2016 Canadian study

9 Foods That’ll Cut Your Cholesterol

Your heart is a pretty essential part of your body. Looking after it is important. One of the ways you can do this is by monitoring your cholesterol levels.

Our doctors can help with that one, but before we start, we need to deal with the myth that all cholesterol is bad. It’s actually a little more complicated than that. Cholesterol comes in two forms:

  • Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) – This is the stuff that clogs up your arteries and puts you at risk of heart disease, stroke and coronary artery disease
  • High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) – Sends LDL to the liver, where it’s processed out of your body before it can attach itself to artery walls

Rather than cutting out cholesterol completely, you need to make sure you get more HDL cholesterol than LDL. That’s why our doctors have found nine foods you can eat to balance the ‘bad’ cholesterol and look after your heart.

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil

Part of the famously healthy Mediterranean diet, olive oil has long been recognised as good for your heart.

Much like cholesterol, fat can be divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Without getting too technical, ‘bad’ saturated fat increases your cholesterol, while ‘good’ unsaturated fat doesn’t.

Of these, monounsaturated fat is considered the healthiest. Out of all the cooking oils you can choose from at the supermarket, olive oil has the highest level of monounsaturated fat.

You can use olive oil for sauteing, grilling and baking, or as a salad dressing. Don’t go crazy though, as despite its heart health advantages, it’s still high in calories.

2. Whole Grains

Whole grains

Whole grains, such as brown rice, brown bread and cereals, are very high in fibre.

Fibre increases your body’s levels of good cholesterol by reducing the amount of bile absorbed into the intestines. When this happens, bile has no reason to stick around, so it leaves your body along with all your food waste.

That’s all very nice, but how does it affect cholesterol?

Well, your body needs bile to digest the fat in your diet, so your liver gets to work making more. What does it need to do this? If you guessed LDL cholesterol, have ten points! Taking it out of your bloodstream means it’s not going to hang around in your arteries.

3. Oily Fish

Oily fish

Ah, oily fish. You’ll find it on most lists of foods that are good for you and this is no exception.

It contains omega-3, which has two key benefits. The first is it improves brain function. The second is it’s superb for heart health.

Studies have shown omega-3 can keep blood pressure and heart rate in check, reduce your risk of heart attacks, lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Our bodies can’t make omega-3 either, so we need to get it from our diet.

4. Nuts

Nuts

Nuts are high in unsaturated fat and fibre, which we’ve already established are great for bringing your cholesterol down.

Walnuts, almonds and pistachios are regarded as the best options. Walnuts even contain omega-3 too, so they’re doubly good at lowering cholesterol.

Plain varieties are, of course, the best. We shouldn’t really have to say this, but anything salted, candied or covered in artificial flavouring will spoil any health benefits.

5. Beans and Pulses

Beans

A 2016 Canadian study found that a daily serving of pulses can cut LDL cholesterol by 5%.

They also keep you fuller for longer, so you’re less likely to reach for any unhealthy, fatty snacks that will send your cholesterol soaring again.

Unfortunately, the research also claimed that only 13% of the population was hitting this daily requirement.

6. Avocado

Avocado

Whether you like yours smashed on toast or turned into guacamole, avocados are one of the best ways to manage your cholesterol balance.

They’re high in monounsaturated fats, so they’ll bring your LDL cholesterol down and boost your HDL cholesterol at the same time.

7. Fruit and Vegetables

Fruit

We’re sure you’re getting your five-a-day already, so you should already be feeling the heart healthy benefits of fruit and veg. Just in case, here’s what they’re doing for your cholesterol levels.

Many fruits and vegetables, such as berries, apples and Brussel sprouts, are high in fibre. We already know this is good for your cholesterol levels.

They also contain plant sterols, which stop the body from absorbing cholesterol. If it can’t be absorbed, it simply leaves the body. Problem solved!

8. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar

It’s not something you’d necessarily find in your kitchen cupboards, but apple cider vinegar could be the cholesterol-busting condiment you’ve been waiting for.

For many years, it was seen as a ‘traditional’ remedy for a variety of health problems, but there was little medical data to back this up. That’s why in 2016, the BBC ran a study for their science show Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, to see if it really worked.

While most of the claims about apple cider vinegar (such as the idea it could promote weight loss) were found to be false, one of them turned out to be true.

The study found that drinking two tablespoons of diluted apple cider vinegar twice a day reduced overall cholesterol levels by 13%.

9. Cheese

Cheese

Wait, what?

Cheese? The famously high-fat dairy product? Lowering cholesterol?

It sounds hard to believe, but in 2016, researchers at the University of Copenhagen found something pretty surprising . They gave one group of people 80g of regular cheese and another 80g of a low-fat equivalent. A third group ate no cheese at all.

You’d expect a food that’s high in saturated fat to raise cholesterol. It did, but not in the way you might expect. None of the three groups saw an increase in LDL, but the people who ate the high-fat cheese had higher levels of HDL.

In practice, this means their body was better prepared to get rid of ‘bad’ cholesterol. While cheese doesn’t lower cholesterol in the way other foods on this list do, it may have the power to improve the ratio of HDL to LDL.

Alternatives to Antacids

Most people suffer from some form of indigestion each year. The most common method of short-term treatment for indigestion symptoms is antacids, but could a natural alternative be just as effective?

While antacids usually work, some people experience side effects or find that their symptoms don’t improve. Additionally, if you suffer from frequent bouts of indigestion, buying antacids each time can quickly become quite costly.

Our experts have gathered together five natural alternatives to antacids that you can use to prevent and treat indigestion effectively.

Woman taking antacids

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Student Problems

6 problems every student will face (and how to deal with them)

Okay, you’re all settled into university life. Now what?

All this newfound freedom is fantastic, but as we know, with great power comes great responsibility. In this case, the responsibility is to your health.

It’s easy to develop bad habits. To help you deal with them before they get out of control, our doctors have provided useful solutions to some common student problems.

Use them wisely!

1. How not to run out of money

Empty wallet

When that student loan arrives, it could easily be the most money you’ve ever had in your account. The idea of it running out seems impossible, but it can easily happen if you’re not careful.

Having a budget probably doesn’t seem that glamorous. Believe us, it’s better than the alternative. Not having enough money can have serious health implications, from the stress of being in debt to not being able to afford a healthy food choices.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. It just means you have to find more creative methods!

For example, instead of going out and spending your money in a bar, why not have some friends over and have a big night in?

2. How to get an early night

Clock reading 10pm

Student housing often isn’t the best environment for sleep. It’s noisy and there’s always something going on. Even if you‘re not a natural night owl, you might worry that people will write you off as ‘boring’ if you turn in before midnight.

Sadly, not getting enough sleep can have a significant impact on your studies. You’ll find it hard to stay focused in lectures and those valuable nuggets of information simply won’t stay in your brain. You won’t have the energy to tackle those important essays and you’ll probably feel quite cranky too.

Not exactly a recipe for success.

To make sure you get enough shut-eye and keep your reputation intact, you could set a couple of nights aside for being the life and soul of the party. For the rest of the week, you’re free to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

It might also be a good idea to turn your phone off so that people don’t try to tempt you out. You could even need to invest in a pair of earplugs if your housemates are particularly boisterous!

 

3. How to resist takeaway food

Students sharing a pizza

Let’s assume we all know takeaways aren’t healthy. Even with this knowledge, it’s easy to see the attraction. They’re quick and you don’t have to do anything, which leaves you more time for enjoying yourself (or even studying). However, they’ll eventually start to hit your wallet and your waistline hard.

Here’s the thing about takeaways. Something everyone knows, but no one is allowed to say. Most of the time, cooking your own healthy food is quicker than waiting for a takeaway to arrive.

While only around a third of students have cooked a meal before they arrive at university, it’s a skill you can learn. Start small. You don’t have to go full gourmet. The Michelin guide very rarely visits student halls anyway.

If time is your issue, simply make a big batch of something and freeze it, or get your housemates involved and take turns to test your skills in the kitchen.

4. How to manage your time

Busy calendar

Before university, your schedule was obvious. School mapped out your day and it was surrounded by a familiar family routine.

Not anymore. You’ll have lectures and seminars, but most of the time, you’re on your own. That pressure can make some students feel a little anxious. Your studies and social life become a careful balancing act, as you focus on getting the grades you need as well as making new friends.

The trick here is not to spread yourself too thinly. It might be tempting to join every society and say yes to every invitation, but for the sake of your mental health, it’s important to be selective and give yourself time to relax.

5. How to avoid homesickness

Keys to home

It’s okay to miss home. Many students do. In fact, around 30% of students feel this way by around November in their first year. These feelings can really affect your ability to get the most from your university experience, so it’s important to address them.

It’s perfectly normal to miss the comfort of familiar surroundings and there’s lots you can do to deal with your feelings. Being independent doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help and a regular phone call home could be just the thing to help you adjust.

6. How not to get distracted

Student working in a quiet spot to avoid distractions

The list of things that can tear you away from studying is endless. Just one more episode. One more game. One more look at Twitter.

Of course, the closer that deadline gets, the more anxious you’ll feel. Repeat this cycle with every project and you’ll soon max out your stress levels. You might also find your sleep suffers as you’re forced to pull an all-nighter just to get that essay over the line.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The trick is find a quiet place where you can’t be disturbed. Find what works for you and stick to it.

It’s also best not to go totally cold turkey on whatever was distracting you. Making it forbidden just makes it more attractive. That’s basic psychology. Instead, create a reward system that will allow you to have the best of both worlds.

Written 500 words? Treat yourself to an episode of that show you like. Or go for a run. Whatever floats your boat. Then get back to it! You’ll be done before you know it and best of all, you’ll be completely guilt-free!

Need help with your health at university?

 

Whether you need help with your mental health or a physical illness, our online doctors are here for you from 6am – 11pm, 7 days a week.

Student Health Hack

Student Health Hacks You’ll Need At University

Whether you’re in your first week of university or your fiftieth, there’s always plenty to learn about student life. When it comes to your health, these aren’t lessons you want to learn the hard way!

To help you stay at the top of your game, our health experts have provided 22 quick health tips just for you. Enjoy!

1. See a doctor without leaving your bed

If you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want to do is get out of your warm, comfy bed. You don’t want to get dressed, go outside, or share a waiting room with other ill people.

With PRN Care, you don’t have to do any of those things! You can download our app and have your appointment on your phone, tablet or computer without having to drag yourself to a GP surgery.

 

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Alcohol Effects on the Body

From nights out with friends to office parties, alcohol is often a central part of a person’s social life.

When you’re out enjoying yourself, you’re probably not thinking about what alcohol is actually doing to your body. Sure, you know it’s bad for you. But do you know why?

Our experienced GPs are here to highlight the short and long-term dangers of drinking too much and help you make sensible choices about your alcohol consumption.

Two friends sharing a beer.

What are the short-term effects of drinking?

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know the short-term effects of alcohol all too well.

These are things you notice during your drinking session, or when you’re nursing your hangover the next morning. But why do they happen? Let’s find out.

 

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