Having cholesterol levels checked regularly and eating a diet high in good cholesterol foods and cholesterol lowering foods is an excellent way to help improve your overall health while also lowering your risk for serious medical conditions such as heart disease.
Knowing and understanding as much as possible about ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol, and how they work, is the key to taking control of your own health.
Cholesterol Is both Produced in Your Body AND Comes from the Food You Eat
Cholesterol is a natural compound found in the body and is comprised of a combination of steroids and fats. This compound is necessary for your body to function properly and is an essential component in building cell membranes. Your body needs cholesterol to be able to produce numerous hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.
The liver, where the compound is stored and released as the body needs it, regulates cholesterol levels in the body.
The liver produces roughly 75% of the cholesterol in the human body and the remaining 25% comes to the body from the foods we eat. We ingest the dietary cholesterol mainly from animal products including dairy, poultry, meat and fish as well as some very low traces from plant-based foods.
Understanding Good Cholesterol & Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol builds cells and produces hormones necessary to the body, but not all cholesterol is good. You can find two main types of this compound in the body, and knowing the difference between them is important as too much or even too little of either can cause numerous detrimental health issues.
Also known as HDLs or high-density lipoproteins, good cholesterol’s main function is to pull bad cholesterol away from the walls of your arteries and prevent a condition called atherosclerosis where your arteries become clogged, either partially or even completely.
HDLs help to carry excess cholesterol into the liver, where the liver breaks it down, after which the cholesterol leaves the body in the form of bile.
Health care professionals recommend that you raise good cholesterol levels as high as possible to achieve optimal health and reduce your risk for heart related conditions.
Like good cholesterol, the body also produces LDLs naturally; however, multiple other factors determine how much you actually have. Studies report that certain inherited genes can cause the body to make too much bad cholesterol as can consuming too many animal products.
Too much of this substance in the body will inevitably put you in a greater risk category for heart and artery related issues, so it is wise to combat this problem as early as possible, especially if a known family history of high cholesterol is present.
While lowering cholesterol naturally is typically the most advised course of action, it is not always possible for everyone. Consult your health care professional about other treatments and methods that may work better for you.
Now, the only way to determine whether you are suffering from high cholesterol is to have a simple blood test to get a read on both your bad and good cholesterol levels.
The outcome of this test will help your health care professional to determine whether your cholesterol levels are in need of medical attention.
Understanding Your Results
Numerical results report the amount of good and bad cholesterol found in your system via the blood test. It is important to understand what these numbers mean as additional action may be recommended to control cholesterol.
Total Cholesterol Levels
If you receive your test results and your total cholesterol reading is registering at 240 mg/dL or higher, health care professionals will consider you to be in the high-risk category.
You are twice as likely to have coronary heart disease in your lifetime if your total cholesterol reading is greater than 240. Health care professionals recommend that you keep your total cholesterol readings to 200 mg/dL or less to lower your risk of heart related disease dramatically.
Good and Bad Cholesterol Levels
Besides the overall blood cholesterol test, the results report the individual readings for good and bad cholesterol in your blood as well.
Good Cholesterol Levels
HDL cholesterol readings measuring 60 mg/dL and above are very positive. Readings that are below 50 mg/dL for women and 40 mg/dL for men are considered low and health care professionals will typically recommend that you attempt to raise good cholesterol to a healthier level.
Bad Cholesterol Levels
Optimal LDL readings measure at 100 mg/dL or less. Readings between 100 and 159 can likely be lowered using natural methods while readings of 160 or higher are extremely high and will likely require medical attention.
Ultimately, your HDLs should be as high as possible and your LDL reading should be as low as possible to obtain and maintain optimal health, the specific number ranges give you a better idea of what ‘ideal’ test results look like.
Tips for Lowering Cholesterol Naturally
If your readings from your cholesterol test leave room for improvement, a number of methods are available for lowering cholesterol naturally with good cholesterol foods. Some of these methods include:
● Getting Regular Exercise – Recent studies show that getting some form of exercise three to five days per week can help raise good cholesterol by nearly 10%.
● Avoid Saturated Fat – While these fats are a necessary part of our diet, researchers are slowly discovering that fat intake does affect cholesterol levels.
● Change your diet to include more good cholesterol foods.
● Include more fiber into your daily diet.
These relatively easy methods are a natural solution to an increasing health problem.
A Healthy List of Good Cholesterol Foods
Good cholesterol foods are those foods that naturally lower levels of bad cholesterol or contain HDLs.
Cholesterol lowering foods are an important component to our diet because they not only provide the key to lowering cholesterol naturally but they also contain other chemical components and nutrients that keep our bodies functioning at an optimal healthy level.
The types of fish considered especially good cholesterol foods include:
● Albacore Tuna
Omega-3 acids also prevent blood clots and sudden death in those who have previously suffered heart attacks, making them extra ‘heart healthy’ with good cholesterol foods.
Foods containing substantial amounts of fiber are good cholesterol foods because they soak up a large amount of bad cholesterol and prevent it from being absorbed into the blood stream.
Fiber rich edibles considered good cholesterol foods include:
● Whole Grains
● Fruits – especially bananas, pears, apples, avocados, prunes and berries
● Vegetables – especially broccoli, cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts, greens, pumpkin and sweet potatoes
Medical communities acknowledge that adding even five to ten extra grams of dietary fiber to your diet daily will lower your LDL levels and achieve your cholesterol goals.
Numerous studies over the last decade conclude that regular consumption of nuts is beneficial for lowering cholesterol naturally as it helps lower LDL levels.
This type of food also contains heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and reduces arterial inflammation.
Types of nuts considered especially good cholesterol foods include:
● Pistachio Nuts
Nuts are, however, high in calories so try to limit intake to about 1.5 ounces per day.
Plant Sterols and Stanols
Good cholesterol foods include those containing or fortified with sterols and stanols and adding at least 2 grams of them to your diet each day will lower cholesterol naturally by nearly ten percent.
Sterols and stanols are naturally present in some foods but sometimes are an added nutrient.
Effective cholesterol lowering foods in this category are:
● Orange Juice
Additional Good Cholesterol Foods
Along with fish, fiber, nuts and plant sterols, numerous other foods promote healthy cholesterol levels.
Knowing what these foods are and incorporating them into your diet can be a great help in managing not only your cholesterol but your overall health as well.
While eating chocolate to maintain healthy cholesterol may seem to good to be true, recent studies have shown that eating about a half ounce of rich, authentic dark chocolate every day can help raise your good cholesterol levels by nearly nine percent.
A popular food seasoning, garlic is a known antioxidant and, as such, helps prevent bad cholesterol from oxidizing.
It also raises HDL levels and aids in keeping our arteries clear and healthy.
Similar to garlic, red wine is another powerful antioxidant that aids in lowering bad cholesterol and raising HDL. If you are against alcohol consumption or are alcohol intolerant, you can still reap the same benefits by drinking natural dark grape juice or by eating grapes with the skin left on.
Green tea also possesses additional benefits for the consumer in the form of polyphenols, which block the absorption of bad cholesterol into our system.
Final Notes on Good Cholesterol Foods to Lower Cholesterol Naturally
For those suffering from high cholesterol, your health care professional will usually recommend that you take immediate action to get this issue under control so that you can lower your risk for coronary heart disease, heart attacks and other serious heart related issues.
While medication often controls cholesterol levels, getting regular exercise and incorporating good cholesterol foods are the most effective ways to lower cholesterol and promote heart health.
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