With cholesterol, just like in any movie or TV show, there's good guys and bad guys. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, cholesterol contributes to plaque that can clog your arteries. If a clot occurs, you could suffer from a heart attack or stroke. Luckily, the HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, cholesterol finds these bad boys and carries them to the liver, where they're processed and passed out of the body. You can reduce your risk of developing harmful diseases by eating certain foods that help to boost your HDL cholesterol and stifle your LDL cholesterol.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut and mackerel have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to increase HDL cholesterol. By choosing to eat fish two or three times a week, you can also reduce your intake of LDL-boosting meat. Be cautious of taking fish oil supplements, which contain omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). On the plus side, these omega-3's lower your triglycerides, a type of fat that's linked to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. However, according to a study released in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, DHA has been shown to slightly increase LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, another study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that fish oil supplements increased participants' risk of developing prostate cancer. Chief Medical Editor of Harvard Health Publications Howard LeWine, M.D. suggests that unless prescribed fish oil supplements by a health care provider, you should stick with whole foods in order to get, "the entire orchestra of fish fats, vitamins, minerals and supporting molecules."
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and help to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. They're also packed with antioxidants, meaning that they can do away with free radicals. Free radicals damage your cells, leading to a number of diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Flaxseeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds also contain ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that lowers LDL cholesterol.
Fruits, Grains and Beans
Soluble fiber, which lowers LDL cholesterol, is found in so many types of food that you don't really have an excuse not to eat it. Foods rich in soluble fiber include fruits like apples, pears and prunes with the skin on. Grains, oatmeal and beans are another source of soluble fiber. You can lower your LDL cholesterol by having at least 3g of soluble fiber a day, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Olive oil contains a healthy amount of polyphenols, which lower LDL cholesterol and act as antioxidants, according to Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D. Substitute olive oil for cooking spray and butter, or combine it with vinegar for a yummy salad dressing.
While this isn't an excuse to start binge drinking your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon, drinking one to two glasses of wine most days of the week can actually help to lower LDL cholesterol and boost HDL cholesterol, according to multiple studies. These benefits aren't just for fancy people - Two-Buck Chuck will have the same healthy benefits, according to University Health News.
- University of Massachusetts Medical School: What you can do to raise your HDL cholesterol level?
- The American Heart Association: Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
- NCBI: Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease
- LIVESCIENCE: Is Your Olive Oil As Healthy As You Think? (Op-Ed)
- Nature.com Nutrition and Diabetes: Extra virgin olive oil use is associated with improved post-prandial blood glucose and LDL cholesterol in healthy subjects
- Reuters Health News: Extra virgin olive oil linked to lower blood sugar and cholesterol
- SF Gate: Can Cashews Make You Have High Cholesterol?
- New York Times: Raw vs. Roasted
- NCBI: Oxidative Stress and Neurodegenerative Diseases: A Review of Upstream and Downstream Antioxidant Therapeutic Options
- Los Angeles Times: It takes more than breakfast to lower cholesterol