If you’ve been paying attention to health and wellness news for at least a few decades, then you probably are scared of the word cholesterol. It’s the OG bad boy of nutrition. For years, people have been absolutely terrified of any food that might affect the levels of cholesterol in their bodies, but guess what. Not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, there’s a bit of a good cop bad cop situation happening with cholesterol. The fight between LDL (the bad) and HDL (the good).
LDL cholesterol, otherwise known as low-density lipoproteins, is what people view as “bad” cholesterol. Having too much LDL will inevitably build up the lining of your blood vessels. When this happens, blood flow is blocked, and your risk of a stroke or heart attack sky rockets.
HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is a whole other story. When high levels of HDL abound in your body, you are able to clear out your blood vessels and LDL, reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke. So, as you might expect, the general wisdom goes. HDL good. LDL bad. Increase HDL. Decrease LDL.
Though that is the general wisdom in simplest terms, things are actually a little bit more complicated. Many doctors only focus on the ratio of your LDL to HDL cholesterol, without paying enough attention to the actual numbers themselves. If you have high HDL levels, you won’t necessarily have low LDL levels. That means, you won’t necessarily have a lower risk of stroke or heart attack.
While you can take medications that have been developed to increase HDL levels in the body, some recent studies have shown that, while they may increase the levels in the body, they don’t actually reduce the risk of heart problems in the patients. Instead, the best way to increase your levels is through healthy lifestyle choices. People with the highest levels of “good” cholesterol in the body are also those who are in shape, carry less excess weight and drink only moderate amounts of alcohol.
So you must be wondering what you can do to improve your HDL cholesterol levels, right? We’ll break down the very best ways. A few simple changes can help increase your HDL cholesterol levels, as well as boosting your overall health. Win win!
If you smoke, you should definitely stop now. You already know so many of the other terrible effects (lung cancer, cataracts, a loss of smell and taste, brain damage), so here’s one more. Just 60 days after quitting, your HDL cholesterol will return to where it was before you started smoking. With all that improved lung capacity, you should also sweat more. Regular exercise is important for so many reasons, and one of those happens to be an increase in HDL levels. A healthy combination of strength training and vigorous aerobic exercise is your best bet for improving your HDL levels.
As you might have expected, what you eat is incredibly important. It’s important to load up on good fats like olive oil or the almond butter in our Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, and you’ll be well served to cut back on excessive carbs. Instead of eating a big bowl of greasy Pad Thai chock full of unhealthy refined carbohydrates, place an order for our Gone Nuts Asian Kelp Noodle Salad on UberEats or Deliveroo. Studies have shown that to achieve optimal HDL levels, you should follow a low-carb, high-fat diet.
And, last but not least, it’s important to eat tons of antioxidant-rich foods, like leafy greens, berries, beets and red peppers. Or try our new kombucha, as it is also high in antioxidants! The more antioxidant-rich your diet is, the higher your HDL cholesterol levels will be. So make sure you eat the rainbow!