August 16, 2022
Let’s take a minute and appreciate the power of the food at the end of your fork. Whether it’s processed junk food or a healthy salad, everything we put in our bodies can have a direct impact on our health - especially when it comes to cholesterol.
You’ve likely familiar with the terms “good” and “bad” cholesterol. The fact is, you can’t live without cholesterol. However, if you are focused on healthy eating and promoting a heart-healthy diet, there is definitely an advantage to good cholesterol over bad in the food you eat.
In this article, we’ll cover why cholesterol matters, what good cholesterol means, and provide some foods to incorporate into your diet if you want to lower bad cholesterol levels and boost good cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that's essential to your body because all your cells and hormones need it to function properly, and it helps the liver manufacture fat-processing acids. There are two sources of cholesterol. The liver, where all the cholesterol you’ll ever need is produced, and from foods from animals. Meat, poultry, and dairy products all contain dietary cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol. There’s the bad kind of cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and the good kind, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Too much of the bad kind or too little of the good kind can increase the risk of cholesterol building up on the walls of the arteries that deliver blood to the heart and brain.
If the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood increases, it can put you at a greater risk for heart disease. That’s because cholesterol can accumulate along with other substances to form a hard, thick deposit on the inside of the arteries. If the deposit narrows the arteries too much and makes them thick and stiff, it can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis. If a blood count forms and blocks an artery, it can result in a heart attack or stroke.
Fortunately, our diets can have a direct impact on our cholesterol levels - for the better.
Historically, cholesterol has gotten a bad rap. So much so that people avoided healthy, cholesterol-rich foods like eggs, associating these foods with an increased risk of heart disease.
Recent research, on the other hand, has shown that eating healthy high cholesterol foods with is not bad for most people. In fact, cholesterol-rich foods contain a number of important nutrients and healthy fats that many people lack in their regular diet.
The right food choices can lower LDL levels and improve the ratio between HDL to LDL in your body.
Below are foods that can lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, a well as foods that can help boost good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
Want to learn more about at-home cholesterol blood tests? Learn more here.
Eggs pack a nutritional punch, with one large egg (50 grams) containing 207 mg of cholesterol.
Although people have long associated eggs with high cholesterol, research shows that eggs don’t raise cholesterol levels. In fact, eating eggs may actually boost HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Eggs are also an excellent source of highly absorbable protein and contain beneficial nutrients like selenium, vitamin A, and several B vitamins.
Omega-3 fatty acids can lower LDL levels. The good news? Fatty fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Here are a few fatty fish to look for next time you’re at the grocery store:
The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fish (particularly fatty fish) per week as part of a heart-healthy dietary pattern.
Several studies indicate that the Mediterranean diet can prolong your life. One staple of this diet: olive oil.
Olive oil is loaded with oleic acid, an anti-inflammatory compound, that can help boost HDL cholesterol levels and lower your risk for heart disease. Even more so, high-quality olive oils contain a compound called elenolide, which research suggests helps prevent high-blood pressure and lowers the risk for heart disease and stroke.
Olive oil is versatile and is excellent as a salad dressing, for dipping breads in, and, of course, for cooking.
If you’re looking to boost heart health, then nuts and seeds are an excellent place to start. Nuts contain healthy saturated fats and fibers that help keep cholesterol levels in check. Similarly, seeds like chia seeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which, as we’ve learned, are great for lowering LDL levels.
Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pistachios, and almonds are also excellent sources to include in your diet.
Avocados aren’t just great on toast - they also have several heart-healthy benefits. Avocados are loaded with a combination of monounsaturated fats and fibers that are great at cleaning out LDL cholesterol and boosting HDL cholesterol levels. Be sure to include low calorie dippers with your guacamole like carrots, celery, or tomatoes.
Including fruits and vegetables in your diet can increase important cholesterol-lowering compounds in your diet. Especially vegetables high in fiber, which is important for a healthy heart. Fiber comes in two forms: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber is great for digestive health, whereas soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the bloodstream and removes it.
Berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries are full of antioxidants that are linked to lower inflammation and healthier cholesterol levels. Apples also contain pectin, which can lower LDL levels.
See, there’s truth behind the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Incorporating heart-healthy foods into your day is an excellent way to control your cholesterol levels. However, monitoring your blood cholesterol levels is equally important. One of the safest, easiest, and most convenient ways to do that is through accurate at-home cholesterol blood tests with Getlabs.
Getlabs will send a local phlebotomist to draw your cholesterol test blood sample at home and drop off the sample with the analyzer at Labcorp and Quest. The Getlabs FAQ is an excellent source for more information and answers to questions you might have. To schedule an appointment, simply follow the link below and let Getlabs deliver healthcare to you.
Getlabs delivers healthcare to you. Our specialists come to you to collect your labs and deliver them to Labcorp and Quest for testing. We’re available same-day, nationwide.