I wonder what type of foods I can consume to lower my bad cholesterol.

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I am a 20-year-old male and I am currently wondering what type of foods I can consume to help lower my bad cholesterol because I am constantly seeing commercials about this topic, and would love a legitimate answer!

You would be young to have high cholesterol in your blood unless you have a genetic cause. Has your doctor tested your blood and found that your LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins) cholesterols are high?

If s/he did say you have high blood cholesterol, then ask to speak to a dietitian.  If no, then I would not recommend going on a nutrition therapy to lower cholesterol unless your doctor recommends it.

Either way, I applaud you for wanting to prevent high cholesterol in your blood which increases the risk of the build-up of fatty deposits (plaque) in your arteries leading to a heart attack (in or around heart muscle) or stroke (in the brain). Many of the factors that cause high blood cholesterol are lifestyle caused such as eating fatty foods, excess body weight, and leading a sedentary life. You are young enough to make some lifestyle changes and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke later in life.

Your liver also makes cholesterol and your body uses it to make many substances including some hormones (testosterone and estrogen), vitamin D sunlight receptors under your skin, and bile that is made in your liver then stored in your gallbladder. When you eat fat, seeds or skins, your body secretes bile into your intestines to disperse fat you ate so your body can absorb fatty acids into your lymph system. Your body wraps fats in a protein coat (lipoprotein) so they can be absorbed into the blood.  Fat (absorbed from food) and water (blood) don’t mix well.

If your doctor has tested your blood cholesterol, it is also important to know what your HDL (high-density lipoproteins) cholesterol and triglyceride levels are. HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol because your liver recycles it into bile which transports it out of the body. You can increase your blood levels with exercise. Triglycerides in the blood are increased by any alcohol you drink or sugary foods (candy, desserts, ice cream, etc.). So it is not good to have high triglycerides either.

LDL and VLDH cholesterol can be lowered by eating less solid fats like butter, coconut oil, and palm oil. Food manufactures add coconut or palm oil to processed foods because it solid at room temperature as opposed to olive or peanut oil. Contrary to popular beliefs, some vegetable sources of fats are saturated like coconut and palm oils as well as macadamia nuts. An easy way to tell a saturated fat is they are solid at room temperature much like the fat marbeling in meat.

Lean meats, low-fat or fat-free dairy (milk, yogurt, cheeses) will help to lower your cholesterol. Healthy fats are liquid at room temperature. Choose olive and peanut oil, Canola, tree nuts, and avocado for healthy fats to add to a meal. Egg yolks which contain cholesterol are not a bad food as previously reported in the press.

If you are overweight, then you should slowly lose weight to reach a healthy weight for your height. If you need more information on losing weight, read my overweight topic.

If you mostly sit or stand, move more.  Plan to get 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Enough to break a sweat. If overweight, up that to 60 minutes, 5 days a week.

Unfortunately, your genes may predispose you to high blood cholesterol if either of your parents had high cholesterol or heart disease.

If you smoke, then quit as it will make your artery walls harder and less flexible.  Your blood vessels need to expand and contract depending on exercise, ambient temperature, blood loss, and many other factors. The effects of smoking after quitting can reduce to the risk level of someone who has never smoked.

If you would like to read more about high blood cholesterol, here is some information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that explains cholesterol in more detail. Also, check out Harvard Medical School’s information on cholesterol.