With so much hype about how "bad" LDL cholesterol is, you may have completely overlooked HDL cholesterol. However, HDL cholesterol plays a very important role in your heart health. There are a number of changes you can make in your diet and lifestyle, which can be very effective for raising HDL cholesterol.
Limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats will have a beneficial effect on your HDL cholesterol. Replace unhealthy fats with monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Foods to add to your regular consumption include, olive oil, nuts, avocado, natural nut butter, tuna, salmon, sardines and flaxseed.
Research suggests that polyphenol-rich, high-cocoa chocolate (70 percent cocoa or more) increases HDL cholesterol. If you are adding dark chocolate to your diet, do remember that it is calorie-rich, so therefore you must compensate elsewhere, to avoid overeating. And don't forget that the chocolate must be high-cocoa to be beneficial.
A study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that vitamin D and calcium can increase HDL levels. You can get calcium from dairy, but also from leafy green vegetables, fish (with bones), legumes, dried figs and apricots. Foods that contain vitamin D, include eggs, fortified milk, salmon, tuna and fish oils.
Alcohol also plays a role in increasing HDL levels. But, if you do not drink already, do not start, as there other risks associated with consuming alcohol on a regular basis. If you do drink alcohol, do not exceed more than 1-2 drinks per day.
A study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, found that niacin increased HDL cholesterol by up to 30 percent. Food sources of niacin include mushrooms, nuts, legumes, chicken, beef, tuna, trout, mackerel, eggs, and sea vegetables. Check with your doctor before considering niacin supplements.