Did you know that even if you ate a completely cholesterol-free diet, your body would make approximately 1,000 mg daily to function properly?
So, thought the term ‘cholesterol’ always seems to be having a negative connotation, there is a lot of good side to it. On the other hand, too much cholesterol in the body can lead to serious problems like heart disease. Many factors can contribute to high cholesterol, but the best part is that there are different things you can do to control it.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat, or lipid. It is a sterol produced by the liver. It performs three main functions:
- It helps to build and maintain cell membrane.
- Bile Production – It makes up the bile acids that work to digest food in the intestine.
- Hormone Production – allows the body to make hormones, like estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
Cholesterol flows through our body via our bloodstream. Since cholesterol is not soluble in water it tends to not mix well with blood. Therefore, the liver packages it with protein and other compounds creating a lipoprotein before it is released into the blood stream. Cholesterol is then transported through the bloodstream in this lipoprotein.
HDL and LDL
When the lipoprotein has more protein than cholesterol, it is called high density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol. When the lipoprotein has more cholesterol than protein, it is called low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol.
Low-density lipoproteins tend to deposit cholesterol on artery walls. Gradually, over time it builds up and eventually interferes with blood flow. But the HDL is useful as it seems to take cholesterol back to the liver, where it can be eliminated from the body.
How to increase HDL ?
A colourful meal plate is a sure shot way of increasing HDL.
Niacin -Niacin is a B vitamin which is contained in a variety of foods. Niacin, in particular, helps to raise “good” cholesterol, and lowers “bad” cholesterol. Foods such as tuna, chicked, pork and liver are high in this vitamin content. Beef, mushrooms and avocado also contain niacin. Vegetarians can opt to take a B-complex vitamin as there are fewer options for them.
Nuts – Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, peanuts hazelnuts are all good sources of heart-healthy fats and are great to add to your diet. You can eat them raw, baked or slightly roasted and even add to dishes like pasta or rice. Watch the quantity though.
Olive oil – It is high in unsaturated fats and can help you elevate your HDL. You can replace butter and fried foods with foods cooked lightly in a heart-healthy olive oil. However remember, oil is healthy, but it’s high in fat and calories, so practise moderation.
Fiber – Foods like oatmeal, bran, barley, prunes and apples having high level of fiber can help rise up your HDL while reducing LDL. A couple of servings a day of such foods can have a positive effect on your HDL.
Cut Your Sugar Intake
Cutting back on the “empty’ carb calories that come from high sugar foods puts you on the right track of the HDL-LDL level in your body.
Regular Aerobic Exercise
Make exercise a priority now if you have been giving it a back seat till date. Every little effort you take counts and exercising is a tried and tested method of increasing HDL cholesterol over time. Regular aerobic exercise (any exercise, such as walking, jogging or cycling, that raises your heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes at a time) may be the most effective way to increase HDL levels.
Now that you know how to boost your HDL get started on your fitness track.