Four Foods That Increase HDL – Good Cholesterol
Why do we need HDL?
Our liver produces enough cholesterol for our bodily needs. Cells use cholesterol for important functions. To facilitate transport into cells, cholesterol is wrapped in a protein sheath. These particles are called LDL cholesterol. You can think of them as little dump trucks that travel in the bloodstream to the cells that need them.
In a healthy, well-balanced body, HDL particles pick up unused LDL and transport it back to the liver, where it is recycled or removed from the body. If our HDL levels are low, this process is not possible and if this happens for too long, the LDL remains in the bloodstream available to cause damage to the artery walls. Therefore, high levels of HDL cholesterol are needed to keep the arteries free of unnecessary LDL.
LDL cholesterol is called “bad cholesterol”, while HDL has a protective function of the heart and is recognized as “good cholesterol”. HDL levels greater than 40 mg/dL and LDL levels less than 100 mg/dL are desired. If our levels do not fall within the desired ranges, in most cases a change in diet can improve them.
What is your daily calorie intake?
Many people simply eat too much, so the first step is to eat smaller portions – cut back. Most people can maintain good health on a natural foods diet of about 2,000 calories a day. Consider how many calories a day do you eat? And how are the calories distributed? Are they high in fat, refined sugars, and carbohydrates? If you follow the suggestions below and continue to eat too much of the wrong things, then it all backfires. That is why it is important to understand what your daily diet consists of. Being overweight has been shown to contribute to low HDL blood levels.
Can diet help increase HDL?
The short answer is: yes you can. However, it is wrong to assume that we should avoid all cholesterol-containing foods and follow a low-fat diet. While it can lower our cholesterol levels, it may also be responsible for causing an imbalanced ratio between HDL and LDL, which can increase the risk of heart disease. We need to develop a higher overall HDL to LDL ratio. Ideally, total cholesterol levels that are calculated from HDL, LDL, and triglycerides or blood fats should be less than 200 mg/dL.
What foods can provide the correct ratio?
There are times when we need to increase our HDL levels, and typically a diet that includes 70% carbohydrates and 30% saturated fat will result in high cholesterol levels. This is typical of an American diet at this time. Instead, we should replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, and total fats should not make up more than 10% of our daily diet. Oils such as Omega-3 fatty acids, olive oils, or canola oils make up these good fats, as do nuts.
We need a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, high in fiber and low in carbohydrates.
Four foods capable of raising HDL cholesterol
1. Soy products.
Soy proteins provide many unique benefits that make them a super protein and a top source of nutrition for those who are vegetarians. Soy offers a complete amino acid profile because it contains all the essential amino acids needed for our nutrition and since we cannot create our own source of amino acids, we need to get them from our diet.
Soy protein increases the activity of enzymes responsible for breaking down cholesterol. Soy sources can be found in supplements, cereals, soy nuts, milk, and tofu.
2. Green leafy vegetables
While most fruits and vegetables provide plant sterols that help increase HDL levels, there are a few that stand out, including avocado and dark leafy greens.
The avocado is rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat; one per day can increase HDL levels by up to 17%. Leafy green vegetables like kale, Swiss chard, kale, and spinach work in the same way as avocados to raise HDL levels.
Berries, especially blue berries, contain an antioxidant called pterostilbene, which is also found in grapes and red wine and is responsible for raising HDL. In fact, many fruits that are purple or bluish in color produce similar results.
4. Monounsaturated fats
In the form of nuts, oily fish, olive oil, flax seed oil and the like are a good source to increase HDL levels. As an alternative to animal proteins, these fats provide great benefits for our HDL levels.
Aerobic exercise has been shown to raise HDL levels. So an HDL cholesterol diet rich in the natural foods mentioned above along with a good exercise plan will raise HDL levels and have positive effects on LDL and total cholesterol levels.