Foods that increase the levels of HDL or good cholesterol levels are those high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as certain plant oils, nuts, and oily fish, including salmon, herring, mackerel, menhaden and tuna. Other foods that boost HDL and decrease bad cholesterol or LDL include whole grains, such as oatmeal, oat bran and whole-wheat products; plant sterols, found in certain margarines; and dietary supplements, such as the vitamin, niacin, flaxseed oil and omega-3 supplements.
High-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol removes excess cholesterol from the blood and transports it to the liver for destruction. Low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol transports excess cholesterol to blood vessel walls where it deposits as plaque, which causes coronary artery disease. To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, doctors recommend maintaining an HDL blood cholesterol level of at least 60 mg/dL and lowering LDL levels.
Experts recommend that people source about 25 to 35 percent of total daily caloric intake from fat, but that no more than 7 percent of this can come from saturated fat. They also advise that people avoid saturated and trans fats because they raise LDL cholesterol levels and damage blood vessels. Certain healthy lifestyle changes also raise good cholesterol levels such as losing excess weight, exercising, reducing alcohol intake and avoiding smoking.