We look at foods that boost your levels of HDL – the so-called ‘good’ cholesterol that can lessen your chances of a heart attack or stroke.
Beans and lentils
All types of beans – from chick peas to lentils and even plain old baked beans – can help to boost your levels of good cholesterol. One study, by the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, showed eating a cup of cooked dried beans a day suppressed bad cholesterol by 20 per cent.
Many studies now show that oats help to reduce the amounts of bad cholesterol in the body and boost good HDL cholesterol levels. This is because oats contain something called beta glucans, a fibre that dissolves and sticks to the walls of the intestine. This interferes with the absorption of bad cholesterol. It is thought that oats have the best effect on people who have high levels of bad cholesterol already.
Garlic and onions
A series of studies have linked compounds contained in garlic with lowering bad cholesterol in the body and boosting good cholesterol. One study, from Bastyr College in Seattle, showed that eating three fresh cloves of garlic a day reduce bad cholesterol by seven per cent and boosted good cholesterol by 23 per cent in a month.
A study from Harvard Medical School also showed that eating half a raw onion raised good cholesterol by 30 per cent. But the more onions are cooked, the more they lose this quality.
Fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel and herring contain an active ingredient called omega-3 fatty acids which has been proven to boost levels of good cholesterol.
Although olive oil is a fat it is a monounsaturated fat which has been shown to both reduce bad cholesterol and boost good cholesterol. A study by the University of California has shown that olive oil works to stop oxidisation of bad cholesterol, and so prevents it from sticking to artery walls.
Avocados also contain monounsaturated fats. Researchers in Israel have discovered that people who ate avocados every day for three months dramatically cut their levels of LDLs.
Fruit and vegetables containing vitamins C and E
Vitamin C protects good cholesterol and both vitamins C and E stop bad cholesterol from sticking to the body’s artery walls. Vitamin C diminishes as it is cooked or if it is stored for too long so raw fruit and vegetables containing vitamin C such as oranges, strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli and grapefruit are ideal.
Several studies have shown that alcohol – particularly red wine – can boost levels of good cholesterol. It is thought this is linked to antioxidants in red grapes which help prevent bad cholesterol from becoming oxidised and therefore from sticking to the artery walls. The ideal amount to have is one unit of alcohol a day. Medics warn that in excess alcohol can increase conditions such as high blood pressure and liver disease.
A study from Japan found that men who drank green tea had high levels of good cholesterol and low levels of bad cholesterol in their blood. This is thought to be linked to antioxidant compounds in tea called flavonoids. Researchers claim two or three cups of black or green tea a day, either caffeinated or decaffeinated should benefit your cholesterol levels.
Many people avoid shellfish because they believe it contains high levels of cholesterol. In fact, although shellfish does contain cholesterol it is not the cholesterol in food, but that fat in food that can cause high levels of bad cholesterol in the body.
Shellfish is low in fat and a study from America has now shown that shellfish boosts good cholesterol in the blood. Oysters, clams and muscles are thought to be the most beneficial of all shellfish for boosting levels of good cholesterol.
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