Heart Disease

Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


4 Eats to Beat Bad Cholesterol


Fill up on these foods to keep your body healthy

By Myra Aquino


Did you know that not all cholesterol is bad? In fact, cholesterol is essential for good health — it helps make hormones and vitamin D, and aids digestion. Excess cholesterol, however, can combine with fat and other substances to clog your arteries, which can lead to circulation issues and even a heart attack. But that’s where high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — aka, the “good guy”— comes in to save the day, clearing your bloodstream of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.

When it comes to foods that are good for your cholesterol, it’s all in the fats they contain. “Healthy” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help increase your “good” HDL levels and lower the inflammatory impact of the “bad” LDL. On the other hand, saturated fats and trans fats can raise your LDL and potentially lower your HDL — which is why they’re on the miss list.

So, which foods boost good cholesterol and are full of good fat? Add these four heart-healthy options to your shopping list.


1. Olive Oil 

Olive Oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in those heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. This green, good-for-you oil is best used at lower temperatures and has a variety of uses: you can pair it with vinegar to make a salad dressing, drizzle it over vegetables instead of butter, or mix it into a marinade to add flavor to meat. Substitute extra-virgin olive oil for other oils or fats any chance you get!


2. Fatty Fish


Omega-3 fatty acids, found in certain kinds of fish, are full of good fat, and can lower triglycerides — another fatty substance that is best kept low. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, halibut and tuna are all full of heart-healthy omega-3s. These types of fish are also low in mercury, so you can safely enjoy up to 12 ounces per week (6 ounces per week when it comes to tuna, the one exception).


3. Nuts 


Nuts are high in polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber — all of which are good for boosting good fat and lowering bad fat and HDL cholesterol. Grab a handful of walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts or hazelnuts as a snack, or add them to a salad or a smoothie!


4. Beans and Legumes 


Even though black beans, lima beans, kidney beans and lentils don’t contain much (or any) fat, they're all great sources of soluble fiber, which is also proven to lower LDL. Use them to make a bean salad, add them to a burrito, or even make a bean burger! You can also make lentil soup, or use chickpeas to make hummus. Beans are a great addition to a simple green salad, as well.


Published on September 15, 2016. 


Myra Aquino is an MD turned writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, CA. 


Digital Vision/Photodisc/Thinkstock
Reviewed by Shira Goldenholz, MD, MPH on July 22, 2016.
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