Cholesterol by itself is not a bad word. It’s a naturally occurring waxy substance that we all have and need. It’s produced by your body — mainly your liver — and circulated through your blood. There are a few types of cholesterol that are important to consider:
- LDL — This is the “bad” cholesterol. It contributes to plaque deposits that thicken the arteries, making them less flexible. Foods that tend to cause high LDL include fatty cuts of meat, full fat dairy products like milk, cream, cheese and yogurt, processed foods, fast food and butter.
- HDL — This is the “good” cholesterol. It removes LDL cholesterol from arteries and protects against heart attack and stroke. Foods that promote healthy cholesterol include olive oil, whole grains, nuts, beans and legumes.
- Triglycerides — This is a type of fat that stores excess energy from your diet. It contributes to your total cholesterol number and can be elevated by obesity, physical inactivity, smoke and alcohol and carbohydrate-rich diets.