What is good and bad cholesterol?

Obese man with health issues

You might know that cholesterol is important to your health, but many are unsure as to what this actually means. The American Heart Association explains that low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is considered “bad” cholesterol. The high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is what’s considered “good” cholesterol. The combination of good and bad cholesterol adds up to create your total cholesterol count.

There’s a reason LDL is called “bad” cholesterol – when it circulates in the body, it can build up in artery walls. This blood feeds into the heart and brain where it can build up and narrow the arteries, which can lead to a clot, heart attack or stroke. On the flip side, “good” cholesterol can protect against heart attacks. Low levels of this HDL can increase the risk of heart disease.

Lowering bad cholesterol

Interested in lowering bad cholesterol? Certain foods can help. The Mayo Clinic suggests foods rich in fiber, as well as kidney beans, apples and pears. Fish like mackerel and herring, as well as nuts, can also do the trick. If you don’t want to hear your doctor warn you about your cholesterol levels, consider putting yourself on a low-cholesterol diet. The American Heart Association has an entire website with cooking tips for lower-cholesterol cooking and eating.

The first step to a low-cholesterol diet is reducing the saturated fat in the meat and poultry you’re serving. You can do this in a variety of ways, like selecting leaner cuts where you can’t visibly see as much fat. You can also trim the fat before you cook it, drain off the fat into a rack below while cooking, or remove the skin from chicken or turkey. Another tip? Sneak pureed fruits and veggies into baked goods – think applesauce in spice muffins. And substitute egg whites for whole eggs.

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