Because cholesterol and triglycerides cannot dissolve in blood and travel on their own, they are transported by special molecules called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are made up of protein and fat and their job is to haul cholesterol and triglycerides to locations in the body. Cholesterol is sometimes called a fat, but in reality it is a special kind of alcohol. Cholesterol is insoluble in blood; therefore, it is transported in the circulatory system within carriers called lipoproteins (packages of fat and protein). There are many different types of lipoproteins within the blood; the two most abundant types are the high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and the low-density lipoproteins (LDL). The cholesterol within all the various lipoproteins is identical.
HDL is ‘good’, carrying cholesterol away from the arteries. Many call HDL the "good" cholesterol because it takes old cholesterol that has been discarded by cells from the arteries back to the liver for recycling or excretion. Having large numbers of HDL particles correlates with good health.
LDL is ‘bad’, because it brings cholesterol to arteries and deposits it in blockages called plaques. LDL, on the other hand, is usually called the "bad" cholesterol because it transports cholesterol from the liver to the damaged tissues. Having large numbers of LDL particles is an indication of inflammation and is strongly associated with accumulation of plague in the arteries.
A third type is Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL): VLDL is very high in triglycerides and does not carry cholesterol in the blood.
While cholesterol is a substance different from fats, doctors have discovered that eating less fats, and switching to more of a certain type of fat has a profound effect on your body’s LDL cholesterol. High LDL is closely associated with cardiac and stroke risk so being able to reduce it through these diet changes is impressive. Making these dietary changes in how much fat and what kind we eat can improve LDL cholesterol independent of weight change or exercise.
Reduce your total fat intake. Try logging in a diet diary for a few days and be sure your total fat intake is less than 25-30 % of your daily calories. Gram for gram, fat is twice as dense as protein and carbohydrates so it has twice the calories. Even if certain fats are better for you, if you aren't careful, fat intake can add pounds to your figure.
To limit total fat intake:
Broil, bake, boil, or roast foods rather than fry.
Use non-stick pans or coat pans with a thin layer of non-stick spray.
Add less fat to food during both cooking and eating. Some examples include using jam instead of margarine on toast, a non-fat or low-fat salad dressing instead of a high-fat dressing, lemon juice instead of butter on vegetables, or salsa instead of sour cream on baked potatoes.
Experiment with butter substitutes, spices, and other flavorings as alternative to fat.
Look for low-fat alternatives to foods, such as a bagel instead of a doughnut, pretzels instead of potato chips, or a round steak instead of a t-bone steak
Try new fat-free products like yogurt, cookies, or crackers.
Read labels, which offer excellent information to help you compare fat content of prepared foods.
Avoid transfats as much as possible. Transfats are manmade and are double trouble because they not only raise bad LDL levels, they also push down good HDL levels. Transfats are hydrogenated liquid oils converted to partial solids such as margarines. Transfats appear in commercial baked goods where they are used for their stable shelf life.
Transfats may list them as ‘shortening’ or as partially hydrogenated" vegetable oil. A food can have up to 0.5 grams of transfat and still list itself as 0 grams so be careful if you eat a lot of store bought products like crackers, cookies, etc.
Trans fat is also found in many baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, pastries, snack chips and deep fried foods such as doughnuts, fried chicken, and French fries
Keep saturated fats in your diet to under 7% of your diet. Some saturated fats come from animals and include lard, meat fat, and dairy fat. Saturated fat is also in tropical oils such as palm, palm kernel, and coconut oils.
Select monounsaturated fats which lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and potentially raise HDL (good) cholesterol. Some types of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, seeds, avocados, and nuts, especially almonds and walnuts. Many forms of unsaturated fats oxidize, or darken, in bright light, which is why they are sold in protected containers and must be stored out of sunlight.
Add polyunsaturated fats to your diet. These fats lower bad LDL but do not have a benefit of lifting good HDL. Yet, polyunsaturated fats are a great source of very important essential omega-3-fatty acids. Nuts, which have monounsaturated fats, also have polyunsaturated fats and, again, almonds and walnuts are also a great source of omega 3's. Cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna convey high levels of omega 3 fatty acids too. This chemical not only lowers LDL, but also lowers blood pressure, reduces sudden death risk in those who have had heart attacks and may decrease cancer deaths as well.
Research has supported the cholesterol-lowering benefits of eating fatty fish because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids also help the heart in other ways such as reducing blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. In people who have already had heart attacks, fish oil — or omega-3 fatty acids — significantly reduces the risk of sudden death.