ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Raise Your HDL Cholesterol without Drugs

Updated on November 19, 2009

Most health-conscious people are concerned about their cholesterol levels, and for good reason. Elevated amounts of cholesterol in the blood are a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.

What is cholesterol? It’s a kind of fat carried in the bloodstream by lipoproteins. The two major types of these lipoproteins are high density lipoproteins, or HDL, and low density lipoproteins, or LDL. LDL cholesterol builds up deposits in your blood vessels called plaque. This plaque gradually makes the opening of the vessels smaller, restricting blood flow. With time, an artery can become completely blocked. If the blood supply to the heart is stopped, a heart attack occurs.

When the fatty LDL forms plaque and the normal blood flow is slowed down, clots are much more likely to occur. If one of these clots enters the brain, a stroke occurs. It’s understandable why LDL is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.

On the other hand, HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol. It travels through the blood vessels “picking up” LDL particles from the artery walls and then carries them to the liver. The liver gets rid of the bad cholesterol through bile.

With all this in mind, you want high HDL and low LDL. Optimum HDL levels are over 60, and if yours is under 40 if you’re male, or under 50 if you’re a female, you should definitely take measures to increase it. Desirable LDL levels are under 100.

Medications like statins are usually pretty effective for lowering your LDL cholesterol levels. What they’re not so good at, however, is raising your HDL numbers. It’s much easier to lower the bad than to increase the good, but for optimum health, you need to do both.

So how do you get that good cholesterol up? It’s not as simple as just popping a pill every day, but there are ways to make significant positive changes. Follow the tips below:

Stop smoking. Smoking has a detrimental effect on HDL cholesterol. Most doctors believe the toxins and free radicals in the tar and nicotine weaken the HDL’s beneficial actions by changing the chemistry of the good cholesterol. Most smokers who stop smoking soon see an increase in their HDL levels and often a decrease in their LDL levels. So in essence, you’ll get a two-for-one deal by putting down the smokes.

Eat more fiber. Eating soluble fiber is another “double whammy.” It increases the good cholesterol and decreases the bad. Good sources include oats, carrots, beans, oranges, apples, grapefruit, and tangerines.

Take niacin. Niacin, or nicotinic acid, is a B vitamin that occurs naturally in eggs, lean meats, poultry, fish, and dairy products. According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, niacin can raise HDL by as much as 15-35 percent. Wow! That’s huge. Natural sources of niacin include nuts, legumes, chicken, beef, tuna, eggs, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, and milk.

Eat an onion. Studies suggest that eating half a raw onion a day can increase your HDL by as much as 25-30 percent.

Exercise. By exercising for 30 minutes, five days a week, your HDL levels will increase. This includes aerobic activities like jogging, running, tennis, dancing, stair-stepping, and brisk walking. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, begin by walking. If you have joint problems, try swimming. Recent studies show that it’s not the intensity of the workout that’s so important – it’s the duration.

Eat healthy fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats usually raise HDL levels. These include canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil. Foods that contain healthy fats include nuts, avocado, and peanut butter. Remember, however, that even though these fats are beneficial, they should be consumed in moderation because they’re high in calories.

Omega-3s. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids might significantly increase HDL. You can take the soft gel omega-3 supplements or get them from your diet. Foods rich in omega-3s include tuna, salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, and sardines.

Lose weight. Losing excess weight is especially important in achieving and maintaining healthy levels of HDL. Shedding those extra pounds is even more crucial if they’re in the tummy area. According to the Mayo Clinic, for every six pounds you lose, your HDL level should increase by one point.

Have a drink. Studies show that by drinking one or two alcoholic drinks a day, HDL might be increased. In this case, a “drink” means one beer, five ounces of wine, or one ounce of liquor. More than two drinks a day, however, seems to have a detrimental effect.

Vitamin D. Some studies suggest that vitamin D can increase your good cholesterol. Foods rich in vitamin D include eggs, fortified milk, salmon, tuna, and fish oils. Exposure to sunlight, without the use of a sunscreen, is also a way to get vitamin D.

Cranberry juice. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that HDL can be raised by drinking cranberry juice. In the study, overweight men who drank two cups of low-calorie cranberry juice a day for sixteen weeks raised their HDL by eight percent.

Skip the fries. Foods that contain trans fats lower HDL levels and raise LDL levels. We’re shooting for the opposite, remember? Foods high in trans fats include baked goods like donuts, crackers, and cookies. They’re also found in fried foods and in many margarines. Learn to read those labels!


Studies suggest that consuming raw onions can raise your "good" cholesterol!
Studies suggest that consuming raw onions can raise your "good" cholesterol!

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)