What Is Cholesterol, Its Types And Foods To Boost HDL Cholesterol, The Good Cholesterol
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat, a wax like substance that is produced by the liver. It is absolutely essential for normal body functions. Every cell of our body contains cholesterol in its outer layer as it is an important structural component of the cell.
The body of a man, 150 pounds in weight, makes on an average about 1000 mg cholesterol a day. About 85% of the required cholesterol is made by the body while about 15% is needed via diet.
The American Heart Association recommends one to consume less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day in normal cases, and if the LDL cholesterol levels are 100 mg/dL or more, it is suggested to consume under 200 mg of cholesterol per day.
USDA recommends a consumption of below 200 mg per day.
Though our body regulates its production of cholesterol in relation to the cholesterol levels present in the body, and the blood cholesterol levels are an indicator of that, excess consumption of cholesterol leads to high blood cholesterol levels, which leads to heart disease.
Why Is Cholesterol Needed?
Cholesterol not only builds and maintains the outer layer of the cell membranes, it also, regulates cell membrane permeability and fluidity, is needed for the production of bile, hormones including the sex hormones and converts sunshine falling on the skin into Vitamin D.
Cholesterol is also needed for the metabolism of the fat soluble vitamins and it also insulates the nerve fibers.
More About Cholesterol
Cholesterol is carried or transported by protein molecules called apoproteins as it is insoluble in blood and cannot be transported without a carrier molecule.
When cholesterol and apoprotein combine they form a compound called lipoprotein.
The density of the lipoprotein is determined by the amount of the protein in the lipoprotein.
Thus, LDL has low amounts of protein and high amounts of cholesterol and is therefore the bad cholesterol and this gets deposited in the arteries leading to atherosclerosis.
HDL has high amounts of protein and low amounts of cholesterol and is therefore the good cholesterol and it removes the excess cholesterol and transports it to the liver for breakdown and disposal.
Dietary Sources Of Cholesterol And Choices
All animal fats contain cholesterol in varying amounts. Eat less of saturated fats and fried foods. It is wise to choose unsaturated fats (These are liquid at room temperature).
Avoid red meat; instead prefer poultry and fish, limiting it to 7 ounces or less per day. Eat more soluble fiber. Quit smoking. Eat no more than 3 egg yolks per week. Control weight and reduce it if overweight. Follow a regular exercise routine, avoid trans fat and drink in moderation.
Normal Values For Cholesterol Levels
Less Than 200
Less than 40
Less Than 130
Total Cholesterol/HDL Ratio
Less Than 4.5
Less Than 3
Less Than 150
200 - 499 High, 500 Above Very high
Types Of Cholesterol
- LDL Cholesterol or Low Density Lipoprotein
It is also called the bad cholesterol. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells and if its levels get too high for the cells to handle the excess is deposited in the arteries as plaque.
- HDL Cholesterol or High Density Lipoprotein
It is also called the good cholesterol. HDL removes excess cholesterol from the blood vessels. It carries cholesterol from the cells to the liver for it to be broken down and removed from the body. The higher the HDL levels, the more cholesterol is removed.
This is the chemical form in which most of the fat exists in the body. Triglycerides and Cholesterol are the components of blood fat.
Triglycerides are obtained either from our diet or are made by the body from energy sources like carbohydrates.
Any excess calories we consume that are not used immediately are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells. In the absence of any energy source, if the body needs energy, these triglycerides are released from the fat cells and used as energy.
Foods That Increase HDL Cholesterol, The Good Cholestrol
In this section, I am listing some foods that increase HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol Some of these foods also lower the LDL levels, the bad cholesterol, so that is an added bonus you get when you consume them.
Some strategies in this regard:
- Eat More Nuts
Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios and pecans contain heart healthy unsaturated fats. These can be consume raw, baked or lightly toasted as per your preference. Nuts can also be added to cereals, yogurt, salads etc.
- Consume More Fish
Fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines are very rich in omega-3 fats again the healthy heart fats. Eat at least 2 servings of fish every week. If you desire you can use fish oil supplements instead.
- Use These Oils
Oils like olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil are rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats which raise HDL levels. Cook foods lightly in olive oil and use it to replace butter and fried foods. However since oils are high in calories, moderation is a must.
Though avocado is high in fats the fats, especially oleic acid, are heart healthy. Spread mashed avocado on sandwiches, make guacamole to use with veggies or whole grain crackers etc. Diced avocado can also be added to salads.
The soluble fiber in oatmeal raises HDL levels, reduces LDL levels and oatmeal has excellent levels of this fiber.
- Useful Fruits
Of the fruits eat bananas, apples, prunes, pears. Pectin in these fruits binds the cholesterol and removes it.
The soluble fiber in lentils and kidney, lima, navy and black beans raise HDL as well as lower LDL levels.
- Seeds For Heart Health
Sunflower seeds, flaxseeds contain heart healthy fats and should be consumed regularly but in moderation.
- Eat Magnesium Rich Foods
Vegetables like spinach, yams, potatoes, seaweed raise the HDL or good cholesterol and also benefit by lowering blood pressure, blood sugar levels and blood fats.
- Drink Cranberry Juice
Be sure to buy 100% juice that has at least 27% cranberry. Studies have found that those who drank three 8 ounce glasses of cranberry juice a day for 1 month raised their HDL levels by 10%.
- Eat Dark Chocolate
Consuming 2.5 ounces of dark chocolate everyday raised the HDL levels by 11-14% in a Finnish study. So, eat dark chocolate, just don't gorge on it.
- Take A Calcium Pill
A study has found that those who took a 1000 mg calcium supplement everyday raised their HDL levels by 7%. However, be sure to take calcium as calcium citrate and also ensure the supplement has at least 400 IU of Vitamin D for maximum calcium absorption. This study was published in the American Journal Of Medicine.
- Eat Whole Grains
Brown rice, whole wheat and barley contain soluble fiber and niacin, both of which raise HDL.
- Eat Raw Onions
Half a raw onion consumed daily raised HDL levels.
- Drink Wine But In Moderation
Though not a food, 1 to 2 glasses of red wine a day will also raise the HDL cholesterol levels and lower the LDL levels.
High cholesterol levels have the biggest role to play in developing heart disease. This simply means that you just need to control your cholesterol levels to within normal limits to substantially reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Simple changes to what you eat and your lifestyle can ensure this. But first and foremost stick to a low fat diet.
Follow this up by including the following in your daily diet.
- Eating foods like beans and pulses that are high in fiber and high fiber bread.
- Eating about 30 grams of nuts daily ensuring they are without added salt.
- Eating soya instead of dairy and meat in the form of soya nuts, soya milk, soya yogurt and tofu.
- Eating oats as in oat bread, porridge, soy mince or oat cakes.
- Consume about 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil / rapeseed oil in cooked foods.
Along with this contain your total saturated fat consumption to under 70 grams per day and you can still indulge in an occasional egg, a small helping of sausage or steak or even cheese, chocolate and coffee.
The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
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© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly