Good Cholesterol Vs Bad Cholesterol: Understanding the Difference and Staying Healthy
Most people associate the word ‘cholesterol’ with obesity, ill-health, and increased risk of heart attack. Whilst it’s certainly true that some forms of cholesterol can spell bad news for your health, it’s important to know that not all cholesterols are the same. In fact, some actually offer significant health benefits.
If you’re confused, here’s a helpful guide to break it down.
‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Cholesterol: What Are They?
Cholesterol can be found naturally within the body, and we also obtain it from certain foods. It can’t be dissolved in the blood, and instead has to be moved through the bloodstream by lipoproteins, a type of fatty substance.
- Bad Cholesterol. ‘Bad’ cholesterol has an official name, and this is Low Density Lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL. This substance is what is responsible for approximately 50% of all heart attacks in the UK. It contributes to the build-up of plaque, which is a hard deposit that clogs up arteries, restricting the flow of blood around the body.
- Good Cholesterol. This type of cholesterol, also known as HDL or High Density Lipoprotein cholesterol, actually helps to remove ‘bad’ cholesterol from the arteries. According to the American Heart Association, it acts as a type of scavenger, transporting ‘bad’ cholesterol to the liver, where it can be broken down safely.
If you would like to find out more, listen to Dr Chris talking about this subject on the video below.
Cholesterol and Saturated Fats
LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol doesn’t necessarily need to be avoided entirely, but it should be limited within your diet, in order to maintain healthy arteries and reduce the risk of heart disease.
The most common types of food to contain ‘bad’ cholesterol are those high in saturated fats. Nutritionist Carina Norris states: “Saturated fats have a more dramatic effect on our cholesterol levels, because they raise levels of LDL.”
The official daily allowance of cholesterol is 300mg or less. However, this figure is largely unhelpful, as most people don’t know what this equates to, in terms of food. To give some idea, 30g of cheddar cheese contains around 19mg, and an egg contains approximately 213mg.
Men should aim to eat 27g or less of saturated fats per day, and women should aim for 22g or less. Foods high in saturated fats include: red meats, high fat dairy foods such as cream and butter, hard cheeses, not to mention many ‘sweet’ treats, such as ice cream, biscuits and cakes.
Boosting Good Cholesterol
There are number of foods that are believed to offer considerable health benefits when it comes to boosting levels of HDL cholesterol. Here are just a few:
- Oily fish. Oily fish, such as tuna and salmon, contain Omega-3, which many scientific studies have proved to be useful in lowering cholesterol in the body.
- Beans. According to a study undertaken at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, eating just one cup of cooked beans per day reduced LDL cholesterol by 20%.
- Onions and garlic. According to a study from Harvard Medical School, eating half a raw onion a day boosted levels of ‘good’ cholesterol by as much as 30%. Another study revealed that eating three fresh cloves of garlic a day lowered ‘bad’ cholesterol by 7% and increased ‘good’ cholesterol by 23% over the course of a month.
- Oatmeal. The soluble fibre in oats or oatmeal can help bad cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream.
- Olive Oil. Research has shown that a heart healthy Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil can be beneficial.
Concerned About Cholesterol?
If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor. If you’re aged from 40 to 75, you’re entitled to a free cholesterol test within the NHS.