The topic ofdietary cholesterol’s importance has been debated in recent years, but what’s not being debated is the importance of improvinggood cholesterol levels in the body, especially for those over the age of 40. On most blood tests as we age, there are a few things to keep in mind — and one deals with the different types of cholesterol. Cholesterol can be either LDL (low-density lipoprotein) which is the kind wewantless of, or HDL (high-density lipoprotein,) which is the “good” kind that we want more of.
This can be confusing, so we are breaking down what you need to know about cholesterol — what it is and how you can support optimal HDL cholesterol levels to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and even a heart attack.
What is Cholesterol?
So, what exactly is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the body, and found in certain foods like eggs, cheese, sardines, and other meats. While your body requires a certain amount of cholesterol in order to build healthy cells, too much can put you at an increased risk of heart disease.
The problem occurs when too much cholesterol is present in the blood, which can cause a buildup of fatty deposits in your blood vessels. One of the trickiest things about high cholesterol is that it comes without any noticeable symptoms, so you have to get routine lab work in order to identify whether you are dealing with higher than normal cholesterol.
Before we jump into methods for boosting your HDL cholesterol levels, let’s breakdown the difference between both low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL Cholesterol: LDL is the harmful type of cholesterol, and the one we want less of. Low-density lipoprotein transports cholesterol to different areas of your body, and is the type of cholesterol that builds up in arterial walls.
HDL Cholesterol: HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is the kind we want more of. HDL picks up that extra cholesterol floating around in your body and then brings it back to the liver.
Since this is the kind we want more of, practicing these proven, lifestyle habits (that anyone can attempt to do) can increase your HDL cholesterol levels.
7 Ways to increase the Good HDL Cholesterol
#1 Try Aerobic Exercise
Moving your body is always a good idea, and aerobic exercise can be especially beneficial when it comes to boosting HDL cholesterol levels. Try adding some cardiovascular training to your fitness routine, at least a few times per week. Go for abrisk walk or light jog, swim, cycle, hike, or even dance in your living room! Aerobic exercise will not only get your bad cholesterol trending the right direction, it helps your waist slim down and gets your feel-good endorphins ramped up again!
#2 Up Your Fiber Intake
Fiber is super important when it comes to supporting healthy cholesterol levels, and high-fiber foods can help decrease LDL cholesterol, and boost HDL cholesterol levels. Try adding high-fiber green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, swiss chard, zucchini, spinach and bok choy into your diet. Reach for fibrous fruits, like berries, apples, and pears, as well as other healthy foods like beans, legumes, and gluten-free oats.
#3 Try Fatty Fish
Fatty fish like wild-caught salmon and sardines are super rich in omega-3 fatty acids which may help reduce your LDL cholesterol levels while supporting HDL levels. Omega 3 fatty acids help to boost the good cholesterol in the blood. Try enjoying fatty fishtwice per week with two sides of veggies for an added health boost.
#4 Sprinkle Chia and Flax Seeds into Your Smoothies
Chia and flax seeds are an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, and they are also rich in fiber, making these seeds a no-brainer superfood to add to your diet. Get your daily dose of these mighty seeds by blending them into your smoothies to help support healthy cholesterol levels.
#5 Be Sure to Get Enough Good Fats
When it comes to supporting healthy cholesterol levels, many people get concerned about the types of fat they add to their diet, and some may avoid fats altogether. But, here’s the thing: not all fats are created equal, and there are somehealthy fats that may actually be super beneficial for your overall HDL cholesterol levels. Olive oil has been found to be especially helpful in boosting HDL cholesterol in those following aMediterranean Diet. Incorporate avocados and almonds as well. These are both excellent sources of good fats! Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like the fatty fish and chia seeds we talked about, are also all great sources of healthy fat.
#6 Boost Your Antioxidant Intake
Antioxidants found in foods like berries, dark leafy greens, beets, and most superfoods can all play a big role in reducing LDL cholesterol and boosting HDL. Not only that, but antioxidants also hold a protective benefit by preventing oxidized LDL cholesterol from getting into inflammatory cells in the body. Other good sources include green matcha tea and even dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa.
#7 Watch Your Carb Intake
Eating too many carbs may be damaging for a few different reasons. For one, it can lead to weight gain which can then cause high cholesterol, and secondly, eating alower carb/higher (good) fat diet may be beneficial for boosting HDL cholesterol. In fact, a study found that diabetic participants who followed a low carb and high-fat diet had greater success in improving their lipid profile while also controlling theirblood sugar.
Stay away from any refined carbs by avoiding things like cookies, cakes, and muffins, and choose whole and natural foods as often as you possibly can. The more foods you eat without a food label and packaging, the better your overall nutritional intake will be.
The Bottom Line
Having high LDL cholesterol can put you at a big risk for cardiovascular health issues, but increasing HDL cholesterol can have a positive impact on your overall health. If you are suffering from high cholesterol then give your body the boost it needs by implementing these seven tips. You may be shocked at what these seven dietary and lifestyle changes can do, not only for your cholesterol levels, but for your overall health as well.