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Healthy vs. Unhealthy Cholesterol in Foods

Whenever you have a discussion about heart health, cholesterol levels are bound to come up. You will see headlines warning against high cholesterol levels, but what actually is cholesterol? What can you do in your daily life to decrease your chances of high cholesterol causing heart attack and stroke?

Bacon and eggs on plate show examples of healthy and unhealthy cholesterol in our diet. Huntington Heart Center logo at top center.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy component that flows through your bloodstream. There are two types of cholesterol – HDL which is good cholesterol and LDL which is bad cholesterol. High cholesterol levels can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular complications such as heart attack and stroke.

If there is a cholesterol imbalance where there is too little HDL or too much LDL, cholesterol will build up on artery walls and increase your risk of a cardiovascular complication. It is important to consult a doctor about your cholesterol levels and make the changes necessary to control them and decrease your risks.

How to Control Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol is one of the most controllable factors of your cardiovascular health. There are lifestyle decisions you can make to lower your cholesterol and manage your levels. For starters, you should quit smoking and maintain a healthy weight via regular exercising and a well-balanced, heart healthy diet.

What you eat has a big effect on your cholesterol levels. There are foods that contain the unhealthy kind of cholesterol and also foods that boost your levels of good cholesterol.

Foods that are bad for your cholesterol include:

  • Foods containing high levels of saturated and trans fats
  • Fatty meats, fried foods, dairy products
  • Processed meat and red meat
  • Baked goods with high sugars and shortening
  • Processed snacks
  • Potato chips, cookies, crackers, etc.

Foods that are good for your cholesterol include:

  • Eggs
  • High fiber foods
  • Fish
  • Salmon, tuna, trout, sardines
  • Fruits and vegetables (especially the skins)
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes

You can control your cholesterol by being a smart shopper and buying foods that are low in fat and processed ingredients. You may even want to pay closer attention to which foods contain high levels of unhealthy fats more than cholesterol. Choose lean meat over red meat, low fat dairy over full fat – little substitutions that greatly decrease bad cholesterol from entering your body.

The Bottom Line

A healthy lifestyle is key to managing your cholesterol levels. Talk to your doctor about getting your levels tested so you have the number to put a plan together on how to lower or maintain your levels. Eat healthy fats and high fibrous foods to properly fuel your body to fight against cholesterol buildup and complications later on.

Huntington Heart Center is a full-service cardiovascular practice that is committed to providing compassionate and individualized care to all of our patients. If you would like to talk to a cardiovascular specialist about your heart health, contact us today.