When you think of cholesterol you probably think of it in terms of “good” or “bad”.
While there has been lot of nutritional science research that has shifted this paradigm in recent years, the notion that HDL is good for you still rings true.
The body creates both of the lipoproteins HDL and LDL for specific purposes. Both are healthy and very necessary. This is something that needs to be taken into account when you get your cholesterol levels checked.
Here in our office our testing is the most advanced in the world.
We don’t look at total cholesterol levels. We look at the type, particle number and particle size of these lipoproteins.
Small, oxidized LDL particles are bad, yes. They are linked to inflammation and disease.
In this sense, not all cholesterol is created equal.
We specifically use a test called Apo B vs. Apo A ratio and this is one of the best predictors of heart disease risk.
While the thought patterns regarding cholesterol testing and harmful types are shifting, one thing has remained unchanged: HDL is good for you and your heart.
HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. It’s a mouthful but it can be easily understood.
Lipoproteins are composed of phospholipids, proteins, cholesterol and triglycerides. The body manufactures these lipoproteins to transport dietary fats throughout the body. Fats are hydrophobic (they don’t like water) and so they must be packaged into vehicles for transport through the watery bloodstream.
Lipoproteins transport fats out of the small intestine into the blood and lymphatic system and into storage, or fat cells.
The body makes 4 major types of lipoproteins.
HDL is considered “high density” because it has the most protein and the least fat.
HDL is known as the “scavenger” molecule. The liver makes HDL to remove excess cholesterol from the body and carry it back to the liver for excretion.
High HDL levels in the blood represent the cholesterol that is returning from the rest of the body to the liver to be recycled and excreted.
This is good because it maintains lipid balance in the body.
High HDL is preventative as it can lower inflammation, prevent plaque formation and protect against cardiovascular disease.
A recent 2018 review article published in the American Journal of Nutrition that looked at a diverse array of studies that had been conducted confirmed that avocados significantly raise serum levels of HDL1. These results are likely due to their unique nutrient profile. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats and fiber, both of which reduce LDL levels and thereby raise HDL levels.
There is long-standing evidence that omega 3 fats are cardioprotective and significantly increase serum levels of HDL2. Foods highest in healthy polyunsaturated fats like omega 3 fatty acids can boost HDL best.
3. Olive oil and olives
These are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which can decrease the inflammation and oxidative stress.
One study gave 200 healthy young men about 2 tablespoons (25 ml) of different olive oils per day for three weeks.
The researchers found that participants’ HDL levels increased significantly more after they consumed the olive oil with the highest polyphenol content.
In another study, when 62 older adults consumed about 4 tablespoons (50 ml) of high-polyphenol extra virgin olive oil every day for six weeks, their HDL cholesterol increased by 6.5 mg/dl, on average.
Olive oil and olives are also rich in protective polyphenols, which can prevent lipoprotein oxidation and promote reverse cholesterol transport (meaning they balance cholesterol levels)3.
A study gave 150 patients with coronary artery disease a treatment of soaked (sprouted) almonds with skin removed and assessed the results over the course of 12 weeks4. The results revealed that sprouted almonds significantly increased HDL concentrations by 14-16% at week 124.
5. Grass-fed liver (turkey or beef)
Organ liver meat is one of the best sources of vitamin B3 or Niacin. Niacin is actually given as a prescription to clinically raise HDL levels. Why not opt for the natural route and consume liver. Niacin has been proven to raise HDL levels over 30%. Niacin has been shown to significantly decrease the breakdown of HDL, which increases its concentration5.
*Try out our signature organ liver meat recipes we created.
6. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits are rich in a compound called hesperidin, which boosts HDL concentrations. Hesperidin treatment was found to increase serum levels of HDL and contribute to other heart-protective measures6.
Research has looked at the Mediterranean diet and cholesterol levels and found artichokes to be great HDL-boosters. A review of the research found that artichokes significantly increase HDL levels most likely because they contain chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol that can increase the HDL-protective enzyme PON7.
8. Coconut oil
Compounds in virgin coconut oil have been shown to increase HDL levels8. Coconut oil has a high level of polyphenol compounds, which act as antioxidants to prevent LDL oxidation and normalize lipid levels.
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