HDL: The Neglected Good Cholesterol

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By Dr. Antonella Grima

We are often all-too-aware about the foods that contain LDL – the bad cholesterol and we try to avoid them, religiously. However, most of us forget all about our ally – HDL, the good cholesterol – that mops LDL out of our arteries and keeps them clean and healthy, thus preventing problems such as heart disease or stroke.

By consuming foods that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, we help our body increase its HDL levels as well as keep inflammation, which plays a role in cardiovascular disease, at bay.

Here are a few foods that are packed with the good stuff:

Oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon are an excellent source of Omega 3 oils. Consuming oily fish once or twice a week instead of red meat or poultry is recommended.

Nuts, such as almonds and cashews, contain healthy oils as well as fibre, both playing a role in increasing the HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio in our bodies. Seeds, such as flax (linseeds), sunflower and pumpkin seeds are also a good source of healthy oils. These seeds can be sprinkled on your breakfast cereal, pasta or salad, giving it a tasty crunch.

Vegetable oils or spreads containing monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as rapeseed (or canola), olive, flax or sunflower should be used instead of butter or cream. When choosing oils, avoid those that are high in saturated fats (such as palm oil or coconut oil). When selecting vegetable spreads, go for brands that are free from harmful trans fats as these increase your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL.

In general, any product containing trans fats should be avoided. These include processed fried or baked foods, such as crisps, ready-made pies, pizza, biscuits and cakes. If you must consume these products, go for those that are clearly labelled as being free from trans fats.

Studies have shown that consuming fibre decreases the amount of LDL in our body. Excellent sources of fibre include oats, peas, beans and lentils, chickpeas, fruit and vegetables. Plant sterols and stanols are naturally found in plant-derived foods. They are also added to certain products, such as yoghurts, milk and spreads. These plant derivatives contribute towards lowering blood LDL and may also increase the level of blood HDL.

One should keep in mind that, although the food mentioned above is good for your health, it also contains calories and thus, like all other food, must be consumed in moderation to avoid weight gain.

Article as appeared on eve.com.mt on 12/04/2015

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