By Paige Green, Hy-Vee Dietitian on Monday, February 3, 2020

How to increase your good cholesterol

Are you hesitant to open the envelope that holds the lab results after your doctor visit? The cholesterol panel can be daunting and possibly confusing to comprehend. When it comes to cholesterol, not all types are created equal.

The good news? Changing these levels are up to you and the behaviors you put forth to do just that. February is Heart Health Month, so it’s the perfect time to find out what these numbers are, and more importantly, how to improve them.

HDL is known as the healthy or good cholesterol because it can remove some of the bad, or LDL cholesterol, which is known to clog arteries.

To boost the HDL, things like exercise and quitting smoking can help tremendously. But, of course, your choices made at meals can make a significant impact, too. Let’s take a look at the foods that will aid in increasing the good cholesterol, for good – once and for all!

1. Avocados  

Like we really need another reason for a second scoop of guac! Avocados scream heart health due to their abundance of monounsaturated fat, high fiber, and potassium profile. Monounsaturated fat has been shown to increase the HDL cholesterol. Substitute these green guys for heart-harmful hydrogenated oils in baked goods this Valentine’s Day. Try this recipe for chocolate avocado truffles. Yum! 


2. Whole Grain Pasta    

You may think pasta and heart health can’t share the same sentence, however, one small tweak and spaghetti can become a staple in lowering cholesterol. Forgo the white, refined noodles, and focus on their whole grain counterpart. With this darker option, you’ll find more fiber in each serving, which aids in increasing the good cholesterol.

3. Poultry

One thing is for certain: Reducing saturated fats in the diet can lead to a better cholesterol reading. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less red meat overall, and opting for leaner cuts, like chicken.


4. Dates 

Hear me out on this one. You don’t have to sit down and eat a bowl full of fresh dates, but replacing sugar with ground up dates when making baked goods like cookies or granola bars, can increase HDL levels. Not only do dates cut the amount of total added sugars in half, they will give your goodies extra fiber and vitamins.

5. Salmon 

Eating seafood twice a week is a recipe for success to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Fatty fish, like salmon, yields some of the greatest anti-inflammatory and heart healthy benefits.


6. Flaxseeds

Not a fan of fish? Flaxseeds are also full of heart healthy omega-3s! Yet, keep in mind, in order for the gut to fully absorb the benefits this seed provides, it must be ground down. Sprinkle on your morning oats for a double dose of cholesterol fighting power.

7. High Fiber Cereal 

OK this choice may not entice your kids (or your kid-at-heart self), but a high-fiber cereal is the way to go when keeping cholesterol in check. Look for an option with at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. It may seem like a difficult task to find amongst the boxes of options, but fear not, there’s plenty to pour – just check the nutrition facts, and forgo the ones with characters on them. Some good options include Cheerios, Wheaties, or Bran Flakes.

RELATED: 4 steps to a healthier heart

PaigePaige Green received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management at the University of Northern Iowa in 2012. She pursued her passion for nutrition at Iowa State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics during the spring of 2015. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Paige truly sets out to educate individuals on finding a healthy balance in life and her passion for people and nutrition inspires clients of all ages. You can find Paige at the Ames Hy-Vee on Lincoln Way.