Increasing Good Cholesterol

CAROUSEL - Harry Reid and Rory Reid.
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Many people consider cholesterol a bad word, but not all cholesterols are created equal. In fact, High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is actually considered to be good for you.

The Saturday Early Show's Dr. Mallika Marshall provided some tips on how you can increase your HDL levels naturally.

HDL has been called "good cholesterol" because it can actually reduce plaque build-up in arteries. And there's evidence that low levels of HDL may increase the risk of heart disease, while high levels may reduce that risk. Marshall says a lot of people feel that when counseling people about cholesterol, it's more important to focus on the Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad cholesterol." But, she says improving the HDL certainly couldn't hurt.

Marshall provided the following tips on how to raise your HDL levels:

Avoid Saturated Fat
Saturated fats are one of the biggest contributors to cholesterol in the body. A diet high in saturated fat raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol. So, Marshall advises that you reduce the amounts of saturated fats you consume, such as those found in fatty meats, butter and whole-fat dairy products. Instead, choose good fats such as those found in fish or olive oil, which can actually improve cholesterol levels.

Eat Macadamia Nuts
Along with other tree nuts such as pecans and walnuts, macadamia nuts are chock full of good fats. Marshall says macadamia nuts, in general, have gotten a bad rap because they are incredibly high in fat -- about 88 percent of their calories are from fat -- but it's good fat. A recent study found that eating macadamia nuts can actually improve cholesterol levels.

Drink Alcohol in Moderation
There is some evidence to suggest that drinking wine, beer or liquor in moderation can increase levels of HDL cholesterol. "In moderation " means about a glass day. More than that can actually raise blood pressure and increase the risk for certain cancers, such as breast cancer in women. And, Marshall says if you don't drink now, you certainly shouldn't start just to try to raise your HDL. But it's something to keep in mind.

Take Calcium Supplements
A recent study found that post-menopausal women who took 1,000 mg of calcium a day were able to increase their HDL by about 7 percent. So, not only can calcium help protect bones, but it may also improve good cholesterol levels .

Do Strength Training Exercises
Studies have shown that exercise in general, especially in overweight people, can improve HDL levels. And there's some evidence that strength-training exercises that build muscle mass can also improve HDL.