Thursday, September 17, 2015

Good and Bad forms of Sugar

After replacing nicotine with sugar to quit smoking, which works a treat by the way, I have now put on a little weight. Therefore it is time to come off the sugar. This post is a s little summary of how things have been going so far and what I have learned in the past couple of months about sugar.

Most alarmingly I learned that the cholesterol lowering drugs called statins may give you a 40% increased chance of diabetes. Search Google for exact stats, or start with this link from the Daily Express (not the most reputable new source but I don't have time to find the source now).

I learned this when  family member told me he is on the borderline of having diabetes. The next thing I looked at was Sweetex, which is takes a couple of times a day. It contains the artificial sweetener aspartame.

This is probably the most popular sweetener. Found in many diet drinks and foods, plus sweeteners. It has very controversial side effects according to some. Others don't take the accusations seriously. I have taken it as being OK once a day- everything in moderation.

This was the next alternative to sugar that I tried. It is a herb which can also be bought as a white powder or sweetener tablets. It tastes awful to me in both forms. It seems to be fairly side effect free, but the taste ruined my drink and food.

This is my most recent try. It tasted fine on first inspection and I thought I was on to a winner. Then I realised the powder I was taking was half dextrose, which is a form of sugar with approx. 12 calories per teaspoon, compared to 15 in normal sugar:

I have been advised to look into this. I recommend you do too.

Coconut Sugar
This contains a fair amount of calories but as a natural product it does have small amounts of nutrients too. Worth a try.

Brown Sugar and Raw Sugar
I always choose these over white sugar but they are still sugar and for me - to be avoided when possible.

Real Honey
I mentoned the word "real" because most honey contains rubbish from countries other than your own. Be sure to buy locally made honey or organic honey. It contains lots of calories but also some health benefits e.g. apparently it can cure my hayfever.

For now there is no perfect substitute so I am going to use aspartame, sucralose and try the others sometimes too. Rather than taking too much of one (like my family member does with aspartame) I would rather have more of different things. I think that is a good philosophy for now until we have clinical trials about the benefits and dangers of each form of sugar and the alternatives.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Update on Lowering My Cholesterol

Since being told I have high cholesterol and signs of a fatty liver, I have been doing what I can to live a healthier lifestyle. It began with cholesterol specific techniques like eating whole cloves of garlic, but I have now realised that a balanced diet and exercise regime is the way to go.

My Grandfather was recently admitted to one of the Safe Harbor care homes in Stoke on Trent and it really got me thinking. He has done pretty well without being too health conscious, but he has outlived my Grandpa, who was a drinker and smoker.

This means I now want to improve all aspects of my health by researching everything I eat. It is very interesting to learn that sugar seems to be the new fat. Cholesterol isn't something we should be focusing on too much; reducing sugar and eating a balanced diet will naturally lead to lower levels. Plus you are more likely to stick at it, I certainly gave up swallowing garlic cloves a long time ago. Whereas I have found it extremely easy to almost phase sugar out of my diet.


  • Cycle almost every day on average 5 miles. I am lucky to live in a place with good weather so you might need to get a machine or go jogging. I find myself whistling or even singing when cycling which I would never do in a gym.
  • Play table tennis a few times a week for 20 minutes each time. It is a fun activity to do with my girlfriend and uses different parts of the body to cycling.
  • Never eat anything with sugar in it. Okay I lie, but I have almost cut it out. I now just have a tiny bit of ketchup, sugar free candies and I use Equal sweetener in coffee and tea. After discovering how much sugar is in cereal, I have stopped putting sugar on top and allow some sugary cereals for breakfast. My thinking is that early morning is probably the best time to eat sugar as I should burn it off during the day.
  • Eat fruit most days. Fruit is awesome; I used to hate it and just take a multivitamin. Nowadays I am in love with canteloupe and also enjoy watermelon, white melon, pear and water chestnut. The only other snack I now eat is broad beans which are like a lower fat version of peanuts.
  • I do like to watch the vegetarian activist videos on Youtube and documentaries. They show how badly animals are treated for our meat consumption. This helps me eat a bit less meat which is a good thing.
Plans for future health improvements: more vegetables (considering growing some) and more strenuous exercise like rock climbing which I love (it is just a bit too hot to do where I am now). 

I figure if I keep on this track I shall at least outlive my Grandfather, who is 85, and possibly even avoid the need to go to a care home. I say this because I recently saw a TV show which highlighted "blue zones" in the world where people live longer. 

These elderly people also kept sharper minds, so I will try to never fully retire. Having responsibility in later life also seems to help you stay sharp. Another elderly relative lost her husband, she was not independent at all and was lost, after a few terrible years she died fairly young. 

I think when you are elderly you need to be needed and be of value to the world. This seemed to give the 100 year olds in the TV show the vitality needed to live on and stay mentally sharp. Click here for the Blue Zones website which has tips to live longer.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I got fat again, how will I lower my cholesterol?

It has been quite some time since I started this blog because I had high cholesterol. The key ways I used to lower my cholesterol are below:


I kept it up for a good few months. It is an extremely healthy way low improve health because you drink a glass full of raw vegetables with a piece of fruit.

Just one apple covers the taste up of seemingly horrible sounding vegetables like spinach, carrots, beetroot and many more.

I used to mix in some root veggies like carrot and beetroot, with one or more watery veggies like cucumber and tomato. Then add one apple for teh sugar which makes everything taste fine.

The downside is that it is a lot of messing around, expense and hassle. So I eventually gave up as I expect many will do. I just used a cheap juicer so I recommend doing that first to see if you stick with it. I might of had the cheapest juicer in the world.


I swallowed whole pieces of garlic with very big gulps of water. Only try this with small bulbs of garlic. A few times they nearly got stuck in my throat. I found that cutting up larger pieces made them more likely to stick in my throat because of the sharp edges.

Instead of the potentially dangerous option of swallowing whole cloves of garlic, you can buy supplements. Also I started to cook with it more. Plus I bought some roughly ground already fried garlic to add to dishes and sprinkle over rice (very tasty).

Quit Smoking

I eventually quit smoking almost 9 months ago. It was easier than expected and I have documented this in a separate blog which started as a way to try and smoke more healthily and then turned into a successful quit smoking journal.

The problem is that i have replaced smoking with eating sugar, specifically candy. So it is time to look at lowering my cholesterol again because I am eating candy far too much.

My new plan to lower cholesterol (and waistline)

This time I am travelling, don't have a juicer, don't want to swallow whole cloves of garlic, and would like to do things in a common sense way that I can continue with forever. Swallowing whole cloves of garlic was just a quick stop-gap way of lowering cholesterol.

The new plan is to quit sugar unless it is brown and in moderation. So I have switched from a full teaspoon in my tea to half a teaspoon and it must be brown. White sugar is bad, just like white bread.

1. So when possible I now eat just sugar free candy or gum. I have already begun eating fruit more than before which contains "better" sugar. Cutting down on sugar, especially white sugar is a big deal. Honey is a wonderful replacement too and I have used that for bland fruit and wheat bread toast.

2. I am going to cycle as my primary mode of transport. Also try and take up a sport. Basically get more exercise. My feet are currently sore from a long walk this morning for example.

3. I have already cut down on fatty foods e.g. I haven't had a donut in months and I am more likely to cut off the fat on meat now too.

It is as simple as that. Less sugar, less fat and more exercise. For long term control of cholesterol a healthy lifestyle is the right solution in my opinion.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Garlic Bread Recipie

Garlic is possibly a super food when it comes to lowering cholesterol. I'm not keen on swallowing a whole clove every day like my doctor ordered. As I was making pasta yesterday (wheat pasta of course), I decided to try garlic bread. In the past I've just bought the baguettes that they sell in the supermarket. They are very large and always have far too much butter in them.

So here is how I do it:

Simply grate or crush some garlic. I didn't have a crusher but grating did the job just fine. Then mix with your low fat margarine of choice. I'm using a low fat olive oil based spread, but there are spreads with cholesterol lowering ingredients which may be better.

Spread the mixture over your chosen bread, just like you would normally spread butter. I have been using a small French wheat loaf called a "batard". This is excellent toasted thinly.

The key is to grill it long enough that the garlic cooks a little. Otherwise it can taste raw (bitter). So it is essential that the garlic is in tiny pieces- chopping it won't work. Avoid any old garlic that has the green stem forming inside, as that contributes to the bitterness.

I'll add a photo next time I make it. This is such an easy thing to do and feels so much healthier than the store bough garlic breads.

I've also been using the toasted "batard" loaf for spreading salmon mixed with low fat mayo, dill and a squeeze of lemon. Then topped with thinly sliced cucumber. This makes a perfect snack and Salmon is great for us who want to lower our cholesterol, as it is full of the "good fat" omega 3.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Does Garlic Lower Cholesterol

Does garlic lower cholesterol
When my doctor told me I need to lower my cholesterol, one of the things she suggested was to swallow a raw clove of garlic everyday. I have been doing this for the past couple of weeks and have now decided to check online to see whether garlic really does lower cholesterol.

By the way she told me to eat a raw clove by swallowing it whole. It is actually not hard with a big gulp of water, but it doesn't go down too well every time. If you are going to do this, my advice is to start with a small piece at first. Some people have trouble swallowing tablets so a clove of garlic is obviously much larger. I have refrained from cutting cloves in half as that would create sharp edges, which might be more likely to get stuck in the throat.

Anyway onto the question at hand, does garlic lower cholesterol?
A study on whether garlic lowers cholesterol, reported by the BBC found that it does not help. Further searching brought me to websites which said it did work and others which said it may work. I get the feeling that there is no real proof that it works. This all means that garlic is not a magical solution.

Will I continue to take a clove everyday?
Yes! The first reason is that my doctor told me to take it and I trust her more than the internet. The second reason is that it is cheap and relatively easy to take. The most important reason is that garlic has many other health benefits. It may help lower my cholesterol, but it will also provide other things:

Some garlic health benefits

  • It is a natural antibiotic which may help kill bacteria in the body.
  • Antioxidant properties which I see as cleaning out the body from within.
  • It could possibly help lower high blood pressure and ward off certain forms of cancer.
  • There are lots of other mentions on Wikipedia too, such as it can help absorption of thiamin which sounds good for the liver.
One other benefit I stumbled across recently is that garlic may help with toothache pain. I was frantically searching for something to help me at the time and garlic came up as the number one home remedy. To be honest I can't say I noticed it work (I was taking anti inflammatory pills too), but I think there are different causes of toothache, so it is worth a try if you are desperate. 

You crush the clove under a wide knife, this releases the juices. Then you wrap the clove over the affected tooth and gum. You use the tongue to keep it in place, it will sting for a while, then that subsides. Keep it there for 10 minutes or so, then spit it out or swallow it. Don't wash the mouth out as you want the garlic juices to stay there. Many people reported it as a wonder cure which can last many hours.

The one major side effect taking garlic this way is that your breath will stink. I was almost too ashamed to leave the apartment after having the garlic in my mouth. Certainly take some mints or gum with you as it is a very strong smell apparently (and just keep your mouth tightly closed in an elevator lol). I have not had any complaints about bad breath when swallowing whole cloves yet.

I suspect garlic will have some positive effect on cholesterol. I am currently swallowing a clove a day and including it in meals when I can. This is easily done and you can buy it in jars in powder form, or dried small pieces. Garlic rice is actually a really tasty alternative to plain rice. It is easy to add some extra to pasta dishes and most Asian dishes. I''m also eating it often in my healthy snack food which is a mix of unsalted nuts which contains dried slices of garlic. It is almost tasteless in this form.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oats and Soy Milk for Breakfast

So far on my hunt for the best food for cholesterol it seems that an ideal breakfast is porridge or oats with soy milk. I usually use a dessert spoon of sugar so I have halved that. The taste is not as nice as with milk. It lacks the same creamy taste. But it is OK and when you know you are eating something very good for you, it is OK to put up with only an average taste.

Soy Milk and Cholesterol

We want to reduce our fat and so the full fat milk I was previously consuming is off the menu. It contains saturated fats. Milk does contain protein but that has no effect on cholesterol so I will get that from elsewhere (perhaps nuts).

"LDL-cholesterol was modestly reduced at the end of the soy milk phases 
compared to the dairy milk phase" Stanford University

The quote above is taken from a study on the effects of soy milk on cholesterol. Reading that was enough to get me to switch. Another quick search online brought up more pages stating that soy milk can help to lower cholesterol. I bought the cheapest option in the supermarket (which was cheaper than my standard milk) and the Stanford study stated that either type of soy milk will help the same. So it seems that there is no need to choose anything special. Although the Washington Post has an article on a product which advertised a 7% cholesterol reduction, so it is worth keeping an eye out for any products which have a cholesterol label on it. 

Oats and Cholesterol

I love the occasional bowl of oats or porridge in the morning. It is warming and seems to fill me up more than standard cereal. Apparently it lowers low density lipoprotein which is a good thing. Oats are packed with fiber which reduces absorption of cholesterol. It seems that a standard bowl of oats will provide around half of the daily soluble fibre needed to reduce LDL cholesterol. I will be eating other healthy foods like fruit which should hopefully provide the rest.

"Daily consumption of a bowl of oatmeal can lower blood cholesterol, 
because of its soluble fibre content" Wikipedia

For now it seems like oats with soy milk is the best breakfast to help lower cholesterol. I will try adding pieces of fruit next time which should make it even healthier. In the past I have added blueberries to my bowl of oats which I wasn't keen on. I did used to enjoy banana though, so will try that soon. This is likely to help with the taste as I will be using less sugar too.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Welcome to my blog about lowering my cholesterol

Yesterday I got the test results from my doctor. She said I have a mildly fatty liver due to high cholesterol. I am a little overweight so this wasn't a major surprise to me. This blog is going to act as my journal.

The hope is that by researching and writing about foods that help lower my cholesterol, it will help me discover the best options. I have used this blogging for personal success method before and it really works. It keeps me motivated and focused. At the same time perhaps this blog will help others out in future.

Background to my diet:

I do not eat any old food but I know I could certainly eat healthier. I usually have 4 meals a day as I like to sneak brunch in there too. My reasoning behind this was that it is better to eat more smaller meals than 3 large ones. Also I hate going hungry.

A typical day for me starts with a bowl of cereal. I have oats (or porridge as we call it in the UK) approximately once every 2 weeks. My first bit of research into foods that can help to lower your cholesterol pulled up oats. So that was the obvious choice today. I will do a full post on oats if it really is an ideal breakfast option.

For brunch I will often have something fried (hotdog, bacon, sausage) with egg and toast or grilled hash browns. Obviously this one has to change. I love eggs for brunch so perhaps this will become boiled, microwaved or poached eggs. My guess is that wheat bread will be fine (which I usually have anyway) and I will find a healthy spread. One of the other things I have noticed so far is that there are certain spreads which have special cholesterol lowering ingredients in them. I love eating bread so this will probably be a future blog post too.

For lunch and dinner it varies. From home cooked pasta or Indian curry, to a weekly MacDonalds or other fast food. I eat rice most days but this is often with a microwaved dish. I will be investigating the fat content of these dishes and cutting any bad ones out. I know for a fact that my Indian Curries have plenty of fat in them (although they contain potentially positive spices like turmeric) and of course MacDonalds is now off the menu. Finding healthy recipes for lunch and dinner should be the biggest problem. I do enjoy cooking so plan on reseraching this well to discover tasty options. Buying a steamer could be on the cards.

I'm not too big on snacks but I will be cutting out the occasional chocolate bars and bags of crisps (chips). Recently I have been going through a large bag of pistachio nuts and I believe they could contain "good fat". I am not sure what good fat and bad fat is, so that will certainly be a post on this site soon. I did read that fat in nuts and oily fish can actually help lower my cholesterol levels so this certainly requires further research. If I need a snack from now on it will probably be a piece of fruit or a small handful of nuts.

As a side note I am cutting out alcohol too. I was a regular drinker which certainly would of contributed to my belly and liver problem. My hope is that I can improve my diet enough to get my liver in perfect working order, so that I can at some point resume drinking in moderate amounts.

I am not a fan of exercise. There is a swimming pool and gym in my building but I never go. I am taking up rock climbing which is extremely demanding. My hope is that the need for extra strength will urge me to visit the pool and gym more often. Even if it doesn't I think that rock climbing 3 times a week will certainly help me.

I am a heavy smoker too, one pack of 20 per day. I got a chest x-ray out of curiosity recently which came back all clear. Obviously it would be great to quit this too, but I am unsure if this can help with cholesterol. Unless I see evidence that it can help to quit then I will probably put this on the back burner for now.

My starting weight as of today is 81kg = 178 pounds = 12.75 stones.