Tell me the truth about…Cheese

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I am a cheese lover, I particularly like goats cheese for its strong unusual flavour.  In the past, I would regularly tuck into cheese sandwiches every day; selecting different cheeses to eat every week. 

I’m not in a minority enjoying cheese with around a third of us eating cheese regularly in a meal. 

The top five most popular cheeses in Britain at the moment are:

English Cheddar

Red Leicester 

Brie 

Mozzarella 

Parmesan

This trend seems to be growing with the increase in popularity of vegetarian foods recently. More people are becoming aware of the health benefits of cutting down on red meat and are also aware of the environmental impact of production processes. An appealing alternative to this appears to be cheese.

The most surprising fact is that one in ten people habitually eat a chunk of cheese as a main meal.

I’ve been trying to cut back on saturated fat intake along with my carer. Until recently I’d eaten cheese and thought it was not particularly any more fattening than any other type of food; except fruit and veggies which you can eat in abundance.

I discovered reading food labels in detail, that it is very high in saturated fats. Much higher than most red meats in fact and therefore not much help if your trying to cut back on saturated fat.

Cheese can contribute to increased levels of saturated fat in the diet fast if it’s eaten regularly. An alarming fact if you have switched to cheese recently and thought it was a healthy option to meat products.

Why is saturated fat something to be aware of in a diet?

Saturated fat in a nutshell……

Eating too much saturated fat in your diet leads to your body producing excess cholesterol which causes blood arteries to become blocked or restricted. This in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular disease which includes heart attacks, angina and strokes.

The easiest way to reduce this risk is by lessening the intake of saturated fats. There are some quick and easy ways to start making a difference. Avoid or reduce full fat dairy products such as cream or cheese (skimmed or 1% fat milk is much better than full fat milk). Also cut back on pasties, pastries, pies, cakes, chocolate, coconut milk, coconut oil and palm oil. When eating meat choose low fat meats such as chicken, turkey, venison, veal or rabbit.

In addition you can have foods that reduce cholesterol in the blood.

Soluble fibre (e.g. fruit, vegetables, oats and nuts) absorbs and carries the cholesterol out of the body.

Plant stanols or sterols inhibit cholesterol absorption in the gut. These are available in fortified foods such as Benecol.

For more information about diet and healthy eating have a look at the following website:

NHS Live well, eat well

Further details about heart disease and stroke:

British Heart Foundation information and support

Stroke Association

Look after your health and your heart….

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How’s the diet going? Losing weight with fibromyalgia

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You may remember my post ‘You are what you eat’. My carer was diagnosed with high cholesterol a few weeks ago and is trying to reduce the cholesterol and lose weight.

I decided to get my cholesterol checked by my doctor; as I do far less exercise and probably eat a lot more than my carer. 

I was surprised to find it was ‘OK’; although my BMI was high and I am categorised as overweight.  My question is, How can this be? We both eat the same meals?

Our bodies burn up calories differently.  Some people are more likely than others to have high cholesterol. This can be for a number of reasons, which do not necessarily relate directly to the food they eat. 

Between us we have learnt a lot about reducing cholesterol. It isn’t as straightforward as I had first thought. 

Learning about the different types of fat, such as saturated and unsaturated fats has been tricky, when trying to select food. Also good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Butter or its equivalents was very confusing.  Fat spreads are high in saturated fat but some contain plant sterols which help to reduce the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body. They work by blocking some cholesterol being absorbed into the blood stream from the gut.

The British Heart Foundation has produced some guidance about food labelling which is really useful when choosing healthy food.

In a nutshell it really means eating a healthy balanced diet which is low in saturated fats.

Losing weight and lowering cholesterol are two different things, but combined you can do both by cutting out food high in fat and saturated fat.

So far I have good and bad news; the good news is…..

My carer has managed to lose almost all the weight required in roughly two weeks. I asked ‘What’s your secret to this amazing weight loss?’ Apparently not eating unhealthy snacks throughout the day. If you feel hungry substitute the unhealthy food with different types of fruit. Most drinks are OK, as they contain no fat/calories and having a drink rather than food can help to make the stomach feel full. Also cutting out cake and biscuits which pile on the pounds. 

My results so far are less encouraging, I have only lost 2 lbs in about two weeks. Having fibromyalgia I think it’s harder to stick to a diet. I have cut back drastically on snacks now and we longer eat cake for tea. Both of which were piling on the pounds and are full of saturated fats. I’ve stopped eating cheese, only cottage cheese. But chocolate, my favourite snack I’m still eating. Dark chocolate is better; so I have a small piece at a time. 

The good news for me is, I have noticed I’m not wanting to eat as much or eat as many snacks. My clothes are also a lot looser around the waist! I’m taking it slower losing the weight and hopefully I will be able to stick with it.

If you want to find out about high cholesterol the NHS website has more information.

Another site that has a lot of facts about reducing cholesterol is Heart UK .

I also came across an interesting article by Dr Axe an American clinical nutritionist about reducing cholesterol naturally without using statins.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions about this please let me know. It would be great to share others experiences.

“You are what you eat”

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Make of this what you will. For me, this phrase sums up a lot.

Does it really matter what I eat? Or could I phrase that differently?  

Do you know how much Cholesterol is in your body?  

I can see you thinking how does this link to Fibromyalgia? Or even, why should I be interested; I’m not changing what I eat. I don’t want to eat a boring diet for the rest of my life. Living with pain I need some treats.

Well, maybe that isn’t necessarily what you would have to do. What could happen if I ignore it and just carry on eating what I like anyway?

I was shocked to find out this week that my carer has high cholesterol. Looks can be deceptive as this news reveals. I thought they were super healthy, not visibly overweight; they exercise and visit the gym regularly.  Perhaps more surprising, they rarely go out to restaurants or visit fast food outlets. Preferring to eat a modest meal at home.

What is cholesterol? It’s a fatty substance in the blood, produced by certain foods which can cause arteries to be blocked.

Why is high cholesterol a serious health concern?  If you have high cholesterol levels, your chances of suffering a heart attack or cardiovascular disease are much greater.

What can be done to lower it?  Changing your diet to a healthy balanced one, stopping smoking and regularly getting exercise.

My carer went for a free NHS Health Check which is available to UK citizens between 40 – 74.  It checks if you would be likely to develop heart disease, kidney disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes or a stroke.

Imagine if it was your carer, what would your reaction be?

If you think your cholesterol could be high, your doctor or health professional can arrange a blood test to check these levels. They will be able to discuss a plan to help you lower it, if it is high.

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