When you have high cholesterol, you may believe that the best diets for high cholesterol are always low fat and low carbohydrate. However, decreasing LDL/bad cholesterol and increasing HDL/good cholesterol is the goal of efficient diets that are capable of lowering overall cholesterol.
In this article, we shall first draw the distinction between good and bad cholesterol, since the diet you chose will affect any of these 2 cholesterol types.
Then you will discover the subtle difference between good and bad fats. Finally, you will find out the recommendation of foods and diets to consume for lower cholesterol levels.
Diet, HDL(good), LDL(bad) & Cholesterol Ratio
First of all, you need to understand that rather than looking at how high is your total cholesterol, you need to undestand LDL, HDL and cholesterol ratios.
LDL or the “bad” cholesterol, travels on the blood and tissues, and cells use it for various purposes e.g. to make sex hormones or gloss your skin and hair to enable it to cast off water. The balance deposits on the artery walls. (This is what causes clogged arteries over a period of time).
However, HDL or the “good” cholesterol travels through artery walls and finds excess cholesterol that tissues and cells didn’t use, gathers it up and takes it back to the liver where it is disposed of.
So, the more HDL “good” cholesterol you have the better it is, since this is the one that cleanses the arteries from bad cholesterol.
And that’s where cholesterol ratios come into play. The ratio is between your HDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. The lower your ratio and the higher your HDL, the better it is.
That’s why there are people that have low cholesterol levels but still get a heart attack because their HDL or “good” cholesterol is low as well, and as a result their ratio is high.
You should have your total cholesterol a little less then 4 times your HDL e.g. if your total cholesterol is 230 (which is on the high side) but your HDL or “good” cholesterol is 60 then your ratio is 3.8 which is good. The ratio of HDL to LDL and total cholesterol, is much more important then total cholesterol in predicting heart attack, heart disease, stroke, arteriosclerosis, coronary heart disease, coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
Having understood this, a diet to control high cholesterol need not necessarily be diets and foods low in cholesterol. You need to lower cholesterol, but the dilemma is that you need to lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol and not the good (HDL) one.
Diets for High Cholesterol – Are they Low Fat, Low Sugar/Carbohydrate?
What you need to understand is that even though a diet which may be low in fats, will lower cholesterol, but it may lower both: the good and the bad cholesterol. What you ideally need to do is: lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase good (HDL) cholesterol.
For example a high carbohydrate diet is not one of the best diets for high cholesterol and it is now very controversial because what happens is the total cholesterol lowers a little, but the HDL lowers more then the total cholesterol.
That means the ratios actually become more dangerous because there is less HDL per LDL then there was before consuming a high carbohydrate diet.
There’s also controversy in regards to a low fat diet, because in one study(1) a group of healthy people was put on saturated & polyunsaturated fat diet.
The results were that on the high polyunsaturated fat diet they did not have increase of total & LDL/bad cholesterol, as compared to a normal saturated fat diet.
The good news then is that eating polyunsaturated fats does not raise cholesterol levels. Plus in regards to diets for high cholesterol and foods high in cholesterol understand this.
The liver manufactures 80 percent of the cholesterol needed. The 20 other percent comes from the foods we eat.
So, when you eat foods high in cholesterol, they are can be considered part of diets for high cholesterol, since your liver will cut down manufacturing it. It means, that eating high cholesterol foods is not that harmful as compared to high carbohydrate and saturated fat diets.
You should avoid saturated fats from your diet. Saturated fat causes the liver to produce more harmful cholesterol.
Saturated fat also raises triglyceride levels and thickens the blood. Whenever consuming fat foods such as junk food, cream sauces and desserts, try to choose polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats.
Seafood, for example you may not consider as part of diets for high cholesterol since it contains cholesterol. But it also contains the protective polyunsaturated fats that cause the liver to produce less harmful cholesterol and more protective HDL cholesterol.
And a final word. Fruits and vegetables are a safe bet, as mostly they are part of a diet to lower cholesterol. When you choose your food, eat 2/3 from vegetables and fruits and 1/3 other foods.
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(1) The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism April 1, 2004 vol. 89 no. 4 1641-1645