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Maximizing efficiency in your fuel system

Last month we looked at how vegetable fibre works in your body to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases-diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. This month we'll look at how fruit and grain fib...

Karen Bowen
Karen Bowen

Last month we looked at how vegetable fibre works in your body to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases-diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. This month we’ll look at how fruit and grain fibre improves blood cholesterol levels, and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and other health problems.

These problems may be caused by an inefficient fuel system.

Everything that ‘works’ requires an energy source: Your truck uses fuel and you use food. Because neither your truck, nor you are 100 per cent fuel efficient, waste products are formed. There are tests in both cases to measure the level of efficiency.

The MTO tests emissions. The doctor tests cholesterol – sort of a pre-emissions test. This shows how efficiently your body is breaking down fats and getting rid of waste biproducts.

You have heard the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol, I’m sure. Both consist of fats.

Bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), is a bundle of fats wrapped in a little protein. LDL carries fats from the liver to the body’s cells and collects excess cholesterol that’s floating around.

Good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), is a little fat wrapped in a lot of protein. This fat is going back to the liver to be broken down and disposed of. Ideally, you want a low count of LDL and a high HDL in your blood. This shows your body is not collecting excess cholesterol.

Why worry about cholesterol?

Imagine this; as fuel travels through your truck’s engine, the unused portion turns into tiny slivers of metal that tear away the insides of your hoses. Over time – major problem.

This is what cholesterol does to your arteries. Cholesterol is like tiny crystals of glass. Its jagged edges damage the lining of blood vessels. To protect these vessels, your body begins to coat the inside of the arteries. So, their walls become thicker and less flexible. Openings narrow, forcing the heart to pump harder to push blood throughout your body. The end result is high blood pressure.

As well, bumps form in the arteries as the cholesterol’s damage scars over. As blood flows past the bump, it slows down, sometimes forming dangerous clots. Clots in the legs cause varicose veins; in the heart cause heart attacks; in the brain cause strokes; in the lung cause death.

These potentially serious conditions are often related to fat (cholesterol) in the blood. So, why eat fat at all? (Other than the fact that fat makes things taste good.)

Because some fat is necessary for energy, insulation, protection against shock, to produce hormones, to make Vitamin D and to build new cells. Besides, most cholesterol is made by our liver as bile, and it’s not even ingested. So, you shouldn’t stop eating all fats. Just get rid of what your body doesn’t use. How?

Eat more fruits and whole-wheat products. Cholesterol is attracted to, and binds to the fibre found in these foods. This fibre grabs hold of cholesterol and carries it out of the body. But, without enough fibre, unused cholesterol is returned to the liver, creating a high LDL level.

Some fuel additives promise reduced emissions. Just think of the fibre in fruits and whole grains as a fuel additive. Fruit fibre reduces the harmful biproduct, cholesterol. But, this fuel additive does more.

It simulates a fuel injection system by controlling the amount of sugar entering your bloodstream. Fruit fibre traps the nutrients and sugar in foods and then slowly releases them as it travels along the digestive tract. Because the sugar level in your bloodstream remains constant, your insulin level remains low.

This is important because a high level of insulin in the blood stimulates the liver to produce more cholesterol.

Another way to keep your insulin level low is to eat many small meals in a day, rather than a couple of large ones. Healthy snacking will also reduce your ‘bad’ cholesterol level.

Fruit fibre additionally helps waste travel easily through your digestive tract. Enough fibre and water (at least two litres/day, and more if you’re sweating) decreases your risk of hemorrhoids, appendicitis and other bowel disorders.

Think about it this way, you don’t wait to change the filters and hoses on your truck if they’re clogged. If you don’t change your eating habits, your body’s filters and hoses get clogged.

Forget the potato chips – instead turn to fruits: A pre-packaged snack that’s good and good for you, too. They’re a tasty ‘medicine’ that’s not too hard to swallow. n

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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