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reviewed 7/23/2018

Cholesterol levels: What helps or hurts?

There are 2 types of cholesterol found in your blood—one bad, one good. You want less of the bad one—low-density lipoprotein (LDL)—because it builds up in your arteries. But you want more of the good one—high-density lipoprotein (HDL)—because it removes the bad kind from your arteries. Use this quiz to find out what may help or hurt your cholesterol levels.

Butter: Helps hurts

Hurts. Butter and other dairy products are high in saturated fat. So is meat. Foods that are high in saturated fat can raise the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood. And that raises your risk for a heart attack or a stroke.

Avocados: Helps or hurts

Helps. Avocados contain monounsaturated fat, a heart-healthy fat that helps raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol. Olive and canola oils are also good for this.

Doughnuts: Helps or hurts

Hurts. Fried foods, like doughnuts, and commercial baked goods, like cookies and frozen pizza, can contain trans fats from the use of partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats can increase your levels of bad cholesterol—and lower your levels of good cholesterol.

Walnuts: Helps or hurts

Helps. Walnuts contain polyunsaturated fat, a type of fat that can lower your level of bad cholesterol and raise your level of good cholesterol. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats—including salmon, soybean oil and tofu—often also contain omega fatty acids, which are essential to health.

Exercise: Helps or hurts

Helps. Exercise is good for your cholesterol levels and for your heart health in general. Exercise can help you shed excess pounds, relieve stress and help control your blood pressure. It can also help you quit smoking, a habit that's bad for your cholesterol levels.

Do you know what your cholesterol levels are? If you're age 20 or older, you should have your cholesterol tested at least every 5 years.

What your cholesterol numbers mean

Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; American Heart Association

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