High density lipoproteins (HDL) and low density lipoproteins (LDL) are types of cholesterol made by the body. HDL is often referred to as good cholesterol and LDL as bad cholesterol. Researchers have shown that dietary intake plays a big role in reducing and/or controlling cholesterol levels. In addition to exercise or weight loss, eating low density lipoprotein foods such as nuts, whole grains, and good fats may help lower cholesterol.
Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans are low density lipoprotein foods. Components of these nuts are made into helpful omega-3 fatty acids by the body. Research links the consumption of only 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) of these nuts with a lower risk of coronary disease.
Whole grains are LDL foods, and the soluble fiber they contain is beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels. Oatmeal has the highest amount of soluble fiber compared to other whole grains. As oatmeal or oat bran is being digested, the soluble fiber turns into a gel-like substance. Scientists think that the cholesterol sticks to the gel in the gut and is prevented from being absorbed by the body.
Good fats are also low density lipoprotein foods and may be used in place of high cholesterol saturated fats such as lard or butter. Olive oil, a monounsaturated fat that is vitamin-E rich, has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol. These good fats should be used in moderation because they are very high in calories. In general, people need only 2 tablespoons of oil per day.
Sterols and stanols are components in oils, seeds, nuts, and other vegetables that have been shown to lower bad cholesterol up to 17%. According to the American Heart Association, those with high cholesterol should consume 2-3 grams of sterols and stanols every day. These compounds are routinely added to some LDL foods such as margarines, orange juice, granola bars, and cheese. There does not seem to be a preventative cardiac benefit when people with normal cholesterol eat foods with added sterols and stanols, however.
Eating foods with low density lipoproteins is important, but is not going to cure high cholesterol alone. In general, everyone should exercise and eat a balanced diet with plenty of low density lipoprotein foods such as fruits and vegetables. It is essential to lower fat consumption overall and saturated fat specifically. Choosing lean cuts of meat, or no meat at all, substituting brown rice for white rice, herbs and spices for cheese sauce, or using uncooked oatmeal in place of bread crumbs when making meatloaf are simple tricks that can help foster an overall healthy diet.