What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a white, waxy substance made by the liver that is only found in animal products.

Is all cholesterol bad?

HDL or high-density lipoproteins are good for the heart. If above 50 mg/dL, they protect the heart by helping to clear plaque out of your arteries.

LDL or low-density lipoproteins are very bad for the heart. They should be under 130 mg/dL, or under 100 mg/dL if you are taking cholesterol-lowering medications. LDLs build artery-clogging plaque. You want to avoid consuming saturated fats and too many sweets. Saturated fat encourages the liver to produce extra cholesterol and a more dangerous form than the cholesterol found in foods. Saturated fat is the culprit in heart disease.

Do I need a breakdown of cholesterol, or is the total enough information?

Total cholesterol does not give you enough information. You must know how high the HDLs are and how low the LDLs are.

How can I lower my LDL (lousy) cholesterol?

• Low saturated-fat and cholesterol meal plan

• Lose weight if you need to

• Increase monounsaturated fats

• Increase soluble fiber

• Increase omega-3 fats

How can I increase my HDL (healthy) cholesterol?

• Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, bicycling five times a week for 45 minutes with the approval of your physician

• Weight loss if needed

• Soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy nuts, soy milk, soy cheese, textured vegetable protein)

• Garlic (roasted tastes great!)

• Foods containing the antioxidant resveratrol such as blueberries, red wine, red grapes, dark chocolate and peanuts

• Moderate alcohol intake (if approved by your doctor): one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men