Friday, September 4, 2009

Feature Friday - Raising Your HDL Levels

With healthcare reform being debated in Washington, the words "preventative measures" are being thrown around with a fervency.

Unfortunately, with the increasing prevalence of heart disease, we are having to take a long hard look at what we put in our bodies and the result it is currently having, or will have on our heart in the future.

Obviously, cholesterol is a key component in coronary care. HDL, often refereed to as "the good cholesterol," is part of that preventative care I referenced earlier. Physicians want their patients to increase their HDL score. In fact, your risk of heart disease drops 2-3 percent each time you add a point to your HDL score.

How can you increase your levels?

Luckily, research has shown you can take an active role in this process by eating the right foods (and one is even chocolate)!

First, take a nice delicious bite of Dark Chocolate. Now, I can be a bit of a chocolate snob but in this case, gourmet chocolate is best for everyone because it is 70% cacao. Recently, a study was conducted in which participants ate 3.5 ounces every day for a week and consequently raised their HDL by 9 percent. Now, those people may have helped their HDL score, but I'm sure their waistlines also increased. The important thing to remember is dark chocolate will benefit you in the long run. So there is no need to scarf down 3.5 ounces every day. Rather, eat a small amount (1/2ounce) each day over an extended period of time and you will see the same benefits...minus the added inch around your girth.

Next, go to your local fish market (or grocery store for those non-coastal readers) and order a fillet of Salmon. I know, it is a fish you either love or hate. Learn to love it and your HDL will rise significantly. In fact, Loma Linda University recently conducted a study that revealed people who eat two 4-ounce servings a week for four weeks increased their HDL by 4 percent! In the event that you can't stomach a bite of salmon, other fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines and herring should deliver the same results. We all have food we didn't like as kids...remember hiding the broccoli under the potato skin? What about when you fed the dog your spinach or lima beans? But no matter what trick we had up our sleeve, mom always made us eat it because "It was good for us." Well, insert that philosophy here and you could see yourself living a few extra years thanks to that salmon!

What is the next beneficial food? Berries! I know people who eat Cheerios each morning. Great, now put blueberries on top and your HDL could rise as much as 5 percent! Berries come in both fresh and frozen fashion and the kind you prefer matters not. As long as you eat about a cup of frozen berries each day you will see a significant improvement. There are a number of recipes using berries, so have fun with this food. Snack on frozen blueberries on a humid summer day. Make a berry smoothie for breakfast. Just eat the berries!

Lastly, enjoy your morning Eggs! I am not advocating that you eat 3 eggs every day. However, eggs are rich in lecithin - which studies have shown raises HDL. Amazingly, a study performed in Thailand followed a group of healthy adults as they consumed one whole egg every day for 12 weeks. Interested to know how much their HDL increased? A whopping 48 percent!

Heart health is something that has touched so many people, be it directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, there is much we can't do because genetics play such a role in this often deadly disease. However, we can take it upon ourselves to be aware of beneficial foods that may help stave off coronary disease. Do your part to help yourself!

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