Diet directly influences high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, also known as “good” cholesterol. This is evidenced that the Mediterranean diet increases this type of cholesterol by up to 10 per cent compared to other diets that, on the contrary, increase the levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins in the blood (“bad” cholesterol or LDL)
The main consequence of excess cholesterol in the blood is the development of coronary heart disease. Numerous studies have shown that CDs are more frequent in populations whose diet is rich in saturated fat and cholesterol and have high serum cholesterol levels. In contrast, in people with low LDL cholesterol levels, such as in Japan and China, the rate of coronary heart disease is lower. Hypercholesterolemia is closely linked to atherosclerosis, a degenerative disorder that affects the arteries in which atherosclerotic plaques form. These atherosclerotic plaques are deposits of various lipids, especially cholesterol, proteins and calcium salts. And calcium, which totally or partially obstructs the vessels of the arteries and causes a lack of irrigation.
If the lack of irrigation is located in the coronary arteries that supply the heart, angina pectoris or myocardial infarction can occur.
Haemorrhages and cerebral thrombosis are frequent if it appears in the cerebral arteries. When the obstruction is located in the extremities, it can favour gangrene of a limb and, in the worst case, its amputation. Likewise, atherosclerosis causes aneurysms or excessive dilations of the aorta that can cause its rupture.
Excess cholesterol in the blood can be deposited in various places in the body, such as the cornea, where yellowish plaques form on the skin and eyelids. Other factors that facilitate the appearance of atheromas are tobacco use, diabetes, abdominal obesity and being male.
BASIC FOODS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
- It promotes calcium absorption and other minerals such as zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium, protecting nails and hair.
- It improves intestinal transit and stimulates digestion.
- It helps control blood glucose levels; moderate consumption is recommended for people with diabetes.
- Its antioxidant components, such as phenols, reduce cell death, improve cognitive functions and prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s.
- Thanks to the oleic acid it contains and its fats of vegetable origin, it helps reduce cholesterol.
- It helps control hypertension.
- Olive oil is rich in vitamins A, D, K and E and has cosmetic properties.
Fruits and vegetables:
- They are a great source of vitamin A, which keeps teeth, bones and eyesight healthy, and vitamin C, which helps defence and skin healing.
- They provide specific minerals such as magnesium and potassium, essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system.
- They regulate intestinal transit due to their high fibre content, which also helps control weight due to its satiating effect.
- They are antioxidants and seem to attenuate cellular ageing.
- They help prevent fluid retention; their high potassium content makes them excellent diuretics.
- They lack fat, which translates into less cholesterol.
- They provide hydration and have a high depurative value.
- It contains omega-3 fatty acids, considered heart-healthy fats for their benefits to the heart.
- It is a source of proteins and essential amino acids that strengthen the immune system.
- It has a high concentration of minerals and trace elements necessary for proper brain function.
- It is a food low in saturated fats, the least beneficial for the body.
- It has a high presence of vitamins A, D, E, B6 and B12, essential for growth and development.
- It facilitates digestion and helps control weight with its low caloric intake.
- They provide quality protein, similar to beef but with less fat.
- They are rich in vitamin B12, vital for the regeneration of red blood cells and the myelin that covers the central nervous system.
- They improve the immune system due to their high zinc content.
- They provide potassium and phosphorus to strengthen bones.
- They are low in “bad” cholesterol (LDL).
- It contains vitamins Thiamin, Riboflavin and Niacin, which protect the nervous system and the skin.
- Its high iron content improves the function of red blood cells.
- They have a high content of fatty acids, beneficial for the heart.
- They are a good source of protein, making them a staple in the vegetarian diet.
- They protect the heart by helping to lower “bad” cholesterol levels.
- They are a leading source of fibre, key against constipation.
- They constitute a source of energy and optimise sports and academic performance.
- They are rich in iron, calcium, potassium and zinc.
They have antioxidant properties, fight cell ageing and stop the production of free radicals implicated in diseases such as cancer.