When it comes to your cholesterol, higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) - the "good" cholesterol - not only helps keep your arteries plaque-free, but can prevent heart disease and stroke as well. Foods that can help raise HDL levels include - olive oil, beans, legumes, soy, whole grains, fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, and all-time favorite dark chocolates too.
Cholesterol is widely classified into good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol comprises of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and bad cholesterol is made up of Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL). HDLs help remove the LDLs which are harmful to the body, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. The normal level of HDL is 60 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) or above, and a level below 40 mg/dL is considered as low.
Diet plays an important role in supplying the body with necessary amounts of HDL. Below are some foods to increase the HDL levels.
1. Olive Oil
Olives and olive oil are high in HDL, and reduce the inflammatory effects of LDL. Choosing extra-virgin olive oil over any other oils is a good option to start with. You could use the oil as a dressing for your salad, or include chopped olives in your sandwich or soups.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fishes help boost your HDL levels and lower bad cholesterol. Salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, and trout contain high levels of omega-3. Including these fishes in your diet twice a week promotes health benefits. There are various supplements of fish oil available in the market, which also serve the purpose, though not as much as the fish does.
The monounsaturated fatty acids and folate present in avocados increase the levels of HDL and decrease LDL levels. The fiber in avocado also plays an important role in this. Avocado smoothie is a good option to keep yourself full for a long time. You can also include avocado slices in sandwiches, salads, and soups.
4. Red Wine
The fact that alcohol is beneficial for health is too good to be true. Red wine has the potential to enhance HDL levels in the body. This significantly reduces the chances of getting a heart disease. Moderation is key, and the usual limit suggested is 1 glass per day for women and 2 glasses per day for men.
However, it is best to discuss this with your doctor in case you have a liver disease or diabetes.
Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, nuts enhance your HDL levels and reduce the levels of LDL, keeping your blood vessels healthy. They also have high amounts of plant sterols which reduce the absorption of LDL in the body. Some of the nuts are almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, and peanuts. You can munch on nuts as a snack or include them in salads and soups.
These plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids regulate the levels of HDL in the body. Flaxseeds as a whole are not broken down by our digestive system, and so the nutrients are not absorbed. The best form to consume it is as powder or as oil. You can add flaxseed oil to salads, and sprinkle the powder on baked foods, cereals, oats, and salads.
7. Beans And Legumes
Lentils, black-eyed peas, black beans, and kidney beans are loaded with fiber and folate. While fiber helps in the absorption of good cholesterol, folate reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Lentils can be best consumed as soups, and beans as a side dish.
8. Fruits Rich In Fiber
Apples, pears, and prunes have high amounts of fiber which enhance the HDL levels. Eating them as is retains the high fiber content and has greater benefits. You could also make a smoothie, or include them as toppings on your cereals.
A vegetarian alternative to meat, soy reduces LDL levels in your body. Studies also show that consumption of soy has led to decreased consumption of meat in many people. Soy chunks can be soaked and added to your side dishes. Slices of tofu can be used to replace the cheese slices in your sandwich.
10. Dark Chocolate
Eating dark chocolate increases good cholesterol levels in the body. Research indicates that eating 0.5 oz of dark chocolate every day increases good cholesterol levels by 9%. You don’t need tips on how to eat chocolates, do you?
11. Whole Grains
Whole-grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and other whole grains are the best sources of soluble fiber and boost the levels of HDL in the body. Including 2 servings of whole grains or their unprocessed byproducts are recommended.
While food stands as the core to boosting HDL levels and lowering LDL, other important factors like exercise, genetics, and metabolism also impact cholesterol levels. A healthy lifestyle accompanied by yearly check-up of your cholesterol levels help manage your health effectively.