5 Foods That Raise Your HDL

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5 Foods That Raise 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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7/26/2012 11:11:16 AM

JOSIE0313's SparkPage
I just had a fasting bloodwork done on the 6thof this month and as usual my HDL = 100. I have been on medication for almost 5 yrears now. I take the omega 3 fish supplements, cook with olive oil & eat high plant based diet, and walk 4 miles 4x a week and active with gardens around the house, & oh yes, merlot in moderation on the weekend :)


7/26/2012 10:30:14 AM

KEN1939's SparkPage
By far the best way to raise HDL is to consume coconut oil & MCT oil (mid-chain triglyceride oil). I use a 40%/60% mix & consume about 3 tablespoons per day. My HDL went from 38 to 54. Too much can cause loose stool, but all other side effects are positive. You can read all about it in "Alzheimer's Disease What If There Was a Cure" by Dr. Mary Newport. Partial cures of Alzheimer's is one of the positive side effects. This book is probably available at your local library. It is a very interesting read.


7/26/2012 8:56:03 AM

When talking about NUTS, would people realize that PEANUTS do NOT belong in that category??!! The peanut, or groundnut (Arachis hypogaea), is a species in the legume or "bean" family (citing from Wikipedia). Peanuts are NOT tree nuts!


7/26/2012 8:50:11 AM

DADMAN35's SparkPage
What encouraged me in this article is that I am doing all but the artichoke and the fish.


7/26/2012 8:24:32 AM

A recent study found that while slow release niacin does raise your HDL, it does nothing for your risk of heart disease. It's like putting ice on the thermometer when you feel hot. HDL seems to be a risk factor, all right, but it's not a cause by itself but rather an indicator of some other cause we haven't identified yet. The foods in this slide show are good, not because they raise your HDL, but because they taste great and actually improve your heart health.


7/26/2012 8:10:57 AM

I agree 100% with Skinnyminnie! a low-fat plant based diet is the solution for high cholesterol. Nuts and olive oil are full of fat and very ease to overuse, so unless you are very disciplined, the result will be exactly the contrary! To clean your arteries and lower your cholesterol the combination low fat plant based diet and moderate exercise is champ!


8/4/2011 4:32:20 PM

CAFEJOJO's SparkPage
I am hoping that now that I am "sparking", losing weight and exercising that mine will go up next time I am in for blood work.


7/31/2011 11:44:54 AM

Mine is 35 and my doctor told me the minimum should be in the 50's up to 60. He recommended me a low dosage of slow release Nician that helps raise my HDL but be careful too much can hurt you so more will not make it better.


7/29/2011 4:55:50 PM

SHERRIE59's SparkPage
While I don't have a very high HDL which requires medication, I watch what I eat and currently exercise a minimum of 60 mins. 5-6 days per week.


7/29/2011 7:05:30 AM

I had my blood results yesterday and my HDL is only 0.59. The recommended level I believe should read, for women, more than 1.2, so those of you with100 perhaps that should read as 1.00!!


7/28/2011 8:29:59 PM

I'm with Skinnyminnie25!


7/28/2011 7:45:56 PM

food=calories=carb/protein/fat - best combo is up to u


7/28/2011 7:27:32 PM

JCLARK712's SparkPage
I have high cholesterol, but my Dr. has never explained it to me like this artical. Now i understand it better. My HDL is good just the LDL is the one that gives me problems.


7/28/2011 5:55:23 PM

STEPSTEP46's SparkPage
Ipray I never have to deal with this on any level.Taking care of my heart right now is hard enough.


7/28/2011 5:34:30 PM

My HDL is over 100! Can HDL be too high?

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