5 Foods That Raise Your HDL

Pause                 1 of 8

5 Foods That Increase Your HDL

Written by Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian

So you got the results of your recent cholesterol test, and your HDL cholesterol came back low. Since low HDL is a risk factor for heart disease, you know that you need to elevate it...but how? When all the stories you read are talking about lowering your total cholesterol, why would you want to increase this form of cholesterol?

HDL (high density lipoprotein) is the "good" cholesterol. It acts like a cholesterol dump truck, gathering "bad" cholesterol from the arteries and carrying it back to the liver for clearance. This heart protective effect may even slow the buildup of plaque in the arterial walls of the heart. HDL may also have some anti-inflammatory effects that are beneficial to your heart. That's why you want your HDL to be high, so it can better carry out these responsibilities and protect your ticker.

What should my HDL be?

According to the American Heart Association, men should aim for HDL levels of 40 mg/dL or greater, and women should aim higher than 50 mg/dL. Levels of 60 mg/dL or more for both genders have been linked to lower disease risks and protection against heart disease. Genetics can affect your HDL level, but lifestyle choices still also play a role. If you want to fight your genes and improve your HDL levels, the following foods can help.


Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, pecans, peanuts, and hazelnuts are all good sources of heart-healthy fats and are great to add to your diet to increase your intake. Add nuts to cereal, yogurt, salad, stir fries, pasta dishes or rice. You can eat them raw, baked or lightly toasted, too.


Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, and halibut are highest in omega-3 fatty acids, a specific type of unsaturated fat shown to be most beneficial for heart health and reduce the risk of death by heart attack. It is recommended to eat at least 2 servings of fish per week. If you don't eat seafood, you could try fish oil supplements; flaxseed and walnuts contain omega 3’s as well, but fish contains the most usable form of omega-3s.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is high in unsaturated fats and can help you elevate your HDL. Replace butter and fried foods with foods cooked lightly in a heart-healthy olive oil, and switch to an oil-based vinaigrette for your salads. Oil is healthy, but it's high in fat and calories, so remember to practice moderation and keep your portions in check!


Although many dieters shy away from this fruit because of its high fat content, it's perfectly good for you thanks to its heart-healthy fats. Mash avocado to use as a spread on your sandwich or wrap, dice it into your salad, add it to omelets or whip up some homemade guacamole to enjoy with veggies or whole grain crackers.


Fiber, especially soluble fiber, can help bump up your HDL while reducing LDL. Oatmeal is an excellent source of soluble fiber, as is rice, bran, barley, dried peas and beans, and certain fruits like prunes and apples. A couple servings a day of these heart-healthy foods can have a positive effect on your HDL.

Don't Forget Exercise!

Along with these HDL-boosting foods, don’t forget the daily exercise! Regular exercise signals your body to produce more HDL, making physical activity one of the most important factors to raising your HDL. Start with just 5-10 minutes a few days a week, but gradually increase until you're active for at least 30 minutes 5 days per week. Your heart will thank you!

See more nutrition slideshows Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints

Member Comments on this Slideshow

(scroll to end to leave a comment)


7/24/2014 8:52:14 AM

I've been doing all of this for some time now except I recently added flax seed oil. How long before a person sees a difference in HDL?


7/24/2014 8:51:28 AM

I've been doing all of this for some time now except I recently added flax seed oil. How long before a person sees a difference in HDL?


7/24/2014 7:10:10 AM

The pictures are great ! Maybe they will stick in my mind ! Thanks !


7/24/2014 6:47:39 AM

LEANMEAN2's SparkPage
Lesson: Learn all that you can before taking a new medicine.


7/13/2014 4:37:55 PM

Can any one tell me what are non-hdl's. My doctor started me on Lipitor because of this.
Thank you. Jan


6/17/2014 1:50:17 PM

GEVANS7's SparkPage
My HDL used to be 110. My primary physician told me I would never have a cholesterol problem. He retired and the doctor that took over his practice put me on statins to lower my cholesterol without taking my HDL into consideration. After months and muscle pains, I sought out a new DR. who immediately took me off the statins.

The message is - listen to your body and find out all the facts you can before blindly following doctors. The statins also lowered my good cholesterol.


3/14/2014 1:14:22 PM

I have had high cholesterol since first diagnosed in 2005. I have been on statins but my numbers have not come down to a normal level as yet. I had times where I would go to the gym about 2-3 times a week but that fizzled out. The diet I was most prone to was the Atkins diet as it was satisfying and quicker results. I just had my lipid panel taken 3/14 and my dr's office has called me in to discuss my cholestoral levels and I was advised that my liver levels have elevated slightly. It scared me and frustrated me and discouraged me. I have decided to act and to take this very seriously. I have not met with my Dr as yet..but on Monday 3/10/14 I stopped taking my statin, I have illuminated all animal fat, butter, eggs, dairy, processed foods, sugar and caffiene from my daily diet. The first 4 days I felt great but today I feel week...I have reduced my calorie intake to approx 982 being the highest day. I know this is cutting too much...but I am desperate to loose the weight (quick start) and help my cholestoral levels before too much damage or plac build up in my arteries. Statins are not working obviously...and is causing some damage to my liver although told slight. I need to start exercising and have a plan in place to do so very soon. Today I will do a 10 min routine here in my home..but I am feeling weak...I am thinking it is because I am not getting enough protein...but I don't want to eat anything with cholestoral in it.


1/10/2014 5:50:20 AM

DELLMEL's SparkPage
Thanks for the info.


12/16/2013 9:55:29 PM

FISHER011's SparkPage
Great slideshow!


11/25/2013 8:51:57 AM

SOOKIE's SparkPage
Very imformative. My cholestrol has been low for the past 2 years. I just have to remember to take my meds to bring it up. But after reading this article, I will incorporate more fish into my weekly menu planning.


7/31/2013 3:35:44 AM

Thanks for the information.


7/29/2013 9:14:09 PM

CURRAHEE68's SparkPage
Reinforces what I already know. Thank you.


7/28/2013 3:58:53 PM

MONTREAL12's SparkPage
Tfhis is valuable to me; thank-you


7/25/2013 7:21:22 PM

LINDASB12's SparkPage
Thanks so much for this helpful list!


7/25/2013 12:00:49 PM

This is information I was looking for. thanks

Comment Pages (8 total)

x Lose 10 Pounds by June 5! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.