10 Small Changes To Improve Cholesterol

Like the villains in old-fashioned westerns, cholesterol tends to get viewed as one of our body’s bad guys. But cholesterol plays a vital role in keeping our bodies functioning properly. So it's important to view it with balance. We need to keep it within optimal levels, but not view it as evil or bad because it's important to our wellbeing. Let’s take a closer look at the role cholesterol plays in our health, including why and how to improve it if your own levels aren't optimal.

Understanding Cholesterol

Our bodies depend on cholesterol to function properly. This substance, manufactured by the liver, helps our systems create cells, vitamins, and related essentials. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often labeled “bad,” is actually the primary type of cholesterol. Foods high in trans fat and saturated fats, such as red meat and full-fat dairy, increase our LDL. When we have too much LDL, our risk for potentially deadly conditions like stroke and heart disease increases. 

In contrast, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), sometimes known as “good” cholesterol, may reduce our risk for those diseases so we want to raise the HDL while lowering the LDL. Which is a lot easier said than done.

10 Ways to Improve Your Cholesterol

We have many options for taking control of our health and improving our cholesterol levels. From subtle diet changes to some less than intuitive tips, here are 10 concrete ways to improve cholesterol numbers:

  1. Cut out trans fats: Changing our diets to eliminate trans fat may lower LDL cholesterol levels. Often called “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on food labels, trans fats typically are found in packaged foods like cake, crackers, and cookies, as well as margarine and are best avoided altogether. 
  2. Eat fewer saturated fats: Red meat and full-fat dairy products contain high levels of saturated fats, which increase our cholesterol. Cutting down on these foods may reduce LDL. 
  3. Consume legumes: A recent study found that legumes like lentils, peas, and beans may reduce our LDL cholesterol. Just ½ cup daily offered this benefit. 
  4. Enjoy avocados: When researchers compared adults with high LDL who consumed avocado to those who skipped this fruit, those who ate a daily avocado had lower “bad” cholesterol levels. 
  5. Go nuts: We might think of nuts like almonds and walnuts as fattening. But studies show eating nuts lowers LDL cholesterol. 
  6. Indulge in cocoa: Participants in a study on the effects of cocoa reduced their LDL while increasing HDL levels. 
  7. Choose oats for breakfast: From oatmeal to warm us in the winter to oat-based cereals like Cheerios in summer, eating oats provides our bodies with soluble fiber. This type of fiber offers a tasty way to lower LDL.  
  8. Add foods high in omega-3 fatty acids: Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, improve our cholesterol levels, according to clinical trials and related research.
  9. Get moving: Take the dog for a walk, dust off that indoor exercise bike or join a fitness class. Fitness studies indicate that regular exercise improves our HDL levels. But just in case, it's best to check with a physician before beginning or changing a fitness plan.
  10. Stop smoking: What a difference a year of not smoking makes: Researchers found that one year after quitting smoking, study participants raised their HDL levels. 

It’s important to recognize that learning we need to improve our cholesterol gives us a great opportunity to enhance our health because ultimately, everything in our bodies is connected. Simple lifestyle changes may make an impressive difference in our cholesterol but they can also make improvements in other surprising ways (like erectile dysfunction). Be sure to check with a healthcare provider before changing any diet or exercise program. 

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2/22/2021 6:21:48 PM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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