What Is HDL?HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is a protective form of cholesterol. When your HDL is high (60 mg/dl or higher is considered desirable for both men and women), your risk of heart attack or heart disease is lower. When your HDL is low (for women less than 50 mg/dl, for men less than 40 mg/dl), your chances of having a heart attack or heart disease are increased.
Don't be afraid to try new foods. You may discover something you really enjoy! Here are five delicious foods for a higher HDL:
1. AVOCADOGreat on salads, in sandwiches, and in homemade guacamole dip, the avocado is a good source of monounsaturated "good" fat. In one study of an avocado-enriched diet, subjects with high cholesterol increased their HDL 11% after only 1 week.
Preparation Tip: Avocados have 235 calories per cup (146 g), so portion control is key. For a delicious "California-style" sandwich, try ½ of an avocado with lettuce, tomato and onion in a medium-size, whole grain pita. Add a squeeze of lemon and one tablespoon of flavored hummus (horseradish, lemon, or garlic) for an added kick.
2. LEGUMESLegumes such as peas, beans, soybeans and lentils are excellent sources of HDL-friendly soluble fiber.
Preparation Tip: Indian spices (cumin, nutmeg, paprika, turmeric) are a tasty addition to lentil soups. Research shows these spices may have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, which may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. NIACIN-CONTAINING FOODSNiacin (vitamin B3) is believed to block cholesterol production in the body. Although niacin in prescription supplement form appears to be most effective on increasing HDL, it may have side effects such as flushing, itching and headache, so you may want to consider adding niacin-containing foods to your diet first. Niacin is found in high concentrations in crimini mushrooms, chicken breast, halibut, tomato, romaine lettuce, enriched breads and cereals.
Preparation Tip: Sautéed crimini mushrooms are a delightful complement to any meal. You can also grill them and use as a fantastic filler for chicken or seafood kabobs.
4. OATMEALCountless research studies have shown that regular consumption of oats aids in reducing total cholesterol and LDL ("bad" cholesterol), but does not lower your HDL cholesterol.
Preparation Tip: Adding ground cinnamon and ½ an ounce of walnuts (7 shelled halves) makes an oatmeal breakfast even more heart-healthy.
5. SALMONThis fish, and other high-omega-3 options such as halibut herring, lake trout, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, should be eaten 2 times a week, according to the American Heart Association. A serving is considered 3.5 ounces cooked.
Preparation Tip: A chopped almond crust adds even more omega-3s to any fish meal.
Keep in mind that dietary changes go hand in hand with lifestyle choices for healthy cholesterol levels. Aerobic exercise, weight loss and avoiding smoking all contribute to higher HDL cholesterol levels. Remember that several small changes can add up to big results.
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