HDL, high-density lipoprotein, is the good cholesterol in the body and you want high levels of this type of cholesterol to protect you from many diseases. LDL, or low-density cholesterol, is the bad type of cholesterol that needs to be kept in check. Your total cholesterol levels are made up of HDL, LDL and triglycerides. When you have high levels of HDL in the bloodstream, it helps to remove the extra cholesterol in the body and also prevents plaque buildup in the arteries. HDL cholesterol also sends all the extra cholesterol to the liver, from where it exits the body. HDL cholesterol helps lower the risk of stroke, heart attack and other heart-related diseases. So, how to increase HDL cholesterol naturally?
What is HDL Cholesterol?
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is the good cholesterol that your body needs more of(1) HDL cholesterol helps clean up the bad cholesterol from the body.(2)
Helping remove the extra cholesterol and plaque buildup from the arteries, HDL cholesterol then sends it across to the liver, from where it exits the body. This also lowers the risk of many heart-related diseases.
According to the American Heart Association, everyone should get a cholesterol blood test done by the time they turn 20. If you are overweight or obese or are at risk of other heart conditions, then you should consider talking to your doctor about getting it done sooner.
A healthy level of HDL cholesterol is around 60 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) or above.(1) HDL cholesterol levels are considered to be low if it falls below 40 mg/dL.(2) Having an HDL cholesterol level between 40 to 60 mg/dL is what you should aim for.
Diet and HDL Cholesterol Levels
When you eat unhealthy foods, it increases your LDL cholesterol as well as your total cholesterol levels. There are several factors that can help increase your HDL cholesterol levels naturally. By avoiding the following factors, you can boost the levels of HDL cholesterol naturally.
There are also certain hormones that boost the levels of HDL cholesterol in the body, such as thyroid and estrogen, lowering your alcohol consumption and regularly exercising can also increase your HDL cholesterol levels in a natural manner.
Diet also has an important role to play in elevating HDL levels and lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol naturally. The Mediterranean diet(3) and the DASH diet are two such diets which focus on improving your HDL cholesterol levels and also has benefits for your overall health.
How to Increase HDL Cholesterol Naturally?
Certain foods you can include in your diet on a regular basis to increase the levels of HDL cholesterol naturally are discussed below:
Olive Oil: Best Oil for HDL Cholesterol (5)
Using olive oil in cooking is a good way to increase HDL cholesterol naturally.(4) Olive oil makes up the very foundation of the Mediterranean diet.(6) Olives and olive oil contain a certain type of heart-healthy fat that helps lower the inflammation in the body caused by high levels of LDL cholesterol. You should start replacing other oils and fats with extra virgin olive oil and start cooking at low temperatures. Cooking at low temperatures is a necessity as extra-virgin olive oil starts to break down when exposed to high temperatures. You should include olive oil in salad dressings, sauces, and also for flavoring foods once they are cooked. Even using chopped olives on soups and salads will help you benefit from olives. However, extra-virgin olive oil is high in calories, so better to use it in moderation.
Whole Grains: Best Diet for Better HDL Cholesterol
Whole grains, such as brown or wild rice, bran, oats, and cereals, help lower the levels of LDL cholesterol and also bring down the levels of total cholesterol.(7) This gives a natural boost to the levels of HDL cholesterol. This is because whole grains are rich in fiber, especially soluble fiber, which helps bring down the levels of LDL cholesterol.
Having at least two to three servings of whole grains every day will increase the levels of HDL cholesterol within two to three weeks in a natural way.
Beans and Legumes: Fibers That Are Great For HDL Cholesterol
Just like whole grains, beans and legumes are high in soluble fiber. Black-eyed peas, kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, and lentils are just some examples of what you can include in your diet to boost your HDL levels naturally.(8) Canned beans, another great example, are also rich in folate and contain nearly half the amount of folate as compared to cooked dry beans. Folate, an important B vitamin, is very healthy for promoting heart health along with naturally increasing HDL cholesterol. Beans and legumes are also high in fiber and other nutrients that make them great for your overall health as well.
High-Fiber Fruits: Tasty Way to Increase HDL Cholesterol
Fruits, such as apples, pears, and prunes, are known to contain a lot of fiber and lower the levels of LDL, and also raising your HDL levels naturally. Including them in your breakfast is the best way to start your day off on the right note. Replacing processed and refined snacks with a high-fiber fruit is also going to help you increase your HDL levels in a natural way without using medications.(9)
Fatty Fish: Increase HDL Cholesterol with this Seafood (10)
Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower LDL levels and boost HDL cholesterol levels naturally. Some of the best fatty fish to include in your diet plan are: salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, rainbow trout and sardines. Including at least two servings of fatty fish in a week can help to increase HDL cholesterol naturally. If you don’t like fish, then taking a supplement of omega-3 fatty acids can also help in increasing HDL cholesterol.(11)
Exercise is Mandatory for Good HDL Cholesterol Levels (12)
It is important to be physically active if you want to increase your HDL levels naturally. Not only does exercise help increase your HDL levels, but it is also important for preventing other chronic diseases. Many studies have already shown that different types of exercises are highly effective at increasing HDL levels, lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Some of these exercises include: aerobic exercise, strength training, and high-intensity exercises. High-intensity exercises, in particular, have been shown to lead to the highest increase in HDL cholesterol levels. This is not to say that low-intensity exercises do not benefit. They just do not show as much benefit as high-intensity exercises, especially if you are looking to boost your HDL levels at the earliest in a natural manner. Exercising a couple of times in a week will help boost your HDL cholesterol and also increase anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of HDL cholesterol naturally.
Adding Coconut Oil to your Diet
Coconut oil is known to lower your appetite, protect brain health, and also boost your metabolic rate, apart from other benefits. Some people are concerned that coconut oil has a negative effect on the heart due to the high content of saturated fat present in it, but new research has shown that coconut oil is, in fact, very healthy for the heart. Coconut oil increases the level of HDL cholesterol naturally more than any other fat you can consume.(13) Coconut oil also helps better the ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, thus improving the risk of heart disease.
A dosage of about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day is what provides the maximum health benefits. Including coconut oil into cooking rather than eating coconut oil by itself has been shown to have more benefits in naturally increasing HDL cholesterol.
While your genetics have a slight role to play in determining your HDL cholesterol levels, there are many things that you can do to boost these levels on your own. These natural practices for increasing your HDL levels have many other health benefits as well. However, before changing your diet dramatically or before you begin to start taking supplements, you must talk to your doctor and get a blood test done to determine what your HDL and LDL levels are. One of the easiest ways of increasing these levels is through dietary changes and exercise. So start making these healthy changes today and change your cholesterol numbers for the positive naturally.
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