Cholesterol: 10 Ways to Boost 'Good' Cholesterol (cont.)

3. Glycemic Load. The glycemic load is basically a ranking of how much a standard serving of a particular food raises your blood sugar. And as the glycemic load in your diet goes up, HDL cholesterol appears to go down, according to a small recent study. Along these lines, the NCEP report recommends that most of our carbohydrate intake come from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fat-free and low-fat dairy products. These foods tend to be on the lower end of the glycemic scale.

4. Choosing Better Fats. Replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats can not only help reduce levels of "bad" cholesterol, it may also increase levels of "good" cholesterol, according to the Food & Fitness Advisor newsletter from Cornell University's Center for Women's Healthcare.

5. Soy. Add heart health to the list of potential benefits from soy. A recent analysis found that soy protein, plus the isoflavones found in soy "raised HDL levels 3%, which could reduce coronary heart disease risk about 5%," says Mark Messina, PhD, a nationally known soy expert. Messina notes that soy also may lead to a small reduction in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (another type of blood fat), and a possible enhancement in blood vessel function. Other studies have shown a decrease in LDL cholesterol (about 3%) and triglycerides (about 6%) with about three servings of soy a day. That adds up to 1 pound of tofu, or three soy shakes.

6. Enough Time. Make sure you give soy some time. An analysis of 23 studies on soy found that improvements in HDL cholesterol were only seen in those studies lasting longer than three months.

7. Alcohol in Moderation. Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, especially with meals, appears to do two things to help reduce heart disease risk. According to researcher Byung-Hong Chung, PhD, it increases HDL cholesterol levels, and enhances the movement of cholesterol deposits out of cells in the artery walls.

8. Aerobic exercise. At least 30 minutes on most days of the week is the exercise prescription that can help raise your HDL, according to many health care professionals.

9. Stopping smoking. Experts agree that kicking the habit can increase your HDL numbers a bit, too.

10. Losing weight. Being overweight or obese contributes to low HDL cholesterol levels, and is listed as one of the causes of low HDL, according to the NCEP.

Published November 2005.

SOURCES: Environmental Nutrition, December 2005. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005; vol 81; February 2005; September 2003; May 2003; and November 2000. Final Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults) September 2002. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment, Health & Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, August 2005. Food & Fitness Advisor, Cornell University Center for Women's Healthcare, September 2002. Prediman K. Shah MD, director of cardiology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. Michael Poon, MD, chief of cardiology, Cabrini Medical Center, New York. Mark Messina, PhD, adjunct associate professor, Nutrition Department, Loma Linda University; president, Nutrition Matters. Byung-Hong Chung, PhD, nutrition science professor emeritus, University of Alabama.

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