Good & Bad Cholesterol: What's the Difference?

by Joanna

So, you hear it all the time from your doctor, trainer, and the media to watch your cholesterol! But, what is cholesterol and how much do you really know about controlling it? Here are some helpful tidbits of information that can be useful when looking to keep your cholesterol under control.  

Cholesterol is a substance that is produced by the liver naturally in the body and can be found in certain types of foods. Cholesterol is used by the body to create vitamins and produce hormones. Remember cholesterol is not always bad; in fact our body needs it! The most well known types of cholesterol are LDL and HDL. A good way to remember it is LDL is low or lousy, and is a number that you want to get as low as you can. HDL is Happy or Healthy and is a number that you want to get as high as you can. HDL naturally does something remarkable in the body by seeking out that nasty LDL and gets rid of it! LDL can damage your blood vessels and eventually lead to a heart attack which can be fatal.  

It is important to have your cholesterol checked regularly by your doctor to make sure the levels are where they need to be. If your cholesterol levels are high it may be time to change your diet, start or change your exercise regimen, or begin prescription medication as directed by your doctor.    

Examples of foods that can have a negative effect on your cholesterol are:

  • Whole milk dairy products
  • Processed, fatty meats (Examples: Bacon  and Sausage)
  • Fast food fries (Not only do they raise your LDL , but can also lower your HDL at the same time)
    • Did you know that McDonald’s and Burger King sprinkle their fries with sugar to make them look more golden and give them a sweet taste?!
  • Tropical or Hydrogenated Oils (Example: Coconut Oil)
  • Baked goods (These, even homemade, are high in saturated fat)

On the flip side here are some examples of foods that can actually improve cholesterol:

  • Almonds (a ¼ cup a day can lower you LDL by 4%)
  • Oatmeal 
    • In January 1997, the Food and Drug Administration announced that oatmeal could carry a label claiming it may reduce the risk of heart disease when combined with a low-fat diet
  • Fish (Especially those high in Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and halibut)
  • Red wine (Contains flavanols that can help to lower cholesterol, it also can be found in dark cocoa yum chocolate, in moderation)
  • Soy (Tofu and milk) 

Aside from diet, aerobic exercise can also help to improve your cholesterol levels. It is recommended to participate in exercise that will burn between 800 and 1200 calories per week. Exercise will help to raise your HDL levels which in turn will aid in lowering your LDL cholesterol. Walking, running, swimming, and cycling are good examples of exercises that can be done at moderate intensity (which means working up a sweat) to help to lower your cholesterol values.  

According to Mayo Clinic, here are the values of the recommended numbers for your cholesterol:

  • Total cholesterol: Less than 200
  • HDL: Greater than 60
  • LDL: Less than 100

How is your cholesterol? Have you had it checked recently? This article contains facts about eggs and your cholesterol. Click here to see if your cholesterol can be too low.  


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