So everyone dreads the mention of cholesterol as if it is a disease in itself. However, we are going to debunk some myths about this essential substance and also bring to light the foods needed to increase the levels of HDL or good cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that provides energy to the body’s cells produced from the carbohydrates and fats that we eat. So why do we call this waxy substance essential? That is because it helps to produce hormones, vitamin D and other substances that help in digestion.
“Science corner: Cholesterol is transported to and from the organs via lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein transports cholesterol from the liver to the organs. High-density lipoproteins, on the other hand, transports cholesterol from the organs to the liver. The liver then disposes off the cholesterol from the body.”
Two-thirds of the cholesterol is carried by LDL, the remaining one-third is attached to HDL. LDL tends to deposit cholesterol in the artery walls leading to atherosclerosis and increased risk of heart disease
HDL normally makes up to 20-30% of total blood cholesterol. It protects against an accumulation of plaques or fatty deposits in the walls of the coronary arteries. Blood HDL levels should be at least 60 mg/dl help protect against heart disease. Hence, it is important to lower cholesterol and one way to fight it is through good cholesterol foods.
Interesting titbit: Research finds that high levels of HDL could lower the risk of colon cancer.
Did you know, age and gender can also influence HDL levels!
Females have a special advantage thanks to estrogen. Higher estrogen levels are associated with high HDL and low LDL, thus increasing the risk for coronary heart disease. Females aged 50 or above have to be extra careful.
Similarly, men over 45 years should check their HDL levels as they are at-risk of altered lipid levels (high LDL, triglycerides, and low HDL).
“Total cholesterol to HDL ratio should be below 5 to avoid being at risk for cardiovascular diseases.”
We present to you 9 ways to increase the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol
Of healthy oils and fats in the diet
Research has shown that consuming oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids like corn, sunflower, soy could decrease cholesterol and increase HDL. Fats containing monounsaturated fatty acids like in canola, olive oil, nuts, avocados could also cut LDL levels.
Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts are rich in unsaturated fats, fibre, vitamin D, K, phytosterols, L-arginine and omega-3 fatty acids all of which have shown to raise the good cholesterol levels.
2. Dark chocolate
The cocoa polyphenols in dark chocolate have shown to increase the concentration of HDL cholesterol .
The long-term daily consumption of yoghurt has shown to increase HDL cholesterol and lower the LDL: HDL ratio. 
4. Fruit juice
According to the American society for clinical nutrition, orange juice when taken in about 750 ml daily improves blood lipid profiles and increases HDL levels. Research shows that cranberry juice has a beneficial effect on increasing HDL cholesterol.
5. Glycemic index
Carbohydrates with high glycemic index could increase the postprandial blood sugars and result in insulin insensitivity increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. On the contrary, research has shown low glycemic index foods to increase HDL  and are good for heart health. Some of the low GI foods are oat bran, soy, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans etc. while processed foods like cakes, cookies, white bread have a high glycemic index.
6. Fi(b)re it up
Soluble fibre present in oats contains B-glucan which lowers LDL and increases HDL. Other sources of soluble fibre are rice bran, barley, dried beans and peas, prunes, apples.
7. Special foods
Onions protect against elevated cholesterol and protect against artery clotting damage by increasing HDL. Soy lowers LDL without reducing HDL as well as provide antioxidant protection.
Alcohol in moderation increase HDL cholesterol but care should be taken not to take it in excess as it will cause more harm than good.It increases transport rate of apolipoprotein A1 and A2, thus increasing HDL .
Exercise plays a very important role in addition to the dietary modifications in improving HDL and lowering LDL levels. It causes an increase in lipoprotein lipase levels during intense exercise. 
- Tapsell LC, Gillen LJ, Patch CS et al. Including walnuts in a low-fat/modified-fat diet improves HDL cholesterol-to-total cholesterol ratios in patients with type 2 diabetes.
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- Mursu J, Voutilainen S, Nurmi T, et al. Dark chocolate consumption increases HDL cholesterol
concentration and chocolate fatty acids may inhibit lipid peroxidation in healthy
humans. Free Radic Biol Med. 2004;37(9):1351-9.
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products over 6 months increases HDL cholesterol. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002
- Ali Z, Naeem N, Farooq Z et al. Effect on Lipid Profile Parameters by the Addition of Orange Juice in Diet of Hypercholesterolemic Patients. J Nutr Food Sci. 2015; 5:428.
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- De Oliveira E Silva ER, Foster D, McGee Harper M, et al. Alcohol consumption raises HDL cholesterol levels by increasing the transport rate of apolipoproteins A-I and A-II. Circulation. 2000
- Kantor MA, Cullinane EM, Sady SP, et al. Exercise acutely increases high-density-lipoprotein-cholesterol and lipoprotein lipase activity in trained and untrained men. Metabolism. 1987;36(2):188-92.