Cholesterol is produced by your liver -- you need some of this substance to be healthy. Low density lipoprotein, or LDL, is the bad type of cholesterol because it builds up on the walls of your arteries and makes them too narrow. High density lipoprotein, or HDL, is the good type of cholesterol because it takes the LDL out of your blood. High levels of LDL increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke, while high levels of HDL lower your risk.
Lose Weight and Get Active
If you're overweight or obese, losing weight might improve your HDL. According to the Mayo Clinic, for every 6 pounds you lose, you might raise your HDL by 1 mg/DL, or milligram per deciliter, which is the traditional unit for measuring cholesterol. You can lose weight by cutting calories or by adding physical activity. The Mayo Clinic also says that aerobic exercises like walking and jogging can improve your HDL levels within two months and suggests you do 30 minutes of aerobic activity on five days each week.
Choose Healthy Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids might increase your HDL levels, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Fish and fish oil contain the most omega-3s, especially cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna. The American Heart Association suggests that you eat fish twice each week. Walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds are good plant sources of omega-3s. Monounsaturated fats might decrease LDL levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Olive oil, avocados and nuts are good sources of monounsaturated fats.
Avoid Unhealthy Fats
Eating too much saturated fat each day might increase LDL. Saturated fats are found in meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products and in tropical plant oils. The Mayo Clinic says that saturated fat should contribute less than 7 percent of your total calorie intake. Avoid trans fats that can also increase LDL. You'll find trans fats in some brands of hard-stick margarine and packaged snack foods that contain partially hydrogenated fats.
Oatmeal and Soluble Fiber
Oatmeal contains a soluble fiber that can reduce your LDL. Soluble fibers dissolve in water and reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your digestive tract. Eat 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber each day from foods such as bananas, apples, kidney beans, pears, barley and prunes.
- MayoClinic.com: HDL Cholesterol -- How to Boost Your 'Good' Cholesterol
- MayoClinic.com: Cholesterol -- Top Five Foods to Lower Your Numbers
- American Heart Association: About Cholesterol
- American Heart Association: Good Verses Bad Cholesterol
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- WeMD.com: Cholesterol Management Health Center ---Understanding Cholesterol Numbers
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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