We all know about the notorious “bad” cholesterol (LDL) – its role in clogging arteries and raising heart disease risk. But what about its lesser-known cousin, the “good” cholesterol (HDL)?
HDL acts as a superhero, scooping up LDL and escorting it out of harm’s way. The higher your HDL levels, the more efficiently you clear that bad cholesterol, reducing your risk of cardiovascular problems.
So, how do we turn up the volume on this heart-protective hero? Forget boring medications or drastic lifestyle changes!
Let’s turn up the HDL volume and dance towards a healthier, happier you!
What Is HDL?
HDL full form is High-density lipoproteins which are one of the five major groups of lipoproteins.
Having a high level of HDL reduces the risk of potential health problems such as heart disease. Thus, it makes sense to increase the level of good cholesterol. An ideal HDL level is 60 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) or above.
The key to boosting the level of HDL is to practice a healthy lifestyle. This means that you should modify or change your habits not only to increase HDL but also to lessen the risk of health problems. Here are some ways to increase the good cholesterol level.
How to Increase HDL Cholesterol Naturally
Smoking is the culprit of various serious health problems. Studies revealed that cigarette smoking greatly affects the HDL level. It lowers the good cholesterol making you vulnerable to developing serious illnesses like coronary heart disease and other heart problems. (1)
Quitting to smoke can improve your HDL metabolism and synthesis to its natural levels. Thus, if you want to avoid the possibility of developing heart problems, you must quit smoking.
Exercising isn’t only to achieve or maintain a good physique, but also to live a healthy life. Performing an exercise program will also increase your HDL level. Engaging in physical activity helps in enhancing your HDL cholesterol.
You can do aerobic exercises like swimming, biking, and running along with weight training to boost your good cholesterol level. (2)
Dropping excess pounds can also help to increase HDL cholesterol. Research revealed that obese or overweight people most likely have higher levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. (3)
Fats build-up around the waist or abdominal obesity is highly associated with heart disease and lower levels of LDL. Thus, to increase the HDL level, you must consider losing weight. You can also eat fat-burning metabolism-boosting foods to lose weight.
Eat healthy fats
Another way to boost your HDL level is to consume healthy fats. As much as possible, you must avoid consuming foods that contain trans fats such as baked goods, fried fast foods, and hard margarines.
Instead, you should consume healthy fats found in olive oil, avocado, salmon and nuts. It’s because healthy fats increase the level of HDL cholesterol and eventually promote a healthier heart. (4)
Eat more fish
Research showed that eating more fish can increase the HDL cholesterol level through the omega-3 fatty acids (5). Fish like salmon, albacore tuna and mackerel have great amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Likewise, you can also find this fatty acid in mixed greens, walnuts and flaxseeds.
Reduce intake of refined carbs
Too much intake of refined carbohydrates like sugar, white bread, and the like can adversely impact your HDL level. Experts suggest reducing intake of refined carbs to boost your HDL level. (6)
Instead, you should consider consuming healthier carbs from fruits and sprouted breads.
Keep moderate consumption of alcohol
Overconsumption of alcohol can do no good to anyone’s health. Research revealed that moderate consumption of alcohol can help a lot in improving good cholesterol levels. (7)
It is recommended for healthy women to drink one alcoholic drink a day and two drinks for men 65 and below.
You can try organic red wine, but make sure not to overdo drinking otherwise it will do more harm than good. It won’t only lower the cholesterol level but also affect your overall health. Drinking alcohol in moderation can reduce triglyceride levels or the fats in the blood.
Increase Intake of Niacin
Niacin is good for the eyes, hair, skin, nervous system, and digestive system. You can get Niacin from foods, but some people are taking Niacin as a prescription to increase HDL levels. Taking Niacin supplements can improve about 30% of good cholesterol levels in your body. (8)
Make sure to follow the prescription, otherwise taking higher dosages of niacin supplements can cause adverse effects. Negative effects include an uncomfortable feeling of flushing, itching, and tingling sensation. The worst thing is that taking a higher dosage of Niacin supplements can lead to muscle, liver, and gastrointestinal problems.
The safer way is to obtain niacin naturally from foods such as chicken breast, liver, mushroom, green peas, tuna, turkey, avocado, and sunflower seeds. This is the natural way to boost HDL cholesterol.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Excessive sugar intake, especially added sugars and refined carbohydrates, can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. This is because your liver can convert excess sugar into LDL.
Reducing sugar intake can help you maintain a healthy weight, which is beneficial for cholesterol levels.
Some studies have shown that reducing sugar intake, particularly fructose (a type of sugar found in many processed foods), can lead to a modest increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
Too much intake of sugary foods not only causes metabolic disorders but also decreases HDL levels. Thus, instead of eating cakes and the like, you should consider fruits and vegetables.
Use healthy oils when cooking
Consume foods that are rich in antioxidant
According to a study, foods rich in antioxidants are a great help in improving HDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Thus, risks related to heart failure, inflammatory biomarkers and stroke are at bay. It is recommended to consume avocado, berries, spinach, beets, kale and dark chocolate.
Talk to your physician
Aside from implementing other ways to increase the level of good cholesterol, you should not forget to talk to your physician. This way you’ll be well-informed about your cholesterol level.
Foods That Reduce Cholesterol Infographic
Indeed, following the tips above can make your good cholesterol go up. Make it a habit to check your cholesterol regularly and live a healthy lifestyle.
is a registered dietitian with over 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She has a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science from Dhaka University and has worked with various clients to help them achieve their health goals through personalized diet plans. Mounota is passionate about educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle and has written extensively on the subject for various publications.