may be lacking in flavour. Used like tomato ketchup. Personally, I think it destroys any hope of actually tasting the food you put it on (mmmm, not saying a lot for my cooking skills, is it?!)

    8. Cherry Diet Coke – this is the Desert Island luxury item, Dec’s ‘treat’. I get a bit twitchy and Food Police when he reaches for the 3rd or 4th can of the day. There’s not much good to say about Diet Coke, it’s nutritionally sparse, and there are question marks over it’s long term health affects.

So here’s hoping the happy state remains with us until Saturday when a week off training starts, watch this space!

Breakfast Omelette (sweet!)

Most of us have become used to having something sweet in the mornings, rather than savoury. Think breakfast cereal, porridge with raisins, muesli, toast and jam, fruit and yoghurt etc. All perfectly great breakfasts.

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Omelettes usually fall in to the savoury category, so I thought I’d change ingredients to make it sweet. It sounds a bit odd, but bear with me, and give it a go. All you need are eggs, oats and some honey. Cinnamon if you are feeling adventurous!

Why this omelette is great!

Eggs:

  • contrary to popular belief, cholesterol in eggs does not raise blood cholesterol
  • nutrient dense superfood, choca-block with vitamin and minerals
  • high in choline (neurological benefits) and leucine (for muscle building – found in many sports protein drinks)
  • High protein – help you to feel full up for longer and for muscle building
  • cheap!

Oats:

  • low GI, for slow energy release
  • high soluble fibre and B vitamins
  • lowers cholesterol, prevents heart disease
  • also cheap!

Honey:

  • balance of fructose and glucose sugars (similar to sports carbohydrate gels, but without the additives)
  • easily absorbed by the body, increasing energy levels quickly

Here’s what you do:

1) whisk 2 eggs, add to hot non-stick omelette/frying pan

2) sprinkle in a small handful of oats, with cinnamon if you are using

3) give the pan a shake every so often and just a few times give a stir (stir too often and you’ll have scrambled eggs, equally delicious I’m sure)

4) drizzle some honey over the omelette

5) plate up! Add some extra honey if you wish.

Nutrition info: 320kcal, 16g protein, 30g carbohydrate