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Lower Your Cholesterol: 5 Food Tips That Can Make a Difference

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to work properly. But, too much cholesterol can be bad for your health.

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol

You may have heard of "good" and "bad" cholesterol, which refer to the types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol in the blood.

  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol – carries cholesterol throughout the body to organs and tissues. It is known as "bad" cholesterol because when there is too much of it, LDL cholesterol can build up in the arties and lead to heart disease.
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol or "good" cholesterol – picks up extra cholesterol in your blood and takes it to your liver where it can be broken down. The more HDL cholesterol you have in your blood the less "bad" cholesterol you have, lowering your chances of getting heart disease.

 How to Lower Your Cholesterol

What you eat can have a major impact on your cholesterol levels. By making small changes to your food plan, you can boost your "good" cholesterol and lower your "bad" cholesterol levels. Here are some healthy food tips to help better your cholesterol levels:

  • Eat less meat
    Instead of making meat a centerpiece for all your meals, try to limit your intake. You do not necessarily have to become a vegetarian, but you may become surprised by the number of non-meat meal choices available. Eggplant parmesan, black bean or Portobello mushroom burgers, and three-bean chili are favorites among vegetarians and meat eaters. When you do feel like eating beef or pork, choose lean cuts with less visible fat or substitute for skinless chicken or turkey.
  • Get fishy
    The American Heart Association advises eating fish at least twice a week. Unlike meat, eating fatty fish can be good for your health because it is low in saturated fats and has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which can help right your cholesterol levels. Fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids include:
    • Salmon
    • Trout
    • Herring
  • Go nuts!
    Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts can help lower your "bad" cholesterol levels. Eating just a handful of almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachio nuts or walnuts each day can help stop heart disease. If you do not like to eat nuts plain, think of substituting the meat or cheese you put in your salad with almonds or pecans.
  • Eat low-fat snacks
    Try to stay away from snacks that are high in fat such as potato chips and candy. Instead, go for low-fat snacks such as carrots, fresh fruit, pretzels, nuts or granola bars. If you are craving potato chips, try baked chips or even kale or sweet potato chips.
  • Cook with olive oil
    Olive oil has been shown to lower "bad" cholesterol levels, and it is pretty easy to add it to your diet:
    • Sautee veggies in it
    • Coat chicken and fish with it before grilling or baking
    • Mix with balsamic vinegar to make salad dressings
    • Instead of butter, dip bread in olive oil

You should only have about two tablespoons of olive oil a day, and if you can, use extra-virgin olive which has more heart-healthy antioxidants.

Sources: American Heart Association, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic

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