“Good” cholesterol are made up of lipoproteins that act as cholesterol scavengers. They pick up excess cholesterol in your blood, take it back to your liver where it’s broken down, and therefore protect against the accumulation of potentially dangerous plaque on artery walls. While some of us have higher or lower levels of HDLs (high-density lipoproteins) in our blood determined by our genetics, there are also diet and lifestyle factors that can impact our levels of high cholesterol. Here are 4 simple substitutions you can make to increase your HDLs or lower LDLs (low density lipoproteins) and keep your heart healthy.
1. Replace red meat with fish
This might seem like a difficult swap to make at first but omega-3 rich fish like salmon, sardines, and herring have been shown in studies to increase HDL in the short and the long-term. Current recommendations suggest you aim for two servings of fish a week, but start with one if you are new to fish. You can experiment with various ways of preparing it so it appeals to your taste buds, and use healthy oils (olive oil, canola oil) instead of butter to double up on the healthy benefits.
2. Replace refined carbs with good fats
The most effective way to increase HDL levels is to replace refined carbs (found in soda, white breads, and pasta) and saturated fats in your diet with healthy fats, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. These include avocado, fish, nuts (and nut butters), and seeds. Many people assume that eating a low-fat diet is the best thing to for the heart, but in fact a heart-healthy diet contains between 25 and 35 percent of total daily calories from fat. The trick is the quality of the fats you choose, aim for less than 7 percent of saturated fat per day.
3. Replace fruit-flavored beverages with cranberry juice
Instead of gulping down a fruit-flavored beverage, opt for a glass of cranberry juice. It gives your blood lots of disease-fighting antioxidants and can raise your HDL levels. Drinking a few cups of cranberry juice daily can raise your ‘good’ cholesterol by 10 percent and reduce heart disease by 40 percent. Plant compounds called polyphenols are believed to be responsible for this encouraging effect since they will help relax your arteries.
4. Incorporate walnuts, almonds and other nuts into your diet
Walnuts, almonds and other nuts can reduce LDL blood cholesterol. Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, walnuts also help keep blood vessels healthy.
Eating about a handful (1.5 ounces) a day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts, may reduce your risk of heart disease. Just make sure the nuts you eat aren’t salted or coated with sugar.
All nuts are high in calories, so a handful will do. To avoid eating too many nuts and gaining weight, replace foods high in saturated fat with nuts. For example, instead of using cheese, meat or croutons in your salad, add a handful of walnuts or almonds.