Nancy Dell: Raising HDL cholesterol; Diet and eyesight

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1. How can I raise my good HDL cholesterol? Pat, South Hadley

HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol in your blood that cleans up the plaque that may build up in blood vessels. Therefore you want your HDL cholesterol to be high in order to decrease your risk of heart disease.

For many years we have known that you can raise your HDL if you lose weight, stop smoking, do aerobic exercise for at least 20 minutes a day or use healthy fats including monounsaturated fat like olive and canola oil as well as omega 3 fats found in fish, flax, and walnuts. The latest research shows there are 4 more things you can do to increase HDL.

Raise HDL by

Eating 1/4 cup of cocoa powder a day

Eat onion and/or garlic daily

Eat purple skinned produce

Consume 1 egg a day

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows eating 1/4 cup of cocoa powder a day for 12 weeks increased HDL 24 percent. So if your HDL is low at 35 you may raise it to almost 44. Add the cocoa to muffins, yogurt, or coffee. Other studies show a half an onion a day or garlic everyday can raise HDL . Eat purple skinned and dark red produce daily like blueberries, blackberries,cranberry juice, grapes, plums and purple cabbage. Finally studies from the National Institutes for Health show 1 egg a day may raise HDL. There is a lot of information here but a registered dietitian can help you pull this altogether and most insurances will cover a nutrition counseling visit.2. Can diet improve my eyesight?AJ, West Springfield

The National Institutes for Health have done several studies on diet and eyesight. None have shown that we can reverse damage but we can preserve our eyesight and slow damage. Vitamins C and E, betacarotene and zinc can decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration by 25 percent in 5 years. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the US. Eating leafy greens like spinach, kale and collard greens can reduce the risk of macular degeneration by 40 percent. Eating fish high in omega-3 fats can do the same. Experts say leafy greens and fish can cancel out the genetic risk for macular degeneration and that it is never to late to start.

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