HDL (high-density lipoprotein), the “good” cholesterol, is vital for heart health. It can only be improved through lifestyle and diet. There is no medication as of now that has been found to increase HDL levels in the body while also improving your health.
Lipoprotein is a type of protein that carries fats throughout the body. HDL, the good cholesterol, removes fat from the cells. This fat is transported to the liver and also to the adrenal glands, ovaries, and testicles to make hormones. The excess fat carried to the liver is turned into bile or eliminated through the small intestine. So, HDL is crucial for cholesterol management in the body. It also has antioxidant-like characteristics and helps reduce inflammation as well as clotting in the arteries. According to experts, Niacin (vitamin B3) is the most effective agent for increasing HDL in the body. There’s a catch, though: the kind of vitamin B3 that causes the skin to flush is the one that increases HDL. (Yes, it’s that specific.) A keto diet is also useful in raising HDL levels, as is a fitness routine. Magnesium can also positively influence HDL levels, as can intermittent fasting.
The best way to get these micronutrients and improve the levels of good cholesterol in your body is to include the following eight foods in your diet:
1. Extra virgin olive oil
Spanish scientists conducted studies and found that virgin olive oil consumption increased HDL levels. Olive oil works by improving the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of HDL. The oil also contains phenols, which improve HDL function in the body. People with healthy levels of HDL (40–60 mg/dL) are less likely to develop atherosclerosis (the build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in and on the artery walls) and have healthier hearts.
Multiple studies have found that increasing avocado intake leads to an increase in HDL levels. This fruit contains monounsaturated fats, which increase the HDL in the body. It also lowers triglycerides in the body. Avocados also contain vitamin C that helps tissue repair and growth, vitamin K that aids blood health, folate that benefits cell and tissue function, and vitamin B-6 that boosts immunity.
We’ve raved about walnuts many times. And why not? Multiple studies indicate that people who consumed walnuts regularly showed an increase in HDL cholesterol and a 10% drop in their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Over the long term, just 30 grams of walnuts per day can provide health benefits for your heart.
4. Whole eggs: 1 a day/4-6 per week.
This one may come as a surprise to many people. We’re often told that egg yolk raises cholesterol by a lot. However, some studies found that “RCTs in people with diabetes have found that eating 6–12 eggs per week didn’t negatively affect total blood cholesterol levels or heart disease risk factors.” Rather, it increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Most healthy people can eat 4-6 eggs per week without increasing the risk of heart disease. One large egg contains 186 mg of cholesterol, so if you’re not eating other cholesterol-rich foods, one whole egg a day may be good for your health.
5. Whole Grains
Using whole grains, like brown rice, can lower cholesterol levels, which in turn can have a net positive effect on HDL levels. This is because whole grains contain soluble fiber, which sticks to the LDL particles and removes them from the body. Try to have two servings of whole grains per day: for instance, oatmeal for breakfast, whole wheat bread for lunch, some brown rice for dinner, etc.
6. Legumes (daals) and beans (black beans)
Beans and legumes also contain soluble fiber, which helps reduce levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Black beans, kidney beans, and lentils are all great for your health. Cooking legumes (dals) in a pressure cooker removes lectin (a protein that binds to carbohydrates and causes inflammation), so the legumes are healthier for the heart and the gut.
7. Whole fruit (not juice)
Eating fruits that are rich in fiber is another way of ensuring your cholesterol levels stay on target. Pears and apples are great for fiber; the pectin and phenols in apples aid the body in removing bad cholesterol and maintaining a higher percentage of HDL. Yes, we know fruits can get boring, but do not juice them. That gets rid of the all-important fiber. Instead, add fruits to your oatmeal or breakfast cereal.
8. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which increase HDL levels in the body. They also contain fiber and many micronutrients. Chia seeds reduce LDL, lower blood pressure, and push your HDL levels up. They’re easy to have and can be sprinkled on your oatmeal, breakfast cereal, salads, curd/yogurt, smoothies, etc.