After years of canvassing against obesity and cholesterol, the FDA has programmed people to think of cholesterol as a dirty word, and something to run away from for the sake of your body’s health. But cholesterol being inherently negative is a misconception. The truth is that our body needs cholesterol in order to accomplish certain tasks.
It’s important for you to understand that there are two types of cholesterol – good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. The goal should be to avoid bad cholesterol (Low-density Lipoprotein or LDL), and increase good cholesterol (High-density lipoprotein or HDL).
What is good cholesterol?
The good cholesterol, or HDL, carries fat from the heart to the liver, enabling the process of fat metabolism. This, in turn, helps the body reduce the chances of getting small fat globules stuck in the blood vessels. And in the long run, this aids in maintaining health, and reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.
According to the American Heart Association, it is recommended to have your cholesterol levels checked right from the age of 20 onwards, to monitor the level of cholesterol and control it accordingly. The average level of cholesterol in your blood should be around 60 mg/dl. Lower than normal levels have cholesterol levels within the range of 40-60 mg/dl.
How does diet affect your cholesterol levels?
It is evident that food habits change levels of cholesterol in our body. If you are having a big bowl of ice cream with lots of creamy fudge for breakfast, a full platter of grilled chicken for lunch, and then pizzas and pasta with lots of cheese in it for dinner; you are definitely increasing the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in your body. These food items contain trans-fat, which are very effective in increasing the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. They also contain saturated fats, which are highly unhealthy. On the other hand, there are also foods rich in good cholesterol. The consumption of these foods is certainly something to be encouraged.
Read on to learn about ten foods that will help you boost your body’s good cholesterol or HDL levels:
- Red wine
If you love wine, then you’re in luck. Drinking red wine can significantly improve your good cholesterol levels in a relatively short span of time. If you consume red wine on a regular basis, and in moderation, then your risk of contracting heart diseases reduce dramatically.
Avocados are consumed worldwide. The fruit has become a favorite of health and fitness freaks. It is full of folate that can increase good cholesterol, while simultaneously reducing bad cholesterol. The fiber content in avocados also checks the cholesterol level naturally. You can include avocados in your salad, or in your sandwiches.
Soy is a substitute for meat. So if you’re vegetarian, or if you love meat but need to refrain from having it due to a cholesterol issue, then you can shift to a low cholesterol diet, which will heavily include soy dishes. Soy not only increases good cholesterol, but also lowers bad cholesterol – reducing the risk of heart diseases.
We all love nuts, don’t we? They are not only tasty to eat but have so many benefits – one of which is that it can give our stomachs that full feeling after eating only a few of them. You can have Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts, etc. which contain healthy fats, fiber and plant sterols which make your heart healthier and block the process of bad cholesterol absorption in your body, while elevating your levels of good cholesterol.
- Fatty Fish
Sea food and the fishes full of healthy fats are healthy and tasty options for your meals. Fatty fishes contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which again reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Try to have any fatty fish, like salmon or sardines, at least twice a week, to fulfill your body’s Omega-3 requirements.
- Chia seeds
Chia seeds also contain Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and various other nutrients, which help in increasing the good cholesterol levels in the blood. You can have them for breakfast, by adding to the cereal or oatmeal.
- Olive oil
If you start using extra virgin olive oil, instead of all the oils you use for making food, you can adapt a low cholesterol diet on your own. This oil will help you get rid of bad cholesterol by increasing the good cholesterol in your blood stream.
- Whole grains
Good cholesterol is boosted by whole grains. This is because of the fiber content of these grains, especially the soluble fibers. Try consuming two servings of these grains in a day, to have overall health benefits.
Beans are yet another great source of good cholesterol. Most beans contain fiber and folate, which is healthy for the heart, and great for your overall health. If you consume grains and legumes on a daily basis, many heart and stomach related problems can be solved naturally.
Fruits which are high in fiber are always healthy options for your heart. You can have apples, pears, prunes, etc. to boost your good cholesterol levels.
So don’t be afraid of cholesterol. Or rather, be very afraid of bad cholesterol, but embrace good cholesterol as an integral part of your diet!