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Baby Steps to Weight Loss, Part 1
Many believe that eliminating fat and cholesterol from the diet is the answer to weight loss. The key to weight loss is in the moderation of healthy fats. The only thing you should eliminate from your diet is the unhealthy fats. Unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fats are associated with heart disease, obesity, and in short, a very unhealthy lifestyle. Cholesterol is found in every cell. Cholesterol regulates the cell membranes fluidity.
This prevents the cell from becoming too rigid or too fluid. Basically, cholesterol helps keep the cell membranes intact. Cholesterol is the precursor to all steroid hormones produced in the body which includes mineralcorticoids, glucocorticoids, and the sex hormones. Cholesterol helps to build strong bones and muscles, and maintains libido and fertility. Cholesterol assists in regulating the blood sugar.
Cholesterol helps to protect against infectious disease and repairs damaged tissue. Cholesterol is required to form vitamin D. With this in mind, should cholesterol be eliminated from a diet? There is a difference in blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol. You can find dietary cholesterol in foods such as eggs, seafood, and meat. The liver also makes about two grams of cholesterol daily. However, under stressful conditions the production of cholesterol increases. Many studies cannot correlate eating foods containing cholesterol with an increase in blood cholesterol. Eliminating cholesterol from the diet can cause the body to make more, since this compound is of great importance for a healthy body. This in turn can cause unhealthy ratios of low density lipoproteins (LDL’s) to high density lipoproteins (HDL’s). Lipoproteins are cholesterol carriers.
The structure of the lipoprotein is part fat (lipids) and part protein. Proteins are soluble in water whereas fats are insoluble in water, hence the reason for the lipoprotein structure. The protein portion is used to transport the lipids through the blood. Since blood is comprised mostly of water, the lipid portion would not travel without the protein portion. High density lipoproteins or HDL’s consist of about half protein and half lipid; whereas low density lipoproteins or LDL’s are about a quarter protein and three quarters lipid. The function of the HDL is to bring cholesterol to the liver for recycling or elimination. HDL’s prevent less cholesterol from being deposited in the arteries. Low density lipoproteins transport cholesterol to the rest of the body for building tissues. High levels of LDL’s can cause cholesterol to be deposited in the arteries. An abnormally high level of LDL’s to low levels of HDL’s in the body is believed to be a cause of heart disease.
The levels of lipoproteins (HDL and LDL) are affected by the types of fats we consume. Saturated fats or animal fats are commonly found in meat, egg yolks, coconut oil, palm oil, and whole milk products. Trans fatty acids are chemically unsaturated fats. However, in the body trans fats behave much like saturated fats. Trans fats also lower HDL levels and raise LDL levels, increasing the risk of heart disease. Trans fats are usually introduced into the diet in ways most consumers are unaware of. During hydrogenation, polyunsaturated oils become exposed to hydrogen at high temperatures. The nature of the polyunsaturated fat becomes transformed into a trans fat. Most margarines and baked goods contain the hydrogenated polyunsaturated oils. Now the FDA requires that trans fats be listed on nutrition labels making the trans fat easier for the consumer to avoid.
The right type of fat can actually help you burn fat and is extremely healthy for the body. Polyunsaturated fats are oils at room temperature such as sunflower, corn, and soybean oil. Polyunsaturated oils contain essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are also associated with a lowered risk of heart disease. The omega-3 fatty acid is primarily linolenic acid. These fatty acids are found primarily in plants and in fish oils that contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). The omega-3 fatty acid can actually counteract some of the negative effects of insulin resistance. Therefore, a diet plan incorporating significant amounts of omega-3 fats helps to promote weight loss. The omega-6 fatty acid, primarily linoleic acid obtained from vegetable oils helps to protect against heart disease.