Cholesterol is present in all cells of the body. It helps the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins more efficiently. It is needed in order to create bile, hormones and cell membranes, and it is also beneficial for the brain, nerves, muscles, skin, liver, intestines and heart. However, when the bad cholesterol levels rise too high, and the good cholesterol levels fall too low, serious health problems can arise.
The bad cholesterol is the low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and the good cholesterol is the high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Ideally, the HDL levels should be around 60 mg/dL, the LDL should be below 130 mg/dL, and the total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL.
The LDL cholesterol is produced and emitted from the liver, and it circulates in the body until it is eliminated, or it builds up along the walls of the arteries. The HDL cholesterol gathers up the LDL cholesterol and carries it away from the heart, and back to the liver to be eliminated from the body. Therefore raising the good cholesterol can essentially help to lower the bad cholesterol.
Avoid Unhealthy Fats
Unhealthy fats are saturated and trans-fats that not only contribute to high cholesterol, but many other diseases as well. Saturated fats are found in animal proteins, particularly in red meat, high fat-dairy and dairy products, as well as in eggs and in many processed foods. Trans-fats are present in many processed foods.
Studies show that by avoiding these foods, you can dramatically raise the good HDL cholesterol levels.
Foods high in sugar, especially refined sugar should also be avoided, as they can also interfere with cholesterol levels.
High Fiber Foods
High fiber foods are plant-based foods such as apples, oranges, peaches, pears, apricots, berries, cherries, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, yams, asparagus, legumes and oatmeal. The soluble fiber in those foods combines with the LDL cholesterol and removes it from the body before it can be absorbed. This naturally lowers the LDL levels, and raises the HDL levels.
Niacin Rich Foods
Niacin is also known as vitamin B3. It is produced as a prescription drug to help combat high cholesterol levels. It can also be found in certain plant based foods such as almonds, almond butter, peanuts, peanut butter, cashews, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, legumes, tofu, leafy greens, carrots, celery, peppers, yellow tomatoes, broccoli and asparagus.
The great thing about obtaining the niacin from plant-based foods, is that the dosages are in low amounts, and thus your body will not experience any negative side effects as a result of eating them. Niacin on the other hand has many side effects.
Essential Fatty Acids
Increasing your intake of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids can help to increase your HDL levels. A study done by Canadian researchers showed that when monounsaturated fats were added to a low carb vegetarian diet, the HDL levels were raised by 12% in only 2 months.
These essential fats can be found in avocados, sunflower oil and nuts and seeds.
Avoid or Reduce Stimulants
Avoid or at least reduce stimulants such as alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and sodas, as they too have an impact on the cholesterol.
Exercise has been shown to help reduce the LDL and raise the HDL. This is because it helps the body to eliminate toxins.
If you are overweight, then losing weight will help you to raise the good cholesterol, as being overweight has a direct effect on your cholesterol levels.