HDL, or high-density lipoproteins, are the "good" cholesterol your body that help to transport excess cholesterol in the blood back to the liver to be broken down. A healthy HDL level in the blood is 60 milligrams per deciliter or higher, with a higher HDL level decreasing risk of heart disease. Consuming certain foods, along with regular exercise, can aid in keeping HDL at a healthy level in the body.
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Fish and Fish Oils
Eating fish several days a week can help to raise HDL cholesterol, according to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Especially beneficial are fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and sea bass, which provide good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, according to the British Heart Foundation, help to lower blood triglyceride levels and prevent blood from clotting, which decreases risk of heart disease. Such omega-3 fatty acids have also shown to be effective in fish oil supplement form.
Nuts, Seeds and Soy
The Harvard School of Public Health recommends at least one source of omega-3 fatty acids a day, which does not necessarily have to be fish. The University of Massachusetts names soy foods, leafy green vegetables, walnuts and flaxseed, as examples of non-fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Purple-Skinned Fruits and Vegetables
Purple-skinned fruits, vegetables and juices have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol levels, according to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library states that these foods, which include red and purple grapes, red wine and black tea, contain beneficial compounds known as flavonoids that have shown to be protective against heart disease. The antioxidant activity in beets has been shown to decrease triglycerides and total cholesterol, in addition to significantly raising HDL levels.
Decreasing refined carbohydrates such as white sugar, white bread and pasta products, as well as sweetened beverages can help to raise HDL cholesterol levels, notes the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. To decrease refined carbohydrates in the diet, focus instead on consuming more fiber-rich, complex carbohydrate sources such as whole grain breads, pastas and cereals. In addition, replace juice and soda with water or unsweetened tea to reduce the refined carbohydrates you consume through beverages.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Colorado State University: Dietary Fat and Cholesterol
- University of Massachusetts Medical Center: What You Can Do to Raise Your HDL Cholesterol
- British Heart Foundation: What is Cholesterol?
- University of Illinois Extension: Beets
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Atherosclerosis
- American Heart Association: Cooking for Lower Cholesterol