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Explore the myths surrounding this popular health topic and learn how to restore and maintain healthy cholesterol.

Raising Good Cholesterol Through Diet

Cholesterol is an integral component of normal body processes and with the good, comes the bad. "Good," or HDL, cholesterol does exist. Unlike "bad" cholesterol, the more of the "good", the better. Fortunately, there are easy ways to increase good cholesterol through diet.

Raising Good Cholesterol Through Diet

The word "cholesterol" tends to make people cringe. High cholesterol tends to be a major health concern relative to its contribution in heart disease. However, cholesterol is an integral component of normal body processes. Important hormones would not be produced, vitamin D maintenance could be compromised, and the absorption of fat would be reduced without cholesterol. Additionally, "good" or HDL cholesterol does exist. Unlike "bad" cholesterol, the more of the "good", the better. Fortunately, there are ways to increase HDL and good cholesterol through diet.

"Good" Cholesterol Explained

Good cholesterol is also known as high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is a unit consisting of a cholesterol center and lipoprotein outer rim. Lipoproteins are assemblies of proteins and lipids, acting as transporters to carry cholesterol in the bloodstream. Increased bad or LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the blood contributes to plaque build-up and has the potential to clog and harden blood arteries. When HDL is present in the blood, it helps remove bad cholesterol by carrying it away from the arteries and back to the liver. From there, it is broken down and excreted from the body.

How to Raise HDL Cholesterol Through Diet

Like cholesterol, fats oftentimes have poor connotations. But also like cholesterol, fat is needed in the body for optimal functioning. In the case of increasing HDL cholesterol, choosing healthier fats can help meet the HDL target (40 milligrams per deciliter is recommended). The American Heart Association recommends 25 to 35 percent of total daily calories coming from fat. Ideally, monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats should comprise the total fat intake. MUFAs and PUFAs can be found in olive, peanut, and canola oils as well as nuts and fatty fish. Reduce saturated fats to less than 7 percent and trans fats to less than 1 percent, as their intake can raise LDL levels.

Additionally, alcohol may actually increase HDL levels related to its antioxidant properties. However, it is important to keep its consumption in moderation or health can be compromised. Men should limit alcohol consumption to two servings per day while women should limit to one serving. Servings include 12 ounces of regular or light beer, 5 ounces of red or white wine, and 1 and a half ounces of liquor.

When following an overall healthy diet, achieving a healthy weight can result. With weight loss, HDL levels are more likely to increase while LDL cholesterol can be reduced. Most importantly, healthy weight loss is most successful and sustained when it is gradual. Avoid drastic weight loss measures and focus on a well-balanced diet instead.

Although diet typically effects cholesterol the greatest, a total healthy lifestyle matters most. Smoking cessation and regular exercise can increase HDL cholesterol even further as well as decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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