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Good Cholesterol Foods: A Simple Guide

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Feb 16, 2023

Good Cholesterol Foods: A Simple Guide

The results of your latest laboratory exams are out, and your doctor informs you that you have high cholesterol. They explain that intervention is necessary because having high levels of cholesterol increases your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Depending on your condition, the physician may recommend medications for you. But one thing is for certain: they will advise you to be careful of your diet and choose good cholesterol foods over foods high in bad cholesterol.

What is “Good” Cholesterol?

When we hear the word cholesterol, we mostly think of the bad kind or low-density lipoprotein which can build up as fatty deposits in our blood vessels.

But we also have high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol. This kind of cholesterol “takes” excess cholesterol in the blood and carries it to the liver where it will be broken down and eliminated from the body.

It is a little unclear whether increasing HDL levels through medications reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions; but reports emphasize that the other ways to increase good cholesterol levels, such as improving the diet and quitting smoking, lower the risk of heart attacks.

good cholesterol foods

List of Good Cholesterol Foods

According to Harvard Health, there is no “normal” level for high-density lipoprotein: the higher the number, the better.

Experts recommend having at least 60 mg of good cholesterol per deciliter (dl) of blood for both men and women. They also underscored that men with less than 40 mg/dl and women with less than 50 mg/dl of HDL are at risk.

If you’re looking for ways to increase HDL or good cholesterol, consider adding the following foods to your diet:


First on our list of good cholesterol foods is avocado – a great source of healthy, monounsaturated fats. Not only does it boost the HDL levels, but it also lowers our bad cholesterol.

One study (1) noted that an avocado a day along with a moderate-fat and cholesterol-lowering diet reduces the levels of bad cholesterol, without lowering HDL levels.

Niacin-Rich Foods

According to reports, niacin, which is a form of Vitamin B3, seems to increase the levels of some HDL while lowering the amount of triglycerides, a kind of fat found in the blood. Please note that high levels of triglycerides are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Examples of niacin-rich foods include:

  • Cereal grains
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Green veggies
  • Meat
  • Milk

It’s also worth noting that the US FDA approved some prescription niacin specifically for high cholesterol and in increasing some types of HDLs. These prescription medicines usually come in higher doses (500 mg and up) compared to supplementary B3, which comes in 250 mg or lower.

Remember to talk to your doctor first before attempting to use vitamin B3 medicines or supplements for your cholesterol levels.

Foods with High Antioxidants

One scientific investigation concluded that a diet rich in antioxidants boosts the levels of good cholesterol in relation to triglyceride levels. Examples of antioxidant-rich foods that may improve good cholesterol levels are:

  • Berries
  • Dark chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Spinach
  • Other dark-colored fruits or vegetables

Fatty Fish

Research papers also noted that fatty fish boost the amount of large-particle good cholesterol. According to reports(3), large-particle HDL can potentially protect us from cardiovascular diseases.

Experts recommend at least 2 servings of fatty fish weekly; in the study, those who consumed fatty fish 3 to 4 times a week had higher large-particle HDLs than less frequent eaters. Examples of fatty fish are salmon, trout, and herring.

Final Reminders

Good cholesterol foods include avocado, B3-rich foods, foods high in antioxidants, and fatty fish. However, please remember that more than increasing your levels of HDL, you also have to take note of your LDL levels. For many doctors, what’s important is improving the ratio of HDL and LDL.

Boosting good cholesterol levels can also be achieved through staying active, keeping a healthy weight, avoiding cigarettes, limiting alcohol, and, of course, having a healthy, balanced diet.

Learn more about Cholesterol here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Feb 16, 2023

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