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)


9/26/2012 9:47:17 AM

SUEKAW6, if you have a dog, walk him/her. If you don't, you could volunteer to walk the dogs at the Humane Society or an animal shelter, if there is one in your community. The commitment might help motivate you and the pups would absolutely love you!


9/26/2012 8:52:01 AM

I do eat and do all that is recommended except the exercise. I'm great when I have someone I have to meet to walk but to get myself out to walk it just doesn't happen. I get distracted by things that need to get done in the house or the garden then off to work. I do try to park farther away, take stairs when I can, etc. but can't motivate myself to get on and stay on a set exercise regiem. How does one force themself out and going??


9/26/2012 8:43:52 AM

Jokonn - PLEASE find a different (and better) doctor, one who CARES for his/her patients!

That one seems not only uninformed, but rude and insensitive.

Bless you, you can do it. You WILL do it!

May God Bless,


9/26/2012 8:42:55 AM

I feel for all of you. I can relate to not being able to lose weight. I'm not diabetic, thank God, but I have tons of other health conditions that make it challenging. and I'm 63 years old. My daughter in law is Type 1. We both started a plan that's finally working for us. She had to watch her insulin levels and make adjustments the first week, but she's down 13 lbs in 5 weeks and I'm down 17 lbs in 9 weeks. We couldn't lose the weight before no matter what we tried. Hopefully, it will keep working for us.


9/26/2012 8:17:13 AM

WOUBBIE's SparkPage
One important thing to note is what you DIDN'T see on this list:

Processed foods
Food high in carbohydrates

It's one of life's little ironies that starch and sugar from your diet become bad fats in your blood, while natural fats from your diet (in the absence of high carb foods) become energy.


9/26/2012 8:12:14 AM

NVRDWN88's SparkPage
Eat.all of these already yeah.....


9/19/2012 11:58:25 PM

jokonn, I read your post and I hope you have found a new doctor. I live in Missouri, not sure where you are but I know of a Great Endocrinologist , so if you read this, message me . Julie


9/19/2012 1:04:21 PM

JUDSTERF's SparkPage
Yokonn - - not only would i be looking for a new doctor, but I think I also would be contact the AMA and report this incident. This man should not be calling himself a doctor nor should he be practicing as a doctor.

I, too, have diabetes 2 and it is harder to lose weight along with all the other medical problems I have that prevent me from dong a lot of the exercises. The diatitian (sp) has me on 1800 calories and when I'm hospitalized, that diatitian also puts me on 1800 calories. SP has me on 1500 which I find I can handle - - any less than that is rediculous!!!!!!



9/18/2012 1:38:25 PM

My total cholesterol had been 207. Last month, my cholesterol went up to 208, but my HDL has increased five points. I eat oatbran with blueberries every single morning, and I eat fish and nuts regularly. I also started taking fish oil supplements, and I mix freshly ground flaxseed into my oatbran once it's cooked. It does work.


9/18/2012 7:48:00 AM

Yessss - all of these are in my regular diet.


9/18/2012 7:42:05 AM

I agree about coconut oil. My HDL is fine but the hubs doesn't eat much on the list so he adds it to his morning shake. 1 tbsp a day in the morning smoothie and I make all his lunches on Sunday for the week where I cook his fish in Coil. Usually once or twice a week I will serve guac with some raw veggies at dinner for the family, too. It's a tasty way to get in the good stuff! You don't need the chips. So, if you don't like nuts there are several good ways to sneak in some health!


8/18/2012 1:35:28 PM

MATTYSGIRL07's SparkPage
JOKONN - I am a 23 year old woman that weighs 285 pounds with Hypothyroidism....So I can relate to the difficulty of losing weight it is very hard to do. Don't let this Doctor keep you from reaching your goals. You are doing very well and on you way to reaching your goal. Some doctors are just not personable at all...I think they need to have training or something. There was absolutely no logical reason for your doctor to act that way. He should be proud of you for making such a good effort and coming as far as you have...especially being diabetic! This is a suggestion - maybe try seeing a nutritionist. They should be able to set you up with some sort of guidelines and help you try to control your Diabetes naturally so maybe you wouldn't have to take any or a lot less of your medications. I am just waiting for my insurance to kick in but once it does I plan to go and see a nutritionist. They should be able to take into consideration any health issues while setting goals for you. =] Keep going you are doing great hun! =D


8/6/2012 9:09:36 AM

MONTREAL12's SparkPage


7/27/2012 3:09:01 AM

GILLMAE's SparkPage
JoKonn......change your doctor, it is disgusting the way you have been treated. You have done so well to lose 19lbs, and he should be telling you so, and being more encouraging. Losing weight is hard for anyone, but doubly so for people with health problems. Keep going, don't let this person ruin your weight loss....... Keep going!


7/26/2012 9:20:33 PM

To JoKonn: Your letter broke my heart. As an RN I urge you to find another physician. That person should not have a license. Please speak with a pharmacist. If you call your local pharmacy they might make an appointment to sit down with you (rather than go in unannounced when they are busy. Keep up the good work with your weight loss and keep going. Don't let that jerk of a doc win this one. Remember baby steps day by day.

Comment Pages (8 total)

x Lose 10 Pounds by May 11! 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.