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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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.


7/26/2012 5:27:14 PM

MCFITZ2's SparkPage
Always good to get a refresher course.


7/26/2012 11:41:28 AM

NOELUS's SparkPage
The problem with nuts, at least for me, is I think it also elevates Uric Acid. And I have problems with some parts of my bones (foot, shoulder) bordering osteoarthritis. So what's the acceptable in take of nuts for people with borderline low HDL but with high UA levels? My UA level is controlled by 100 mg of Allopurinol once a day. Thanks.


7/26/2012 11:27:58 AM

I was in tears last night. I'm a 63-year old type-2 Diabetic. My blood pressure is okay. I do everything I can to take care of myself, including trying to lose the weight. I've lost 19 pounds so far by walking 2 to 2.5 miles each night. I need to lose 20-25 more and it's hard. Including the meds, supplements and vitamins I'm taking, it seems like I'm taking so many darn pills, it's very difficult to keep track of them. The doctor told me recently to take calcium and Vit-D -- yet more pills. Some of these pills cause SEVERE diahhrea; others have the opposite affect. Some make me nauseous to the point of vomiting. I'm at my wits end. I went out on the Internet to a Mayo Clinic site and researched all of the meds I was taking to see if they had interactions with one another and was alarmed at some of the info I found. An RN friend of mine told me you can have too much calcium and it could store-up in your heart and cause problems - to be careful. So I was concerned. Many of the interactions had never been discussed with me, nor included on the paper given w/the medicine from the pharmacy. I went to my Dr. yesterday and he was so extremely rude to me. He looked at what I had and these are his exact words, "I THINK YOU'RE NUTS". I said, pardon me, what'd you say? - and he repeated it. He said it is not possible to have too much calcium and it won't store-up in your body. He rudely said - go ahead, quit taking whatever you want to - and you're gonna die! OMG. I'm on oral med for my diabetes and it's usually under control. He said, "Your cholestrol is horrible". I can't get my HDL up to the level they want - I take Lovaza but it seems not to work. My TOTAL cholestrol is well below 200, but as I said, it's the HDL that's puzzling. I asked him again yesterday, how to get my HDL level up - he just said, "lose the weight". He said, "I lost 40 pounds, it's hard and you only need 1,000 calories a day." I asked him if he was diabetic and he said, no. Well good for him - but I AM and when you're diabetic, it's more difficult to lose that weight. He should know that. I'm to the point I don't know where to turn. I know one thing though - I'm looking for a new doctor! It's bad enuf to have these things wrong with your body, but when the medical person you're depending on is so uncaring and rude, you start believing it's all about the money for them. It feels like they get kickbacks on each prescription they write!


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.

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