HDL is an acronym for High-density lipoprotein. It is also known as "good" cholesterol.
When your HDL level is high, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects are abundant in your body. What's more, studies have associated high HDL levels with a low risk of heart disease (1, 2).
According to most experts, the minimum blood levels of HDL should be 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women.
While genetics contribute to this, other factors may be influence HDL levels.
In this article, we discuss some healthful ways to increase your HDL cholesterol.
Olive oil is a healthy fat.
An analysis of over 42 studies involving 800,000 participants found that olive oil was an excellent source of monounsaturated fat which appeared to mitigate the risk of heart disease (3).
Studies have also shown that olive oil promotes heart health by increasing HDL cholesterol levels. This may be due to its polyphenol content (4, 5, 6).
The polyphenol content in Extra virgin olive oil is higher than processed olive oils. However, the amount may still vary among various brands and types.
In one study, 200 healthy males were given two tablespoons of olive oils daily for three weeks. According to the result, the HDL levels of participants rose significantly after they consumed the olive oil with the highest polyphenol content (5).
Where possible, go for high-quality, extra virgin olive oils, which appear to be the richest in polyphenols.
Ketogenic or low-carb diets provide a range of health benefits. These include reduced blood sugar levels and weight loss.
Studies also show that they can increase the level of HDL cholesterol in people who have lower levels. These include obese people and diabetes or insulin resistance (7, 8, 9, 10).
In a particular study, researchers split type 2 diabetes patients into two groups. One group was given a low-carb diet containing less than 50 grams of carbs daily. The other group followed a high-carb diet.
While it is true that both groups lost some weight, HDL cholesterol in the low-carb group increased almost twice the level in the high-carb group (7).
In another study, obese people who followed a low-carb diet had a 5mg/dl overall increase in HDL cholesterol.
These studies demonstrate that low-carb diets can decrease triglyceride levels and improve other heart disease risk factors apart from raising HDL cholesterol levels.
Physical activity plays an essential role in heart health.
According to research, many types of exercise, such as high-intensity, aerobic, and strength training, play very influential roles in increasing HDL cholesterol levels (11, 12, 13).
Some study reviews suggest that exercise can enhance HDL cholesterol's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (14).
High-intensity exercise causes the most significant increase in HDL cholesterol. A small study examined the effects of exercise in females with polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a condition capable of raising the risk of insulin resistance. Participants in the study were required to engage in high-intensity exercise thrice per week.
This resulted in an increase in HDL cholesterol levels within ten weeks. In addition, there were also improvements in other health markers, such as improved arterial function and decreased resistance to insulin (15).
Nutrition studies have shown that coconut oil increases metabolic rate, reduces appetite, and keeps your brain healthy, among other essential benefits.
Not a few people are concerned about the effect of coconut oil on heart health. This is understandable considering the high content of saturated fat in coconut. But on the other hand, there is evidence that coconut oil is beneficial to heart health.
Several studies have shown that coconut oil raises HDL cholesterol more than other fats. Also, several studies have shown that coconut oil may cause an improvement in the ratio of LD cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. An improvement in this ratio reduces the risk of heart disease (16, 17, 18).
Smoking is a significant risk factor for many health problems, such as lung cancer and heart disease. One of the demerits of smoking is that it suppresses HDL cholesterol. However, aA couple of studies have found that quitting smoking raises the levels of HDL cholesterol (19, 20, 21).
In a one-year study involving over 1,500 subjects, those who abstained from smoking had their HDL increased to almost twice as those who resumed smoking within that timeline. There was also an increase in the number of large HDL particles, causing a reduction in the risk of heart disease (22).
Other ways by which HDL cholesterol levels can be increased naturally include:
· Eating fatty fish often
· Avoid artificial trans fats
· Consume purple vegetables and fruits. They contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins that fight inflammation and potentially raise HDL levels.
HDL cholesterol levels are determined by genetics in part. However, there are still a couple of things you can do to increase your HDL levels naturally.
These include eating healthy fats, like coconut oil, olive oil, and fatty fish, and excluding harmful, trans fats from your diet. Quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and eating foods rich in antioxidants also play influential roles in increasing HDL cholesterol levels.
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