What Foods Increase HDL Cholesterol?

Fatty fish, nuts and other foods with omega-3 fatty acids boost HDL cholesterol levels, as does cooking with olive, canola or peanut oil. All of those oils contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which increase the good form of cholesterol in proportion to the bad type, or LDL cholesterol, notes Mayo Clinic.

All healthy diets include some degree of fat, as much as 35 percent of the caloric intake. However, about 80 percent of fat intake should come from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat sources. Saturated fats and trans fats elevate LDL cholesterol levels and result in damage to the blood vessels, as stated by Mayo Clinic.

Brazil nuts, almonds and walnuts are just some of the types of nuts that contain the right fats to boost HDL cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are present in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, fish oil supplements and fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna. Whole grains, such as those found in oatmeal, barley and oat bran, contain soluble fiber that boosts the overall HDL-to-LDL ratio by removing LDL cholesterol from the gastrointestinal tract. This type of fiber soaks up fats and cholesterol, carrying them through the bowel and out as part of the stool, according to Mayo Clinic.

In addition to dietary changes, a number of other lifestyle changes can help raise HDL, according to Mayo Clinic. Patients are advised to exercise briskly for at least 30 minutes five times per week. Losing weight and quitting smoking also boost HDL levels. If drinking alcohol, consume it in moderation; this means one drink per day for women and two per day for men.

Both men and women should aim for an HDL level above 60 milligrams per deciliter, according to Mayo Clinic. HDL is also known as "good cholesterol" because it helps carry cholesterol in the blood back to the liver so it does not accumulate in the walls of the arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke.