Foods You Should Eat to Raise HDL and Lower LDL Cholesterol

Some foods contain cholesterol-bad fats that are best avoided by everyone (not just those concerned about their cholesterol levels).

The American Heart Association recommends that everyone limit trans and saturated fats. These include fried foods, processed foods in partially hydrogenated oils, and processed meats like bacon.

These fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, and cause plaque buildup in the arteries.

But what about so-called “healthy” fats? Is there really such a thing? In a word, absolutely. Heart-healthy superfoods thought to prevent disease can raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol. They also lower LDL, effectively protecting you from heart disease and stroke.

Food at the end of the fork is powerful. Avocado—a fatty, creamy fruit that makes the perfect salad or sandwich topping—is a potent HDL-boosting fat.

This article discusses why some foods, like avocados, are good for your cholesterol. It also provides some examples of healthy foods to raise your HDL or lower your LDL.


What is HDL cholesterol?

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is a protected form of cholesterol. It takes bad cholesterol out of the arteries and into the liver. There, it can be broken down and eliminated from the body.

When your HDL is high, your risk of heart disease or heart disease is reduced. This is about 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or higher.

When your HDL is low, your chances of developing heart disease or heart disease increase. Less than 50 mg/dl for women and less than 40 mg/dl for men.

Here are a few foods you should consider eating regularly to raise your HDL and lower your LDL.


HDL is considered “good” cholesterol because it carries “bad” LDL cholesterol away from the arteries. Some foods can help improve health by increasing HDL and lowering LDL.




Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are healthy fats that raise HDL and lower LDL. In a 2015 study, eating one avocado a day while following a moderate-fat diet was associated with a drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol of 13.5 mg/dL.

When the participants consumed one avocado per day, they also improved several other blood measurements. This includes:

  • Total cholesterol, or the total amount in the blood, including HDL and LDL
  • Triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood
  • Small, dense LDL, a specific type of LDL that increases the risk of arterial plaque
  • non-HDL cholesterol, or subtract your HDL number from total cholesterol


Avocados contain 235 calories (146 grams) per cup, so portion control is key. For a delicious “California-style” sandwich, try half an avocado, lettuce, tomato, and onion in a medium-sized whole-wheat pita.

Add lemon juice and a tablespoon of seasoned hummus (horseradish, lemon or garlic) for extra flavor.



Antioxidant-Rich Foods

A study published in the journal in 2016 nutrients showed that a diet rich in antioxidants increased triglyceride-related high-density lipoprotein levels. Antioxidants are substances in food that protect your cells from damage.

Foods high in antioxidants include:

  • nut
  • dark chocolate
  • berry
  • beet
  • purple cabbage
  • Red grapes
  • kale
  • spinach
  • red bell pepper

Dark fruits and vegetables tend to be rich in antioxidants.


Try making a smoothie for an HDL-rich, antioxidant-rich breakfast. Some good topping choices include non-dairy products like berries, kale or spinach, avocado, and almond milk.



foods rich in niacin

Certain doses of niacin (vitamin B3) (as a supplement) may raise HDL levels. Niacin in high concentrations:

  • Cremini mushrooms
  • chicken breast
  • halibut
  • tomato
  • lettuce
  • fortified bread
  • cereals
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Sauteed red mushrooms are a delicious addition to any meal. You can also grill them and use them as a great filling for chicken or seafood kebabs.

Niacin and Heart Health



Numerous studies have shown that regular consumption of oats can help lower total cholesterol and LDL. Aside from these benefits, oatmeal won’t lower your good HDL cholesterol.

preparation tips

Add ground cinnamon and 1/2 ounce of walnuts (seven in-shell halves) to make breakfast oatmeal even more heart-healthy.



fatty fish

A 2014 study found that a diet rich in foods like fatty fish increases the size of HDL particles. This may help improve cholesterol transport throughout the body.

Fatty fish is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week, especially varieties that contain omega-3 fats. These include:

  • salmon
  • Trout
  • Herring

A serving of fish is considered to be 3.5 ounces cooked.

preparation tips

Chopped almond skins can add more omega-3s to any fish meal.




Some foods can raise your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, or lower your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol carries LDL cholesterol away from the arteries, helping to reduce the risk of heart attack.

Avocados contain a type of healthy fat called monounsaturated fatty acids. These can help raise HDL and lower LDL.

Antioxidant-rich foods, such as nuts and berries, have been found to raise HDL levels and protect cells from damage.

Fatty fish, such as salmon and trout, contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats that can help remove bad cholesterol.

Niacin-rich foods, such as cremini mushrooms, may help raise HDL. Oatmeal can help lower total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol.


VigorTip words

Remember, dietary changes go hand in hand with lifestyle choices for healthy cholesterol levels. Aerobic exercise, weight loss, and avoiding smoking can all lead to elevated HDL cholesterol levels.

Remember that a few small changes can produce big results.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does Avocado Oil Help Lower Bad Cholesterol?

    There is less research on the health benefits of avocado oil. A small human study found that replacing butter with avocado oil lowered total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol after six days.However, other studies have found that most avocado oils on the market are contaminated or spoiled.

  • How much cholesterol is in an avocado?

    Avocados have zero cholesterol. Hass avocado (cosmos) is nutritious and rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K and a plethora of “good” monounsaturated fatty acids.

  • How long does it take to eat food to help lower bad cholesterol?

    A 2015 Penn State study found that people who were obese or overweight saw their LDL levels drop by 50 percent after five weeks of eating a low-fat diet rich in avocados.

    An earlier study in Mexico reported that in healthy people with mild hypercholesterolemia, a similar diet lowered total cholesterol by 17% and “bad” LDL cholesterol after only 7 days 22%.