Cholesterol: 2 to 1
When it comes to cholesterol, the total level isn't as predictive of heart disease as what's known as the ratio. To explain, cholesterol is carried in the blood by two different lipoproteins: The bad one, LDL (think L for lousy), spews the waxy, fat-like substance in your arteries, gunking them up; the good one, HDL (H for healthy), gathers up cholesterol so it can't clog. If you have some risk for heart disease (family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking), keep your LDL under 100. Otherwise you're okay aiming for under 160; better yet, below 130. Ideally, your HDL should be more than 50. Doctors love it when the ratio of LDL to HDL is less than 2 to 1; they're tolerant if it's 3 to 1.
To improve your ratio: Include soluble fiber in your diet from sources such as oatmeal, kidney beans, and apples, aiming for 25 grams a day. To spice things up, try a whole grain called quinoa. It contains a nearly perfect balance of proteins, as well as the mineral manganese—low levels of which are associated with hypertension.