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Q: What is the difference between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like chemical that is essential to the human body. Your liver makes roughly 80 percent of the cholesterol in your body. The rest comes from the foods in your diet, most commonly from saturated fats. Meat (including poultry and fish), eggs, and dairy products often contain more saturated fats, while plant-based foods do not.

Cholesterol travels through the body in the bloodstream. There are a few different types of cholesterol, but two that you hear about most often: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol. "Bad” LDL can build up in blood vessels and block blood flow, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The “good” HDL absorbs cholesterol and helps flush it out of the body.

Certain foods can help lower your bad cholesterol. To lower LDL, try oatmeal, beans, and whole grains such as barley. These foods contain soluble fiber, which helps remove cholesterol from your body. Limiting your dietary saturated fats can also help with your LDL. Other foods can help raise your good cholesterol. To boost your HDL, eat avocados and fatty fish like salmon, trout, or herring. Additionally, weight loss if you are overweight and aerobic activity (i.e., getting your heart rate up) can help lower your LDL and raise your HDL. As can decreasing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking.

You can find more information about diet and activity at If you have questions, reach out to your primary care provider to schedule an appointment. They can always go over individualized ways to help you reach your cholesterol and heart health goals.

Travis W. Glenn, MD

Family Medicine

Glenn Family Medicine, LLC
85 Maui Lani Parkway
Wailuku, , HI 96793