Most of the excitement and the emphasis on the cholesterol health issue have centered on the concept of lowering cholesterol and the “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. There are many treatment plans, including drugs and nutrients established to lower LDL cholesterol.
In my opinion, what is of equal importance is looking at raising your “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol as this has a very beneficial effect on your risk of heart disease and stroke.
HDL cholesterol molecules are manufactured in the liver. These specialized, small, and dense molecules transport various types of fats including triglycerides and cholesterol throughout the blood stream. In the case of HDL, this molecule transports fat deposits from the artery walls back to the liver where it is metabolized. Typically, HDL can be measured by standard blood tests—and higher amounts of this good cholesterol have been associated with many positive health outcomes.
Here are some important things you can do which increase the production of HDL good cholesterol in your body:
Avoid Trans Fat
Trans fat is produced when liquid vegetable oils are heated and infused with hydrogen. The resulting fat produced is solid at room temperature but dangerous to ingest.
The consumption of trans fats increases LDL and decreases HDL cholesterol synthesis within the liver.
To increase your good cholesterol, avoid fried foods and commercially prepared snack foods, baked goods, hard margarines, and frozen entrées, which will help decrease your exposure to this dangerous fat. Make sure you read labels carefully, to ensure there’s no trans fat in the product.
Diets which contain high amounts of soda, candy, sweets, baked goods, fruit drinks, and deserts have a tendency to lower good cholesterol levels in the blood by a direct influence on liver synthesis.
Sugar causes high amounts of insulin which is secreted over prolonged periods of time which can decrease the production of HDL cholesterol in the liver.
Cutting down and trying to eliminate the bulk of the sugar intake in your diet can greatly influence the level of protective HDL you have in your blood stream.
Consume More Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber found in oatmeal, bran, fruit and flax seed, can increase the synthesis of HDL cholesterol by increasing the concentration of lignans in your body.
Lignans can exert a direct effect on the liver by increasing the formation of HDL cholesterol.
Increasing the intake of soluble fiber also lowers blood sugar and insulin levels which directly affects the production of HDL in the liver. This is necessary to increase good cholesterol.
Consume healthy fats
Fats derived from salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines contain the omega-3 family of fatty acids known to reduce the incidence of heart disease and stroke.
One of the ways these fats can achieve this is by increasing the production of HDL cholesterol in the liver. The fats of the omega-9 family commonly found in nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocadoes can also exert a beneficial effect upon HDL cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Increase good cholesterol by eating more healthy fats.
The moderate intake of red wine and alcohol has been shown to be associated with higher amounts of circulating HDL cholesterol.
Moderate intake of these beverages implies one glass of wine per day for a female (or one ounce of spirits) and one to two glasses daily (two ounces of spirits) for a male.
Becoming more physically active has a tremendous benefit to your health in so many ways. Physical activity can improve the synthesis of HDL cholesterol by improving insulin sensitivity and blood glucose utilization.
It can also reduce inflammation and body weight while encouraging stored body fat oxidation for fuel. The net effect is, among other things, higher blood levels of HDL cholesterol. Exercising is a great way to increase good cholesterol.
Many people always focus on the ways you can lower your bad cholesterol, but it’s also important to increase good cholesterol to reap many health benefits.
Schofield, J.D., et al., “High-density lipoprotein cholesterol raising: does it matter?” Curr Opin Cardiol. July 2013; 28(4): 464-74.
Hausenloy, D.J., et al., “Targeting residual cardiovascular risk: raising high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels,” Heart. June 2008; 94(6): 706-14.
Barter, P., “HDL-C: role as a risk modifier,” Atheroscler Suppl. November 2011; 12(3): 267-70.
Garneau, V., et al., “Association between plasma omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease risk factors,” Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. March 2013; 38(3): 243-8.