What foods should I eat to keep high density lipoproteins (the healthy fat) in a healthy range?

I got a really great question while sailing through the gym the other day (as I always seem to be doing).  

Here is that question:

He wanted to know how he can eat to keep his low density proteins (LDL's-the lousy ones) in an appropriate range and make sure his HDL's are at a healthy level. 

First, let's get some definitions and a brief fact out of the way:

You probably already know HDL and LDL are both fats (cholesterol).

HDL - aka: high density lipoproteins are also known as the "good" cholesterol.  The good guys.  This is a type of fat that transports fatty acids and cholesterol from the body tissues to the liver where it can be excreted in bile.  It is cardioprotective and helps to reduce the risk of plaque build up.  This is why higher HDL's are encouraged.   

LDL - aka: low density lipoproteins are known as the "lousy" cholesterol. It transports triglyceride and cholesterol from the liver to the body tissues.

You can see already just from the very definitions of why you would want to increase one and decrease the other.  

LDL's are directly related to high processed foods and sugar, and foods that contain bad fats such as lots of bacon or high fatty meats.  Eating high soluble fiber foods can be a catalyst to keeping HDL desirable and LDL in a healthy range.

Foods you need to eat in order to increase your HDL's are oatmeal, whole grains, and foods that are naturally high in fiber.  

Other factors that can affect your cholesterol levels

  • Weight: the more overweight you are shows evidence of the amount of LDL food you've been eating.  Particularly a large abdomen which is an indication of increased fat around the organs.  No more than 40" for men and 35" for women.
  • Age and Gender: women tend to have lower cholesterol than men, and this changes after menopause when they're LDL begins to rise.
  • Physical activity: regular exercise can help lower the LDL.  When is exercise NOT a good thing? :o)

Risk Factors

  • Smoking
  • High Blood Pressure 
  • Low HDL cholesterol (but of course!)

Foods to increase your HDL's 

Things such as oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth.....  


Eat a Clean Diet 1, Clean Diet 2, Clean Diet 3, Clean Diet 4

Foods to increase your LDL's

cakes, donuts, high fat burgers, pastries....


Simply don't eat a Clean Diet

what your LDL numbers mean

LDL (lousy) cholesterol

Less than 100g/dL

110 - 129g/dL



190g/dL and above



near optimal/above optimal

borderline high


very high (disastrous)

what your HDL numbers mean

HDL (Good) cholesterol level



60g/dL and higher


a major risk factor for disease

 pretty good

protective against disease

drugs prescribed to treat high LDL's

If a clean eating lifestyle cannot change the HDL's to a favorable level, then drugs are usually prescribed.  Following are some general choices.  

statins : blocks the liver from making cholesterol

bile acid sequestraints:  decreases the amount of fat absorbed

vitamins and supplements: niacin which blocks the liver from removing HDL and lowers triglycerides

Omega 3 fatty acids: increases the level of HDL and lowers triglycerides

Reference: Medline Plus:Summer 2012 Issue:Volume 7 Number 2 Page 6-7

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