Foods & Tips That Increase HDL Cholesterol Levels

Updated on March 31st, 2020

HDL is the cholesterol that is important for your body. It stands for high-density lipoprotein and helps take out the plaque and extra cholesterol in your arteries. These extras are pushed straight to the liver from where it is expelled by your body.

In short, HDL cholesterol is responsible for maintaining your heart health.

On the other hand, LDL is the bad cholesterol that you are always warned about. It stands for low-density lipoprotein and clogs your arteries along with triglycerides.

What Is The Ideal HDL Level?

The ideal HDL level(1) for a healthy adult is 60 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dl) or above. If a person’s HDL is below 40 mg/dl, it is considered low. A level between 40-60 HDL is also regarded as optimal by health care professionals.

Foods high in trans fat and saturated fats increase the total LDL levels. Apart from food, some of the medical factors that increase bad cholesterol are obesity, type 2 diabetes, and inflammation.  Sedentary lifestyle and smoking are other lifestyle factors that contribute to bad cholesterol.

Foods That Increase HDL Levels

Several foods can increase the HDL levels and improve the HDL to LDL ratio. Here is a list of foods that are good for cholesterol and, inturn, your cardiac health.

1. Olive Oil

Olive Oil Uses

Olive oil(2) has a heart-healthy fat that is capable of lowering the inflammation caused by LDL cholesterol in your body. This oil can be used to replace oils and fats that are loaded with bad cholesterol. Olive is perfect for low-temperature cooking.

You should use extra virgin olive for the best results. Use it as a dressing, or you can also add chopped olives to salads, soups, and pizzas.

[Read:Natural Remedies to Alleviate High Cholesterol Levels]

2. Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are an abundant source of soluble fiber and Folate- an essential B vitamin. These together are known to help increase the good cholesterol in the body. You can include kidney beans, navy beans, and lentils in your diet. You can use beans and legumes to churn up delicious starters and lip-smacking gravies and soups.

3. Whole Grains

Whole grains like cereals, wild rice, brown rice, and bran are rich in soluble fiber. They lower the LDL levels in the body and the overall cholesterol while giving a boost to the HDL levels. You should have two servings of whole grains per day. You can have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, or you can cook up brown rice and enjoy it with a healthy gravy.

[Read: Essential Oils in Lowering Cholesterol]

4. High Fiber Fruit

Fruits that are high in fiber, for example, prunes, pears, and apples can effectively lower the LDL level in the body and raise the HDL level. You can simply bite into them to enjoy their health benefits, or you can create delicious smoothies and salads to go with your dinner. One serving of high fiber fruit per day will help you maintain good cholesterol levels.

5. Fatty Fish

Fatty Fish

Fatty fishes like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your LDL level(3). According to dieticians, eating two servings of fish per week is excellent for cholesterol. You can create delicious dishes with fish. If you dislike fish, you can consume fish oil supplements.

6. Flax

Flax seeds and flaxseed oil both contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for heart health. Flax gives a boost to the percentage of good cholesterol in the body. You can consume flax seeds by sprinkling them on your salads, dips, oatmeal, or baked goods. You can use flaxseed oil for salad dressings or be added to smoothies.

[Read: Essential Oils for Lowering High Cholesterol]

7. Nuts

Brazilian nuts, pistachios, peanuts, etc. are filled with good fats and tons of fiber. They contain plant sterols that block the absorption of cholesterol in the body. You can consume one or two ounces of nuts every day. You can munch on a handful of these nuts or add them to your meals, smoothies, and salads.

8. Red Wine

Red Wine
Image: ShutterStock

Drinking moderate amounts of red wine has proved to slightly improve the HDL level in the body. The moderate quantity of alcohol one glass per day for women and two glasses per day for men. Though red wine consumption comes with a condition- you should not consume red wine if your triglyceride levels are on the upper end!

Other Methods of Increasing HDL (Tips)

You can improve your HDL level by making a few very fundamental lifestyle changes.

1. Opt Exercise

A daily exercise routine will boost your HDL level naturally. If you like walking, you can start by walking 15 minutes every day and gradually increase it to 30 minutes of walking, five times a week.

[Read: Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss]

2. Lose Weight

Obesity is one of the biggest contributors to bad cholesterol. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) will help you go a long way in reducing bad cholesterol.

3. Check the Genes

Some people are genetically prone to cholesterol. It might help to get tested and talk to your doctor about the best methods of maintaining cholesterol levels in case of genetic disposition.

Final Take

Maintaining a good ratio of HDL and LDL is good for men and women of all age groups. Pay attention to your diet and inculcate the above-mentioned simple lifestyle changes to effortlessly manage your cholesterol.

Also, if you are above the age of 20, get your cholesterol checked regularly!


1. What Happens If HDL Cholesterol Is Low?

Low HDL cholesterol is bad for health because this is the cholesterol that unclogs the arteries and takes care of the heart when present in ideal numbers. Low HDL cholesterol may also mean a high count of LDL cholesterol, which is bad for health.

2. What Is the Normal Range Of HDL And LDL?

The normal range of HDL is between 40mg/dl – 60 mg/dl. The optimum level of HDL is 60mg/dl. For LDL, ideally, it should be under 100 mg/dl. A reading of 130-159 mg/dl is considered borderline high, and when it falls between 160-189 mg/dl, it is considered high. An LDL level of 100 to 129 is considered normal for healthy people, but it is a concern for individuals with heart problems.

3. Do Eggs Increase HDL?

There isn’t enough research to suggest that eggs are good or bad for cholesterol. While some studies link it to an increase in bad cholesterol, others claim that it is perfectly fine to eat 3-7 eggs a week.

According to some researchers, the relationship between cholesterol and eggs may come more from how the eggs are cooked rather than the eggs themselves.

4. Does Sleep Affect Cholesterol?

A recent study found that sleeping less than 5 hours a night increased the LDL levels in women, and sleeping more than 8 hours also had the same reaction in the body. However, men did not show any sensitivity to oversleeping.

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