Foods that may increase HDL levels include nuts, whole grains and fatty fish, explains Mayo Clinic. Patients with low HDL levels are advised to eat more olive oil and canola oil, which include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, in place of animal fats that are high in saturated fats.
Some whole grain foods that may help increase HDL cholesterol levels are oatmeal and oat bran, according to Mayo Clinic. Walnuts, almonds and Brazil nuts are also good nuts to eat. Patients with low HDL can use margarine and spreads that contain plant sterols such as beta-sitosterol.
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.