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What Are the Food Sources of HDL Cholesterol?

author image Riana Rohmann
Riana Rohmann has been working for the Marine Corps doing physical training and writing fitness articles since 2008. She holds personal trainer and advanced health and fitness specialist certifications from the American Council on Exercise and a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and exercise physiology from California State University-San Marcos.
What Are the Food Sources of HDL Cholesterol?
Salmon and red wine have both been shown to raise HDL cholesterol levels. Photo Credit Trevor Allen/iStock/Getty Images


HDL Cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein, is the “good” cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association HDL cholesterol helps remove the “bad” LDL cholesterol, or low density lipoprotein, from the blood and take them back to the liver to be processed and removed. HDL cholesterol helps prevent plaque deposits from LDL cholesterol in the arteries that can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. The American Council on Exercises recommends for individuals to have HDL levels above 60mg per deciliter. HDL levels below 40mg per deciliter are considered a risk factor for heart disease. There are many ways in which to increase HDL levels with specific food intakes.


Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut and mackerel have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which is rich with HDL cholesterol. Consume two to three servings a week. If you are not a fish lover, then fish oil supplements will suffice, however many nutrients are not absorbed during digestion. It’s always best to get your nutrients from whole foods because it is easier for the body to absorb all the nutrients.


Raw nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews have high levels of HDL cholesterol and are rich in polyunsaturated fats. It is best to eat them raw as opposed to baked or cooked because the cooking process can eliminate some of the nutrients. Also avoid salted nuts, because high sodium levels can increase blood pressure.

Soluble Fiber

Foods that are rich in soluble fiber include fruits like apples, pears and prunes with skin on. Grains, oatmeal and beans are another source of soluble fiber. The average adult should try to get at least 20g of soluble fiber in their diet daily, with a goal of 20g for lower LDL and higher HDL cholesterol.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is high in antioxidants which help lower LDL and rise HDL cholesterol levels. The Food and Drug Administration recommends using 2 tbsp., or 23g per day for added health benefits. Substitute using olive oil for cooking spray and butter. Combined with vinegar it is also a good salad dressing. Remember to use in moderation however since it is high in calories.

Red Wine

Red wine in moderation, about a glass per day, can raise HDL levels by about 4mg per deciliter, however it has not been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. If you have high triglycerides, this is not a method to try to raise HDL levels.

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