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5 Foods to Raise HDL

Fantastic Foods to Up Your Good Cholesterol

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Updated September 01, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

So often when you have or are concerned about high cholesterol, you're told what you can't eat. But what about foods that you can -- even should? Just as there are options that can negatively impact your cholesterol, there are foods that raise HDL -- the "good" kind of cholesterol. Being mindful of both of these groups will put you on the path to a cholesterol-combating diet.

What Is HDL?

HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is a protective form of cholesterol. When your HDL is high (60 mg/dl or higher is considered desirable for both men and women), your risk of heart attack or heart disease is lower. When your HDL is low (for women less than 50 mg/dl, for men less than 40 mg/dl), your chances of having a heart attack or heart disease are increased.

Don't be afraid to try new foods. You may discover something you really enjoy! Here are five delicious foods for a higher HDL:

1. AVOCADO

Great on salads, in sandwiches, and in homemade guacamole dip, the avocado is a good source of monounsaturated "good" fat. In one study of an avocado-enriched diet, subjects with high cholesterol increased their HDL 11% after only 1 week.

Preparation Tip: Avocados have 235 calories per cup (146 g), so portion control is key. For a delicious "California-style" sandwich, try ½ of an avocado with lettuce, tomato and onion in a medium-size, whole grain pita. Add a squeeze of lemon and one tablespoon of flavored hummus (horseradish, lemon, or garlic) for an added kick.

2. LEGUMES

Legumes such as peas, beans, soybeans and lentils are excellent sources of HDL-friendly soluble fiber.

Preparation Tip: Indian spices (cumin, nutmeg, paprika, turmeric) are a tasty addition to lentil soups. Research shows these spices may have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, which may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

3. NIACIN-CONTAINING FOODS

Niacin (vitamin B3) is believed to block cholesterol production in the body. Although niacin in prescription supplement form appears to be most effective on increasing HDL, it may have side effects such as flushing, itching and headache, so you may want to consider adding niacin-containing foods to your diet first. Niacin is found in high concentrations in crimini mushrooms, chicken breast, halibut, tomato, romaine lettuce, enriched breads and cereals.

Preparation Tip: Sautéed crimini mushrooms are a delightful complement to any meal. You can also grill them and use as a fantastic filler for chicken or seafood kabobs.

4. OATMEAL

Countless research studies have shown that regular consumption of oats aids in reducing total cholesterol and LDL ("bad" cholesterol), but does not lower your HDL cholesterol.

Preparation Tip: Adding ground cinnamon and ½ an ounce of walnuts (7 shelled halves) makes an oatmeal breakfast even more heart-healthy.

5. SALMON

This fish, and other high-omega-3 options such as halibut herring, lake trout, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, should be eaten 2 times a week, according to the American Heart Association. A serving is considered 3.5 ounces cooked.

Preparation Tip: A chopped almond crust adds even more omega-3s to any fish meal.

Keep in mind that dietary changes go hand in hand with lifestyle choices for healthy cholesterol levels. Aerobic exercise, weight loss and avoiding smoking all contribute to higher HDL cholesterol levels. Remember that several small changes can add up to big results.

Sources:

Ahsan H, N Parveen , NU Khan, SM Hadi. Pro-oxidant, anti-oxidant and cleavage activities on DNA of curcumin and its derivatives demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin Chem Biol Interact 1999 July

Andon, Mark B., Anderson, James W. State of the Art Reviews: The Oatmeal-Cholesterol Connection: 10 Years Later
American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 2008 2: 51-57.

Lopez LLedesma R, Frati Munari AC, Hernandez Dominguez BC, et al. Monounsaturated fatty acid (avocado) rich diet for mild hypercholesterolemia. Arch Med Res 1996 Winter;27(4):519-23 1996.

Tayyem RF, Heath DD, Al Delaimy WK, Rock CL. Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders. Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. 2006; 55(2): 126-31.

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