25 HDL Cholesterol Foods To Include In Your Diet

Written by Naomi • 

Do you have bad cholesterol? Does that make you feel apprehensive about your health? Bad cholesterol is a common problem amongst most of us, and if not taken care of at the right time, will cause complications.

So how can you increase the levels of good cholesterol in your body? What are the top good cholesterol (HDL) foods? Read this post to know about cholesterol and the HDL cholesterol foods you should consume in order to stay healthy!

All You Need To Know About Cholesterol:

What is HDL cholesterol? Our body is responsible for the production of two different types of cholesterol. They are known as HDL and LDL. HDL is also called high-density lipoprotein. They are considered good and healthy. The HDL will help in carrying cholesterol away from your body and will transfer it straight to the liver. In this way, it will prevent all kinds of heart related diseases. Low-density lipoproteins, on the other hand will build it inside your arteries and affect both your brain and heart. Low HDL and high LDL usually make you prone to cardiovascular diseases.

Now we come to the top foods you should add to your meal plans to ensure the HDL levels are high enough!

1. Wild Salmon:

Wild Salmon is great for your heart. It contains omega 3 fatty acids which are full of HDL cholesterol (1). It would be advisable to have at least two to three servings of wild salmon per week. However, you need to remember that not all nutrients are absorbed during the digestion period. Get hold of nutrients from whole foods so that all nutrients can be absorbed.

2. Mackerel:

Another dish that contains HDL cholesterol in abundance is mackerel. Adding this dish to your daily meals per week can reduce heart attacks or heart-related diseases. It contains omega 3 fatty acids which help in raising the good cholesterol (2). It also helps in lowering the fat in your blood.

3. Tuna:

Tuna or albacore tuna can certainly be considered a HDL cholesterol food. This will not just improve your cardiovascular health, but also reduces blood pressure (3). The chances of developing clots are also reduced with the help of tuna. You could always bake or grill tuna in order to keep away from unhealthy fats.

4. Halibut:

Halibut is another fish that protects your heart! The American Health Association has also recommended on eating this fish up to three times a week (4). If you don’t like this fish, just in case, you could try others such as sardines or lake trout. Another alternative would be fish oil supplements.

5. Red Wine:

If you thought red wine is just for facials and occasional party drinks, then you could be wrong! Red wine is one of the top HDL cholesterol foods seen today and offers a variety of benefits. One glass of red wine can increase the HDL levels by 4 mg per decilitre (5). However, it has never lowered LDL cholesterol levels as such.

6. Olive Oil:

Olive Oil is full of antioxidants that raise the HDL levels and reduce LDL levels (6). If you use olive oil, instead of butter or cooking spray, you will see a definite change in your heart health. Add some vinegar to it to make a good salad dressing. However, be careful! You don’t want to use too much of it. It is high in calories.

[ Read: Olive Oil To Control Cholesterol ]

7. Canola Oil:

Canola is a liquid based plant oil that is full of monosaturated fats that lower bad cholesterol over time (7). It is wise to use canola oil instead of butter, since it is full of unhealthy and saturated fats. You could use the oil for dressing a healthy homemade salad or roasted vegetables for lunch.

8. Avocado:

Avocado is one fruit that is full of monosaturated fats (8). It is one of the best HDL cholesterol foods! You could add sliced avocados to your fruit salad or simply spread this all over your sandwich. Using it instead of mayonnaise or butter is a better alternative any time. This will ultimately help you lower bad cholesterol.

9. Brussels Sprouts:

Another healthy food you could add to your diet in order to increase the good cholesterol is Brussels sprouts. It lowers LDL cholesterol by blocking it completely. Even the fats are stopped from getting absorbed into the bloodstream (9). It is a soluble fiber, something which is considered the best for good cholesterol levels.

10. Oranges:

Oranges, just like other fruits, contains antioxidants that protect your heart against heart related diseases (10). An average adult should have at least 20 grams of oranges or any other vegetable/fruit per day in order to have higher HDL cholesterol.

11. Lima Beans:

Lima Beans are also something you should definitely try! It lowers LDL and improves your cardiovascular health over time. Lima beans can be cooked with some other vegetables like carrots and capsicum or can simply be added to a vegetable salad. By simply making a small change in your diet, you will fill your stomach, clean your colon and give your body the regular dosage of dietary fiber that is needed for reducing cholesterol (11).

12. Walnuts:

Walnuts are full of polyunsaturated fatty acids that keep the blood vessels healthy (12). However, it is advisable to have walnuts in moderation, because they are high in calories and can make you put on weight! So make sure the nuts you are having are coated with sugar, salt or some heavy dressing.

13. Almonds:

Having a handful of almonds every day can reduce the risk of heart related diseases. They are full of protein that beats flab and keeps the stomach full. Almonds are a must for a healthy diet. They contain Vitamin E in abundance that reduces the development of plaque in your arteries (13).

14. Hazelnuts:

Hazelnuts are full of omega 3 fatty acids that control dangerous heart rythms (14). It also contains fiber which prevents diabetes and makes you eat less. This is because a tad bit of hazelnuts can fill you up! Hazelnuts are also a great source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are considered ideal for a good heart and a better lifestyle!

15. Peanuts:

Peanuts contain L-arginine in abundance. It improves the health of your arteries by increasing their flexibility and reduces the chances of blood clots (15). It regulates blood flow too.

16. Pistachio:

Adding some pistachio nuts would also be helpful to your body! It contains plant sterols, a substance that can control your cholesterol levels (16). Plant sterols in fact have been added to several other products such as orange juice because of the amazing health benefits it has to offer.

17. Dark Chocolate:

Look at this as an opportunity to indulge into something delicious. If you have secretly lusted after dark chocolate and looked for opportunities to gorge onto them, this section will surprise you! Dark chocolate is surprisingly great for lowering bad cholesterol. In other words, it is a great HDL food. It contains antioxidants and flavonoids that do wonders for your heart (17). However, it is best to eat this in moderation because excessive consumption of dark chocolate only leads to weight gain.

18. Green Tea Or Black Tea:

Green tea and black tea are full of antioxidants that reduce cholesterol levels. Having three cups of green tea or black tea a day will not only give you a better cardiovascular health, but also promotes better shape and skin. Often these drinks have been used for weight loss, lowering blood pressure and controlling diabetes (18). However, make sure you don’t add any sugar or cream to your hot drinks! They just spoil the whole purpose!

19. Brown Rice:

Brown rice has also been considered as one of the best whole grain items that reduce bad cholesterol. It also reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream (19). Use brown rice instead of white in order to see a quick change in your health. It also reduces stress, makes you less prone to diabetes and helps you shed some weight.

20. Soy:

Some stir fried or tofu or soy milk as a snack can definitely help you reduce high levels of cholesterol. It is naturally free of cholesterol and contains omega 3 fatty acids which are great for your cardiovascular system. However, according to Doctor James Beckerman, MD of Portland, soy milk may help you, but not enough, which is why it is necessary to add some other whole foods to your diet too (20).

21. Kidney Beans:

Kidney beans are the best when it comes to lowering cholesterol. These dark red skinned kidney shaped lentils have been recommended by several experts! The National Institute of Health also says that half a cup of kidney beans contains 3 grams of soluble fiber and 6 grams of total fiber (21). The British Journal of Nutrition also once said that regular consumption of kidney beans can definitely help you reduce LDL cholesterol.

22. Berries:

Fruits like berries contain Vitamin E that stops the oxidation of cholesterol and the rise of blood vessel plaques (22). And not just that, berries can fight cancer and improve your bone health as well. Most people who have berries everyday claim to have a better digestive system than those who don’t. If you don’t like berries just in case, try guavas, kiwis, mangoes or peaches instead. Just be careful of the calorie intake.

23. Eggplants:

Did you know eggplants or brinjals can take care of your heart? Yes! Eggplants contain high amount of soluble fiber and are super low in calories (23). However, you must know that it isn’t just eggplants that are good for your heart, but also veggies like okra, since they are so full of nutrients.

24. Fortified Foods:

Fortified foods can do wonders for your heart too! Yogurt, orange juice and cranberries are an example. They reduce cholesterol levels from 6% to 15% (24). How amazing is that? However, do ensure you have gone through the label carefully. You don’t wanna end up loading your body with extra calories, do you?

25. Sweet Potatoes:

Sweet Potatoes can be used instead of white potatoes because of the amazing health benefits it can offer. Sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index that stops your blood sugar from elevating (25). They also contain Vitamin A, fiber, and lycopene.

Some Useful Tips:

If you have recently found out that your HDL is too low, you could try several simple and easy steps to reduce the chances of heart diseases and attacks.

  1. Work Out Everyday:

Working out is a fun way to get your body moving! It burns a lot of calories and helps you maintain a good shape! If you can spend 30 to 60 minutes on aerobic exercise daily, you will be able to pump up the HDL and bring yourself right back on track (26)!

  1. Give Up Smoking:

You should also reduce the number of cigarettes you have per day if you would like to increase the good cholesterol levels in your body. Smoking daily decreases the HDL cholesterol and quitting will to do the exact opposite (27). So give up on smoking if you want to see a change.

  1. Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle:

Another smart thing you could do to increase your HDL cholesterol is maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Avoiding obesity comes with several benefits such as relief from dangerous health conditions, a rise in your HDL cholesterol levels and of course, less chances of developing heart diseases (28).

  1. Give Medications A Chance:

Medications can do wonders to your HDL cholesterol levels too. Niacin is one of them. It is very effective and is always available. This medicine is quite strong and should be suggested by the doctors before trying (29).

What Are The Causes Of Low HDL?

Ever wondered why some people have very low HDL despite following a simple and healthy lifestyle? Some of the ideas enlisted below will give you a better idea!

1. Genetics:

The control of genetics over your body might be a little complex, but it certainly does exist. If there is a genetic disposition, you automatically develop a risk of cardiovascular diseases that can in no way be controlled (30). This is why it is very important to take care of your eating habits, especially those who are often predisposed to very high HDL cholesterol levels.

2. Zero Exercise:

How many times have you heard the doctor tell you to exercise? Exercising is a very important segment of your life. It doesn’t matter what shape or size you have, working out is something you should do every day! It has multiple benefits to offer. If you don’t exercise, you will have negative consequences. And one of them is low HDL. Exercise is something that can work your cholesterol levels and is the best when it comes to raising your HDL levels. According to a recent study published by Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sports, those who exercised for 45 minutes regularly for three and a half days showed an improvement in their blood lipid levels (31).

3. No Omega 3 In Your Diet:

Eating a balanced diet is very important. It is not just about staying away from sweets and fried dishes, but also about eating the right amount of vitamins, proteins and of course, omega 3 fatty acids! The omega 3 fatty acids are very much needed for your body. There are two types found under this category – docasahexanoic acid elcosapentanoic acid. A few examples of DHA and EPA are canola, soya bean, wheat, walnuts and flaxseed. Other examples are salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, trout and halibut. If you do not consume much of these foods, you will end up having low HDL levels (32).

4. No Plant Foods:

A final reason for low HDL cholesterol levels is a lack of plant foods in your diet. Please note that there are certain fruits that can actually help you increase the HDL levels. Go ahead and search for those fruits that are red or purple in color. These fruits are high in resveratrol which is needed for your body. According to one of the reviews published in 2009, cherries, apples, grapes and berries are rich in resveratrol (33).

Why Do We Need HDL In Life?

Cholesterol is usually synthesized from the liver and is obtained out of dietary intake. The cholesterol in your body is used for several important functions, such as vitamin and hormone production. It is also used for enhancing your bone cells. The excess, which is derived out of a bad or unhealthy diet, will form plaques on the walls of your arteries and ultimately block your natural blood stream and thus lead to several heart related or coronary diseases. This is exactly where you need HDL. HDL will perform the task of removing all excess cholesterol formed on the arteries. After this, it will successfully carry it back to the liver so that it can reprocess.

This brings us to the end of the discussion. Do you have high HDL? Have you tried any of these foods and tips? Please leave your comments in the box given below! We are looking forward to your ideas and viewpoints.

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