Finally, you want more of something instead of less! HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is also known as the “good” cholesterol. HDL removes cholesterol from your bloodstream and carries it back to the liver. I like to think of HDL as a vacuum cleaner, picking up cholesterol LDL leaves behind in your arteries. HDL should be greater than 40 mg/dL, ideally greater than 60 mg/dL.
Physical Activity. One of the best ways to increase your HDL is through physical activity, specifically aerobic activity (jogging, swimming, biking, etc.). For results, you need at least 120 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. In this case, vigorous activity does not have more of an impact, but duration does. The longer you work out the greater them impact on HDL. Work your way up to a minimum of 30 minutes, five days per week. If you’re not currently physically active, consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Saturated and Trans Fats. Limiting unhealthy fats will also impact HDL, so look at your saturated fat and trans fat intake and see where you can make cuts. Your total fat intake for the day should be limited to 30 percent of your daily calories. Of this 30 percent, only 10 percent should be from saturated fat and ideally zero from trans fats. To attain these levels you’ll need to select healthy choices when dining out, read food labels, cook with healthy fats, and select lean cuts of meat.
Omega 3s. Selecting healthy fats, such as omega 3’s, will raise HDL while lowering LDL. Incorporating healthy omega 3 fatty acids will also improve your total cholesterol to HDL ratio. You can learn more about the top 5 omega 3 sources and how much you need to lower cholesterol here at Health Central.
Dietary Fiber. A high-fiber diet does not directly boost HDL levels. However, a high-fiber diet does lower LDL cholesterol. As LDL is lowered, your total cholesterol-to-HDL ratio improves. For the greatest impact, eat a diet especially rich in soluble fiber and select whole grain products, fruits, and vegetables daily.
Alcohol. Alcohol plays a role in raising HDL levels also. I’m not a big advocate of using alcohol to raise HDL, but if you already consume alcohol, one to two drinks per day can raise levels. More than one to two drinks per day will increase your health problems. If you do not drink, do not start.