Skip to content
Back Back to Insurance menu Go to Insurance
Back Back to Saga Money Go to Saga Money
Back Back to Saga Magazine menu Go to Magazine
Search Magazine

10 foods that boost good cholesterol

Daniel Couglin / 26 April 2017

Do you have high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol? Find out which foods help you boost levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol?

Avocado, nuts, salmon and olive oil
Olive oil, oily fish, nuts and avocado are all helpful foods

Cholesterol: what you need to know

LDL cholesterol should be 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults as per the official NHS advice, but the ratio of LDL to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – the good stuff that helps keep the arteries clear – is just as important. A ratio higher than four increases the risk of heart disease.

You can reduce levels of LDL cholesterol in your body by stopping smoking, exercising regularly and adopting a healthy, balanced diet, which is low in saturated fat and packed with LDL cholesterol-lowering staples.

But it's also a good idea to stock up on superfoods that increase good cholesterol to help regulate your LDL/HDL ratio. Here are 10 of the best HDL cholesterol-boosters to add to your shopping trolley.

Unlimited access to a qualified GP with Saga Health Insurance - you'll have access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to a GP consultation service. Find out more about our GP phone service.

Olive oil

Replacing artery-clogging saturated fats in your diet like butter and lard with healthier unsaturated fats is the way forward. Polyunsaturates, which include sunflower oil, help increase HDL cholesterol but monounsaturated fats such as olive oil are best – a recent study found that extra-virgin olive oil doesn't just increase HDL levels, it improves HDL function, too.

The health benefits of different oils

Rapeseed oil

If olive oil isn't to your taste, opt for rapeseed instead. This heart-healthy oil, which is loaded with  monounsaturates, contains the least saturated fat of all the oils (all oils contain saturated fat to varying degrees). Adding to its appeal, rapeseed oil has a distinct advantage over olive oil – a higher smoke point. This makes it more suitable for cooking at high temperatures.

Healthy fats: the fats that are good for your health

Groundnut oil

Groundnut or peanut oil is another monounsaturated oil that can help elevate levels of HDL cholesterol in the body, and like rapeseed, groundnut oil is suitable for higher temperature cooking. Just don't go overboard. All dietary fats, whether they're saturated or not, are packed with calories and should be used sparingly, especially if you're trying to lose weight.

Good fats vs bad fats

Oily fish

Oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which can raise HDL and lower levels of LDL cholesterol according to Heart UK. Aim for two to three portions a week if you can, and even better, swap a couple of your red meat -based meals with salmon, mackerel or sardines to reduce your saturated fat intake on top of boosting the omega-3s in your diet.

Sources of omega 3 for people who don’t like salmon

Recipe: creamy sardines on toast


Walnuts are rich in monounsaturates and polyunsaturates, plus they contain decent levels of omega-3 fatty acids, so it comes as no surprise that a study published last year found that participants who ate a handful of walnuts a day had significantly lower LDL readings and higher levels of HDL cholesterol.

10 healthy reasons to eat nuts

Recipe: walnut and black bean wrap


Walnut aren't the only nuts that boast HDL cholesterol-boosting powers. Like other tree nuts, almonds are jam-packed with heart-healthy fats that help raise HDL levels in the body. In fact, a trial conducted in 2015 reported that participants who ate a small portion of unsalted almonds every day had increased the levels of HDL cholesterol in their body by 14% after just six weeks.

Recipe: almond and raspberry cake

Recipe: chicken with apricots and almonds


Avocados are proven to both lower LDL cholesterol and raise levels of the good stuff. The trendy salad favourite is packed with soluble fibre and plant sterols, which reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol in the body, in addition to monounsaturated fat, which as we know, boosts HDL cholesterol as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Recipe: hot smoked trout and avocado salad

Recipe: avocado on toast

Kidney beans

Next time you rustle up a chilli con carne, you can improve your LDL/HDL ratio by increasing the ratio of kidney beans to saturated fat-heavy beef mince. Kidney beans are bursting with antioxidants and research published last year has linked diets high in antioxidants with raised HDL cholesterol levels.

Recipe: mixed bean bake


Blueberries are an even better source of antioxidants, and like other berries such as raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries, they help elevate levels of HDL cholesterol in the body. A recent study found that HDL levels rose 5% in adults who ate a small bowl of berries every day for eight weeks.

10 healthiest berries

Recipe: healthy blueberry ripple frozen yogurt

Orange juice

A study carried out in 2000 by researchers at the University of Western Ontario in Canada suggests that drinking several glasses of orange juice a day can increase HDL cholesterol levels by up to a fifth. The researchers put this down to a bioflavonoid in oranges called hesperidin, which has been shown in trials to promote higher levels of good cholesterol in the body.

Try 12 issues of Saga Magazine

Subscribe today for just £29 for 12 issues...


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.