Good Fats for Great Cholesterol

Have you been informed by your doctor that you have high cholesterol? Does high cholesterol run in your family? If so, good news is on the horizon! Time to add some sunflowerseeds, olives, and hazelnuts to your diet. New Research suggests that increasing the amount of monounsaturated fat in your diet can help improve your good cholesterol, also known as HDL.

A recent randomized trial published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal sought to determine the effect of increasing the amount of monounsaturated fat on those with high cholesterol.  24 people received 1 of 2 diets for 4 weeks: one in which monounsaturated fat content was high (about 1/4 of total calories), or the other in which monounsaturated fat was low.  Both diets were low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and vegetarian.  The food sources used in the high monounsaturated fat group were sunflower oil with the option of avocado to substitute for a portion of the oil.

At the end of the four week trial, those in the high monounsaturated fat group had significantly higher HDL levels, and improved ratios of total cholesterol to HDL.  Both of these markers are important risk factors for heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.  In fact, HDL levels were 12.5% higher in the high monounsaturated fat group.  Total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels were not significantly different between the groups.

However, with only 24 participants, the results of this study will need to be replicated to be taken seriously. Also, participants consumed pre-made and delivered foods of which the calorie/nutrient content had previously been analyzed by dietitians.  Most people do not eat in such a controlled manner, so following this diet in real life is unrealistic.

It is important to note that the effect of the distribution of calories from fat reflected in this experimental diet has not been assessed long term. The American Heart Association recommends that total fat compromise 25-35% of your total daily calories, with saturated fat accounting for no more than 7% of total calories.  Increasing the amount of monounsaturated fat in your diet, particularly when it replaces saturated fat, is part of an overall healthy diet.  In general plant oils, nuts, and seeds are rich in monounsaturated fats.

Power List  foods that are good sources of monounsaturated fats are:

  • Avocado
  • Olive Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Olives
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Flaxseed

For more information on cholesterol lowering diets, see here. For more on heart health, look here.

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