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 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!

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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7/25/2013 9:36:44 AM

WRITERM's SparkPage
You forgot one....I proved it......Coconut Oil....use on face, in your oatmeal, etc


7/25/2013 9:36:11 AM

I love Spark, because the answers are direct and simple. I am one of the lucky ones, as far as eating habits go. Most of my life have been spent eating good, when I didn't even know that I was doing it. I was never one for the deli sandwiches, soda, lots of sweets.....Even now, most of my diet is fish, vegs, grains.....dark chocolate, sometimes. I occasionally eat chicken, baked. Once in a while I will have a piece of cake of my choice. When I go out, I am sort of a pest, because, I request everything bakes (fish), and absolutely no oils on my vegetables, because I have no idea what they use in restaurants. Of course, I've had to send things back numerous times, but, I feel if I pay your price, you should deliver my food choices. Always polite about it on the exterior, but, sometimes, I feel as if people do not listen. Since my 20's I have worked out in some fashion; tennis, running, gym, cycling.....Now I am in the gym four days a week, two hours each time. I am in my 60's, and can life more weight than the younger ones. I hear them saying that. Anyway, life is good, and I am glad to be a part of this community. Such good tips. I don't necessarily need the weight loss tips, but, I take what I can use.


7/25/2013 9:15:22 AM

DEEALLEN9100's SparkPage
Thanks for the info.


4/22/2013 9:05:40 AM

Less than 15 minutes before reading this, I found out that I had lowered my cholestoral by 14 points (YEAH ME!). However, my HDL is still too low. I will be putting most of the above into practice. Thanks.


3/4/2013 10:52:50 AM

MONTREAL12's SparkPage
Thanks for the inspiration and for sharing the knowledge!


3/1/2013 11:33:53 AM

A243850's SparkPage
great tips


2/24/2013 12:42:29 PM

POUNDSAWAY13's SparkPage
Thanks for the info! There were a few foods that I haven't been eating, so will add them.


2/24/2013 12:15:48 PM

GOLFLADY11's SparkPage
Good information. Thanks for the reminder!!


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.

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