You may be thinking, who on earth needs to raise their cholesterol? First off, HDL is actually the good kind of cholesterol. Second, more than a high amount of cholesterol being the biggest threat is the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol that spells trouble for individuals. The average “healthy” ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol is 4:1; the closer the ratio the better.
By naturally increasing your HDL level and improving this ratio, you will be improving your health and decreasing the negative impact of LDL cholesterol on your body. This is because HDL acts as a cholesterol dump truck or street sweeper, cleaning out the LDL from your body and preventing bad cholesterol from clinging to the arterial walls.
Foods that Raise HDL Cholesterol
Read on to learn about some of the best food options to raise your HDL cholesterol naturally and effectively.
Studies have found that people who consume alcohol in moderation have decreased levels of inflammation, lower rates of heart disease, and might even live longer. Red wine, in particular, has the ability to raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels and clean out LDL (bad) cholesterol deposits from the arteries and protect against heart attack. Red wines like Cab Franc and Merlot are easy to drink, take care of your health, and go with any meal.
Salmon, mackerel, halibut, and tuna are your best choices, being the richest in omega-3s and polyunsaturated fats. Two servings of salmon per work for one month straight can increase your HDL about 4%.
Olive and sunflower are full of mono—and/or poly-unsaturated fats, which are crucial to raising your HDL cholesterol levels. Especially if you have high (bad) cholesterol, be sure that you are cooking with olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil. These HDL-friendly oils also make a great base for many salad dressings and meat marinades.
Nuts and Seeds
Most varieties of nuts and seeds are full of mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, as well as omega-3s. Some of the most productive options are walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower, and peanuts. Nuts and seeds can easily be added to your salads, cereal, oatmeal, and more. Pistachios are another great source of HDL and make for a great snack!
Whether fresh or frozen, berries can drastically improve your cholesterol ratio by increasing your HDL levels. Just one cup of frozen berries eaten consistently for eight weeks can raise your HDL cholesterol by 5%. Sprinkle a handful of frozen blueberries on top of your frozen yogurt, or throw some strawberries into your cereal, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier cholesterol level.
Eating as little as 15 grams of dark chocolate every day or almost every day can help increase your HDL cholesterol. One study showed that those subjects that consumed 100 grams of dark chocolate every day raised their HDL level by 9%. Since 100 grams of chocolate will cost you over 500 calories, however, 100 grams may not be feasible or the best option for most people.
You may have always been told to stay away from eggs because they are full of cholesterol. However, they are full of the good kind! Adults who consumed just one egg every day for three months increased their HDL cholesterol by 48%. You can thank the lecithin found in eggs for this benefit. Just try to avoid scrambling your egg with whole milk or whole milk cheese, as those will both raise your LDL cholesterol, which defeats the purpose of improving your cholesterol ratio.
While this fruit is undoubtedly high in calories, it is also full of good, heart-healthy fats and helps raise your HDL cholesterol levels naturally. Some people can peel an avocado and start chowing down. Others may prefer to add some to their salads or sandwiches, or even mash it up and make some guacamole. For a double whammy, add ¼ of an avocado to your daily egg.
The above-mentioned foods are some the best natural options for increasing your HDL cholesterol and improving your ratio of bad-good cholesterol. Some foods that should be avoided (i.e. foods that raise LDL cholesterol) when trying to raise HDL include fatty meats, full-fat dairy, hydrogenated oils (start reading labels carefully, it’s everywhere), processed meats, solid fats and oils, and most other processed foods (cakes, pastries).
You can also help your HDL cholesterol by maintaining an overall healthy and well-balanced diet (which means plenty of fruits and vegetables), and by exercising regularly. Combined changes in activity level as well as diet will give you the best cholesterol results. It is also important to maintain a healthy weight (which is conveniently related to activity level and diet).
If you drink or smoke regularly, try to cut back to further increase your HDL naturally. Incorporate some (or all!) of these foods into your daily diet and you’ll be well on your way to increasing your HDL cholesterol and improving your overall health.