Cholesterol is a trigger word for many people. Heart attack and heart disease come to mind when you think of high cholesterol levels, but not all cholesterol is bad. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is unhealthy and comes from a diet rich in saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, and fried foods. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is beneficial for the body, carrying cholesterol to the liver so it doesn’t accumulate in the bloodstream.
In order to reduce the build up of LDL cholesterol, dietitians recommend that people avoid trans and saturated fats. These foods increase plaque build-up in the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. It’s optimal to focus on healthy fats, which help to lower LDL levels and raise HDL levels. This can help protect the body from heart disease and stroke. HDL also exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which play a role in the reduced risk of heart disease.
The right food choices can do wonders for the body. A 2020 study found that the Mediterranean diet may be one of the best places to start for increasing HDL levels. This diet has demonstrated an ability to lower overall blood cholesterol in people with risk factors of metabolic disease. You can naturally increase HDL cholesterol by consuming more of the following foods.
Wild rice, bran, bulgur wheat, steel cut oats, buckwheat, millet, and spelt may help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. By lowering LDL levels, you naturally give your HDL a big boost. Whole grains are rich in fiber, specifically soluble fiber, which aims to lower LDL levels and increase HDL cholesterol. According to dietitians, it’s best to consume two servings of whole grains per day. This can be as simple as consuming a bowl of steel cut oats for breakfast and adding a side of wild rice at dinner.
Monounsaturated fats are simply fat molecules that have one saturated carbon bond on the molecule. They help to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood and provide nutrients that help develop the body’s cells. Avocados are excellent sources of monounsaturated fatty acids, which aim to increase HDL levels. A 2015 study found that eating one avocado a day while following a moderate-fat diet contributed to a reduction of LDL levels. Participants in the same study also experienced higher HDL levels and a reduction in triglycerides.
Beans And Other Legumes
Similar to whole grains, beans and other legumes provide quality soluble fiber. The fiber in black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas help to increase HDL levels. Because canned beans can contain tons of salt and processed ingredients, opt for dried beans and soak and cook them yourself. Remember that high sodium content increases the risk of high blood pressure.
According to a 2016 study, diets that contain a diverse mix of antioxidant-rich foods help to raise HDL cholesterol levels. Higher antioxidant consumption may also reduce the risk of heart failure, stroke, and inflammatory biomarkers. Foods that are rich in antioxidants include beets, purple cabbage, tomatoes, berries, nuts, leafy greens, red bell peppers, and other colorful produce items.
No matter if you consume flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, you’ll be getting healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds happen to be one of the better plant-based sources of these heart-healthy fats. When you purchase flaxseeds, make sure to purchase ground flaxseed. Whole flaxseeds are near impossible for the body to digest, meaning they won’t provide the body with any nutrients. Ground flaxseed is easy for the body to absorb.
Not all oils are created equal. Both olive oil and coconut oil are beneficial when it comes to raising HDL levels. A July 2015 study found that including olive oil in the diet significantly decreased LDL concentrations in healthy young men. Olive oil also contains heart-healthy fats that help lower the inflammatory impact that LDL cholesterol has on the body. You can add olive oil to marinades, dressings, and sauces. It’s better to cook with coconut oil because it doesn’t break down at high temperatures like olive oil does.