What should my Good Cholesterol Reading be?

What is it?

Cholesterol is a lipid (natural fat) that is carried in the blood. It is a soft waxy substance. Most cholesterol is made by the liver from the foods we eat, but a small amount is absorbed directly from cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs, dairy products and shellfish.

Why should I care?

Cholesterol is important for the formation of cell membranes and hormones. It plays a part in the production of steroid hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and cortisone, the transportation of fats around the body, the creation of Vitamin D and to build cell membranes.

Our body needs cholesterol and it is synthesized in the liver. The problem is not the cholesterol itself but excessive cholesterol; particularly the bad LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol which contributes to plaque build up in the arteries. Saturated fat can elevate LDL and an excess of LDL cholesterol can accumulate in the arteries that feed the heart and brain and can lead to a heart attack. The good HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol contributes by taking away excess cholesterol.

Cholesterol forms every cell within the body. When the cholesterol level is appropriate, it plays a life-giving role in many functions of the body. When cholesterol is at a good level it works to build and repair cells, produces hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and produces bile acids which are proven to aid in the digestion of fat. While minimum levels of cholesterol is essential for life, excess levels are associated with atherosclerosis. Most cholesterol is synthesized by the body but significant quantities can also be absorbed from the diet. The liver can adjust synthesis depending on the amount available from the diet.

What is an ideal reading?

This is the most desirable level of cholesterol to have is under 200mg/DL.

If you have cholesterol lower than 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood, then you are considered to have the optimum and normal levels of cholesterol.

People having cholesterol level between 200 and 239mg/DL of total body cholesterol fall into the category of borderline high risk for getting heart diseases or stroke. If your total body cholesterol is 240mg/DL or more, then you are at very high risk for contracting heart ailments.

The level of HDL and LDL cholesterols are different. The normal levels of HDL cholesterol are 50-60 mg/DL for women and 40-50mg/DL for men. HDL is the good cholesterol, and levels lower than 40mg/DL can increase your risk of heart diseases. The following chart shows the level LDL cholesterol and its effect.

Ideal Cholesterol Chart



Below 100mg/DL               

Optimum levels

Between 100 and 129mg/DL     

Normal levels

Between 130 and 159mg/DL     

Borderline Risk

Between 160 and 189mg/DL     

High Risk

More Than 190mg/DL           

Very High Risk

Good Foods

HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is known as the “good cholesterol” as it has a protective effect on the body, carrying harmful fatty deposits away from the arteries and back to the liver. HDL protects your body by carrying cholesterol away from your arteries back to the liver, therefore reducing the risk of clogs. Many experts also believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol in the arteries. This slows the buildup of dangerous blockages.

Beneficial Fats including HDL foods are olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, cashews, peanuts, avocado, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, fish etc. There are some other HDL promoting foods. They are red wine, orange juice, beans, fish, oat bran, onions, soy products and soluble fiber as is found in apples, grapes and citrus foods.

Bad Foods

LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) is known as the “bad cholesterol” as it transports the fatty deposits to the tissues encouraging a build-up on the artery walls. The LDL cholesterol foods are known as bad cholesterol foods. The LDL cholesterol is very sticky. This build up causes a condition called atherosclerosis which leads to the narrowing of the arteries, restricting blood flow and so increasing the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Boiled egg, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, butter, lamb, beefsteak, chicken, kidney, liver, ice cream, sponge cake, whole-milk dairy products, cream, certain shellfish such as shrimp, other organ meats such as kidney and brain, duck and goose (which have more cholesterol than chicken or turkey; the skin on these animals is high in cholesterol), egg yolks, prawns, sardines, pork ribs, crab etc. are bad cholesterol foods.


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Meal Plan

There are many things that can be done with many low cholesterol foods that are easily accessible in most grocery stores. There are so many foods that contain little to no cholesterol and these should be used as staples while following a low cholesterol lifestyle. Here is a sample meal plan for maintaining equilibrium of cholesterol in the body. A three days diet plan for attaining this is following.

Day 1 menu
1 whole-wheat bagel
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 medium orange
1 cup fat-free milk
Decaffeinated coffee
Spinach salad made with 4 cups of fresh spinach leaves, 1 sliced pear, 1/2 cup mandarin orange sections, 1/3 cup unsalted peanuts and 2 tablespoons reduced-fat red wine vinaigrette
12 reduced-sodium wheat crackers
1 cup fat-free milk
Herb crusted baked cod
1 cup bulgur
1/2 cup fresh green beans, steamed
1 sourdough roll
1 teaspoon trans-free margarine
1 cup fresh berries with chopped mint
Herbal iced tea

Snack (anytime)
1 cup light yogurt
4 vanilla wafers

Day 2 menu
1 cup fresh mixed fruits (melons, banana, apple, berries) topped with 1 cup light vanilla-flavored yogurt and 1/3 cup toasted almonds
1 bran muffin
1 cup fat-free milk
Herbal tea
Curried chicken wrap made with 1 medium flour tortilla filled with a mixture of 1/3 cup cooked, chopped chicken, 1/2 cup chopped apple, 2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise and 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup (about 8) raw baby carrots
1 reduced-sodium rye cracker (triple cracker)
1 nectarine
1 cup fat-free milk
Baked macaroni
3 cups mixed salad greens
1 tablespoon low-fat Caesar dressing
1 whole-wheat roll
1 teaspoon trans-free margarine
Sparkling water
Frozen fruit bar
Snack (anytime)
Trail mix made with 2 tablespoons raisins, 1 ounce unsalted mini twist pretzels (about 22) and 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Day 3 menu
1 cup old-fashioned cooked oatmeal topped with 1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 slices whole-wheat toast
2 teaspoons trans-free margarine
1 banana
1 cup fat-free milk

Tuna salad made with 1/2 cup drained, unsalted water-packed tuna, 2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise, 15 grapes and 1/4 cup diced celery served on 1 1/2 cups romaine lettuce
12 low-sodium wheat crackers
1 cup fat-free milk

Beef and vegetable kebabs
2 pineapple rings
Cran-raspberry spritzer (4 ounces cran-raspberry juice and 4 to 8 ounces sparkling water)
Snack (anytime)
1 cup light yogurt
1 peach

Also see
HDL to LDL ratio and Cholesterol Chart

Other Nutrient Rich Foods