It may sound confusing to hear that you should lower your cholesterol levels to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, yet raise your HDL cholesterol level if it is low. HDL or “good” cholesterol as it has been nicknamed over the years helps to reduce the accumulation of fatty deposits or plaques within the artery walls that supply the heart and brain.
The formation of plaques within our arterial walls is a process known as “atherogenesis.” HDL has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant properties, as shown in recent studies, which hinders the process of atherogenesis. Furthermore, HDL is involved in removing cholesterol from arteries and transporting it to the liver to be put to better use or for elimination.
HDL “The Good” Cholesterol
For years it was the bad cholesterol or LDL that got all of the press. These days, people are becoming more proactive about their health and are finding ways to naturally help their bodies fight back.
Some studies show that as little as a 5 point drop in HDL cholesterol levels can lead to a significant 25 percent increase in your risk of heart disease. Therefore, it is vital to know what foods to eat in order to help raise your HDL cholesterol levels.
Researchers think that overall HDL levels are impacted to some degree by our genetic makeup. Lower levels of HDL are one of the important features of the metabolic syndrome, a prediabetes state. Doctors consider HDL levels less than 40mg/dL to be low.
Increase HDL Cholesterol with These Dietary Changes
Studies reveal that you can increase your HDL levels up to 21 percent over a 3 week period by drinking 3 cups of orange juice each day. This is thought to be of benefit due to its effect on the glycemic load, or a ranking of how quickly a particular food or drink raises your blood sugar.
However, orange juice is high in sugar. Check with your doctor first, especially if you have a blood sugar problem!
Interestingly enough, consuming a moderate amount of alcohol, up to one drink a day for women and up to 2 drinks a day for men, seems to have a positive effect on HDL levels.
Choosing monounsaturated fats instead of saturated fats will have the dual effect of reducing your bad cholesterol levels and increasing your HDL levels.
Soy is high in unsaturated fats and fiber and low in saturated fats and can be substituted for animal-based products. One analysis showed that soy protein along with the isoflavones found within, raised HDL levels by as much as 3 percent. Additionally, soy was shown to show a small reduction in triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels.
Nuts, Whole-Grains, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Additional food choices that have a positive effect on blood cholesterol levels include: Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, whole grains such as oat bran, oatmeal and whole-wheat products, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids such as flaxseed oil, fatty fish, and fish oil supplements.
As in all matters relating to dietary health, none of the above should be isolated as a single ‘cure’. Rather, the suggestions given should be incorporated into a long-term, even permanent, dietary program.
Don’t simply add to an existing dietary intake; use the above ideas as substitutes for any current food choices which may not be benefitting your health. Stable cholesterol levels are almost always achievable by taking control of our food choices, and the health benefits are certainly worth the effort.