Good and Bad Cholesterol

Everyone is aware that cholesterol is bad for you – right? Actually, that is only half right. There are two kinds of cholesterol: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL cholesterol is typically thought of as “bad” cholesterol while HDL cholesterol is “good”. When you have cholesterol blood levels drawn, your healthcare provider wants your LDL to be low and your HDL to be high. This combination of lab values will help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. This article will explain on what good and bad cholesterol are and how you can balance them.

Good and Bad Cholesterol

Cholesterol is made in the liver in the human body and is in many of the foods we eat. “Bad” cholesterol causes occlusion of arteries while “good” cholesterol transports the “bad” cholesterol out of the arteries.

Bad Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) builds up on the walls of arteries to form the plaque that makes the arteries narrow and hardened. This narrowing of the arteries can lead to formation of clots resulting in stroke or heart attack. The LDL cholesterol plaque can also break away from the artery wall and move into the heart or brain directly causing a heart attack or stroke.

Good Cholesterol

About 1/4 to 1/3 of blood cholesterol is carried by good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL). Because of its tendency to carry cholesterol out of the arteries and back to the liver, the HDL proteins seem to protect against heart disease and heart attacks, reducing the risk of arterial plaque and buildup.

Comparison Chart

Bad Cholesterol (LDL)

Good Cholesterol (HDL)


Low Density Lipoprotein can accumulate in the arteries. High LDL can cause heart problems.

High Density Lipoprotein helps transport cholesterol to liver for excretion


Transports cholesterol to arteries and tissues. Walls of arteries thin and cholesterol causes clot leading to occlusion of artery and heart attack

Transports cholesterol away from arteries and tissues. Cleans the LDL out of arteries to help prevent occlusion

Normal Level

Less than 2.6 mmol/Liter

Greater than 1.55 mmol/Liter


Foods high in trans-fatty acids (white flour, sugar, egg yolks, kidney, dairy products, fried food)

Foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseed oil, fish,) and foods high in fiber (oats, bran, grains)

How to Raise Good Cholesterol Level and Lower Bad Cholesterol Level

1. Eat the Right Fats

First of all, you should know the recommended daily intake of cholesterol. You should limit your daily dietary cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg and if you have diabetes, or other heart disease, the limit should be less than 200 mg.

In general, you should eat fats in moderation. When you do eat fats, be sure to choose the “good” fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and avoid the “bad” fats (trans fats and saturated fats). Examples of the good and bad fats are in the table below.

Good Fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature

Canola oil

Nuts (almonds, pecans, peanuts, walnuts ect.)

Corn oil

Peanut butter

Olive oil and olives


Peanut oil

All kinds of seeds

Safflower oil

Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, herring, sardines)

Soy oil

Soy milk

Sunflower oil


Bad Fats

Saturated and trans fats are usually solid or semi-solid at room temperature

Pre-packaged snack foods (popcorn and chips)

Commercial pastries, cookies, pizza dough

High fat dairy milk or cream

Coconut or palm oil



Ice Cream


Stick margarine

High fat beef, lamb or pork

Candy bars

Skin of Chicken

Vegetable shortening

Any fried foods

Video: 7 Cholesterol Lowering Foods You Should Eat

2. Raise High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)

Increase your HDL level by doing four life-style changes.

For every six pounds you lose, your HDL level will increase. The trick to losing weight is to burn more calories each day that you eat. Each pound is equivalent to about 3500 calories burned. Unless your diet is being managed by your healthcare provider, weight loss should happen slowly and steadily at a rate of about 2 pounds each week. This means you will need to burn about 1000 more calories each day than you eat.

In addition to cutting some calories, exercise will help burn the calories. It is estimated that with moderate exercise five times each week, you can increase your good cholesterol by 5% within two months. Before starting any exercise program, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that you can safely exercise.

The good news is, you do not have to stop drinking alcohol to increase your HDL. In fact, research shows that drinking one drink a day (particularly red wine) may increase your HDL.

In addition to all the other health reasons to quit smoking, it has been shown that tobacco use actually decreases the good cholesterol in your blood.

3. Lower Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)

As important as it is to raise your HDL cholesterol, it is also important to lower your LDL.

Drink plenty of water and green tea and avoid sugar and caffeinated beverages. Water will help wash out the LDL; substances in green tea will help decrease the bad cholesterol.

The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet was created to lower LDL levels. This diet should contain about 1800 calories per day for women and 2500 for men. Less than 7% of your calories should be through saturated fats and most of your calories should consist of lean meats, fish, lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Dietary consumption of cholesterol should be less than 200 milligrams each day.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe higher than normal doses of niacin. This B vitamin will help lower your LDL and raise your HDL. If this does not help, your doctor may prescribe one of the fibrates to help lower your cholesterol. One of the best classes of drugs for lowering your LDL are the statins. These drugs may help lower your LDL by about 50% by aiding your liver in absorbing excess cholesterol out of your bloodstream.

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