Mediterranean diet & Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in all the cells in your body. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. Cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as egg yolks, meat, and cheese.

What are HDL, LDL, and VLDL?
HDL, LDL, and VLDL are lipoproteins. They are a combination of fat (lipid) and protein. The lipids need to be attached to the proteins so they can move through the blood. Different types of lipoproteins have different purposes:

  1. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. It is sometimes called "good" cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body.
  2. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. It is sometimes called "bad" cholesterol because a high LDL level leads to the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
  3. VLDL stands for very low-density lipoprotein. Some people also call VLDL a "bad" cholesterol. But VLDL and LDL are different; VLDL mainly carries triglycerides and LDL mainly carries cholesterol.

Cause of High Cholesterol

The most common cause of high cholesterol is an unhealthy lifestyle. This can include

  1. Unhealthy eating habits, such as eating lots of bad fats. One type, saturated fat, is found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods. Another type, trans fat, is in some fried and processed foods. Eating these fats can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  2. Lack of physical activity, with lots of sitting and little exercise. This lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol.
  3. Smoking, which lowers HDL cholesterol, especially in women. It also raises your LDL cholesterol.

High cholesterol problems

  1. This can cause a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow in a coronary artery.
  2. If the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle is reduced or blocked, it can cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
  3. Plaque also can build up in other arteries in your body, including the arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your brain and limbs. This can lead to problems such as carotid artery disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is a good place to start. It is associated with better cholesterol and overall health. Start incorporating the following Mediterranean-style and HDL-friendly foods into your daily diet. Here is the list-

Olive oil

The type of heart-healthy fat found in olives and olive oil can lower the inflammatory impact of LDL cholesterol on your body. Use extra-virgin olive oil instead of other oils and fats when cooking at low temperatures, since extra-virgin olive oil breaks down at high temperatures. Use extra-virgin olive oil in salad dressings, sauces, and to flavor cooked foods. Sprinkle chopped olives on salads or add them to soups, like this Sicilian fish soup.

Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes are a great source of soluble fiber. Reach for black beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, and others. Canned beans contain about half as much folate as cooked dry beans. Folate is an important B vitamin that are healthy for your heart. Beans and legumes are great in side dishes, like in a Cajun corn and kidney bean salad, or in soup, like this Italian-style white bean and kale soup.

Whole grains

Whole grains, including bran, cereals, and brown or wild rice, may lower your LDL and total cholesterol. This in turn gives your HDL levels a boost. Because these foods contain fiber — specifically soluble fiber, which is shown to help lower LDL. Have at least two servings of whole grains per day.

High-fiber fruit

Fruits with a lot of fiber, such as prunes, apples, and pears, can lower your LDL level, and raise your HDL level. Slice them up and stir them into cereal or oatmeal, or throw them into your blender and create a delicious smoothie. They’re just as great plain, too, either as a mid-afternoon snack or an after-dinner treat.

Fatty fish

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, can lower your LDL. Look for fattier options, such as:
  1. salmon
  2. mackerel
  3. albacore tuna
  4. sardines
  5. rainbow trout
Aim for two servings of fish per week.


Ground flax seeds and flax seed oil also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Many vegetarians use flax seed as a source of omega-3 fatty acids because they are one of the better plant-based sources of this heart-healthy fat. Ground flax seed can be sprinkled onto your morning cereal, oatmeal, salads, dips, or yogurt, or added to baked goods. Flax seed oil is a welcome addition to salad dressings or smoothies.


Nuts, including Brazil nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, and others, are filled with heart-healthy fats. They are also high in fiber and contain a substance called plant sterols. Plant sterols block the absorption of cholesterol in your body. Eat an ounce or two for a snack or incorporate them into meals. Try this banana and walnut smoothie for a nutritious breakfast, or steam-sauteed green beans with almonds and parsley for an easy but elegant side dish.

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and other healthy nutrients. Adding chia seeds to your diet may help lower LDL levels and decrease blood pressure. Like flax seeds, chia seeds are great when added to cereal, oatmeal, dips, salads, yogurt, or smoothies.


The food world’s new favorite fruit is also one of the healthiest. Avocados are high in folate and monounsaturated fat. This healthy type of fat lowers LDL and reduces your risk for stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. They are also filled with fiber, which naturally helps keep cholesterol in check. Add slices of avocado to salads, soups, chilies, or sandwiches. Guacamole is a great option, too. Just be sure to reach for low-calorie dippers, like carrots, radishes, and tomatoes, instead of high-calorie, high-salt tortilla chips.


Soy-based products are not only for vegetarians. Incorporating this food into your diet is a great way to reduce your meat consumption. When people eat less meat, their LDL levels will most likely decrease, and their HDL levels will most likely increase.

Red wine

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, including red wine, has been shown to slightly raise HDL levels. It is also been shown to lower your risk of heart disease. A moderate amount of alcohol is defined as just one glass per day for women and two glasses per day for men. Also, other foods such as grapes or red grape juice may contain some of the same components found in red wine that are suggested to reduce the risk of heart disease. Talk with your doctor about your drinking habits and whether they put you at an increased risk for any other condition.

Improve Cholesterol in other ways


Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol. With your doctor's suggestion, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week.
Adding physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight. Consider:
  1. Taking a brisk daily walk during your lunch hour
  2. Riding your bike to work
  3. Playing a favorite sport
To stay motivated, consider finding an exercise buddy or joining an exercise group.

Quit smoking

Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level. The benefits occur quickly:
  1. Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike
  2. Within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve
  3. Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker

Lose weight

Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Small changes add up. If you drink sugary beverages, switch to tap water. Snack on air-popped popcorn or pretzels — but keep track of the calories. If you crave something sweet, try sherbet or candies with little or no fat, such as jelly beans. Look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office. Take walks during breaks at work. Try to increase standing activities, such as cooking or doing yard-work.


I hope this article has helped you. I hope you have a better understanding of what things you should eat or not. 

Post a Comment


  1. This is very helpful! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. The section about nuts is the highlight. There is a myth that nuts cause cholesterol.
    Also, do coconut oil . It is wrongly blamed for high cholesterol

  3. Clear idea about good and bad cholesterol is still unknown to Many.... thanks for highlighting this point.

  4. That’s amazing... very informative

  5. Thank u for sharing the benefits of exercise n diet