5 Foods That Raise Your HDL

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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 3ís 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, donít 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!

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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2/23/2013 9:32:52 PM

TUBLADY's SparkPage
I eat all those foods but oatmeal. But I do use oats in different way, cookies, muffins, bread. So that night be the reason my HGL is so good.


2/22/2013 2:02:37 AM

These work for me, too!


2/21/2013 5:04:37 PM

LEANMEAN2's SparkPage
Good information.


2/21/2013 11:03:49 AM

Love 'em all!


2/21/2013 10:48:57 AM

SHAIRRYD's SparkPage
Great Article and helpful - Thanks


2/21/2013 8:42:12 AM

This is great information. Now I know why my numbers are so good -- I already eat and enjoy all these foods. And I am lucky enough to live in Mexico where I have easy (and cheap) access to avocados. I do have to watch the portion sizes, however. As the article states, all these foods are high in fat content, even if it's the healthy kind, and therefore high in calories. My SP tracker tells me that I exceed my recommended fat intake most days, and I am working to reduce the grams of fat I eat and increase the carbs.


2/21/2013 8:11:40 AM

Hello: I have lost 70 pounds, since Jan 2011. I was heading into Diabetes. My Doctor said I was a Borderline diabetic and then at the next visit a well controlled diabetic. I got very upset at this news and got my firm resolve that I was not a diabetic, and started losing weight and eating healthy with the aid of Weight Watchers Points Plus.

So during the last 3 visits my blood sugars were normal and she commended me on maintaining my weight. I told her I want that dx. taken off my chart. I am 54 and a dx in your chart can ruin your chances of getting life insurance or medical insurance.

I agree with this post and any person struggling please do it for your self you can beat diabetes.


2/21/2013 1:59:09 AM

JULIEC1971's SparkPage
JOKONN - I strongly recommend changing your doctor AND reading some of Dr. Joel Fuhrman's books. He has a new one out now called "The End of Diabetes". His website and "Eat to Live" books are great too. His mission is to help people like you, who have been misguided, tricked, even verbally abused by doctors who simply prescribe pills and ridiculous diets without understanding a thing about nutrition. His books will arm you with the knowledge you need to achieve superior health through outstanding nutrition. Many of his patients have been able to reduce their meds or even stop taking them altogether. He has also helped many people completely reverse their diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Please seek a new doctor who understands nutrition and doesn't simply prescribe meds and have a look at Fuhrman's work. I think you'll like it. I've been following Eat to Live (I don't have any health issues and don't take any meds, I just like the idea behind being a "Nutritarian") for a year and I've never felt better!


2/6/2013 11:34:28 AM

SHIELDAC's SparkPage


1/23/2013 8:12:28 AM

Of you like oatmeal but get tired of it try pumpkin pie oatmeal in the SP cookbook. Delicious!


11/9/2012 8:00:06 PM

SURVIVOR61's SparkPage
For an added dose of daily fiber and to help me cut my cholesterol I also use Metamucil daily.


11/3/2012 4:29:03 AM



10/4/2012 10:40:03 AM

MONTREAL12's SparkPage
Thanks for sharing


9/27/2012 3:57:29 PM

BFRANKLIN7's SparkPage
SUEKAW6 - go to the store with no money and walk up and down every aisle. if nothing else take a clipboard with you to write down ideas of things you can buy for people for their birthdays or Christmas or Hannukah (sp?). Walking up and down aisles in a store is more pleasant in ways. Hope this helps


9/27/2012 7:38:15 AM

The cost of fruit has shot up here in Michigan because of the trees lost their buds during a warm spell last winter and freeze. Gala apples are $35.00 a bushel and Mac's are $20.00 a bushel. The last cherry festival in Grand Traverse found them having to import cherries from another source. So when I buy fruit, I consider it an investment. I am eating less meat and hardly any sugar, so I already feel stronger. I love oatmeal but like all things, moderation is the key. Just recently I started back on the treadmill in over 3 months after getting control of my adult asthma that I went into last summer during the heat wave. (And I thought it was just allergies) I was sick for about 6 weeks. But now with following the Doctor's meds, eating better and retiring from work and seeking healthier activities, I am really doing so much better.

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