A lot of cholesterol diet advice focuses on reducing bad cholesterol (LDL), however it’s also hugely beneficial to raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – the “good” cholesterol. Experts believe HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying bad cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed from the body.
UK health guidelines recommend that Total Cholesterol should be less than 5.2 mmol/L (201 mg/dl), and HDL Cholesterol should be at least 1 mmol/L (39 mg/dl).
Just as there are lots of foods that will actively help to lower bad cholesterol, there are also foods that will help to increase good cholesterol (HDL) and improve overall heart health such as these:-
1. Olive Oil
The heart-healthy monounsaturated fats found in olive oil can increase your good cholesterol (HDL) and lower the inflammatory impact of bad cholesterol (LDL) on your body.
I tend to use rapeseed oil for cooking, as it has a higher smoke point than olive oil, meaning it doesn’t lose as many nutrients when exposed to high temperatures. However olive oil is great for salad dressings, and drizzling over meals before serving. I especially love using infused olive oils, for example:-
- Basil infused olive oil drizzled over salads.
- Warm bread dipped in garlic infused olive oil.
- Chilli infused olive oil drizzled over stir fries just before serving.
2. Brown Rice
Brown rice can also give your good cholesterol (HDL) levels a boost because it is rich in soluble fibre. It takes quite a while to cook, so I always put it on the boil at the start of cooking my meals so that it’s ready in time. I generally cook more than I need so that I can use the leftovers to make things like rice salads or egg-fried rice.
In a study from the Western Human Nutrition Research Centre, good cholesterol levels increased by 10% when volunteers ate a salmon-rich diet for 20 days. Experts recommend eating at least two servings of oily fish per week, such as salmon, trout, sardines, tuna and mackerel.
Here are some salmon recipes to try:-
- 5 minute superfood salmon salad
- Spiced salmon filo pie
- Salmon and sweet potato fishcakes
- Grilled rosemary salmon skewers
Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fats, which can help to increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels. I try to eat avocado at least three times a week, for example in sandwiches with smoked salmon, on oatcakes with a pinch of salt, chopped up in salads or on their own with a dollop of houmous.
Berries, especially blueberries contain an antioxidant that is also found in grapes and is responsible for the increase of good cholesterol (HDL). Blueberries contain lots of other health benefiting plant-nutrients, such as soluble dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins, that contribute immensely towards health and wellbeing. I love eating them with yoghurt and muesli in the morning, or adding frozen berries to smoothies.
6. Red Wine
Good news:- red wine, when consumed in moderation, can help to improve heart health! It contains antioxidants, which can help prevent heart disease by increasing levels good cholesterol (HDL) and protecting against artery damage. Experts recommend drinking no more than two small glasses per day though, otherwise it can have a detrimental impact on your health.
Click here to see more of my top tips for lowering cholesterol, and keeping it low.