15 heart-healthy foods to boost your good cholesterol

You’ve probably heard that HDL cholesterol = good and LDL cholesterol = bad. So if you’re trying to improve your heart health (or just keep your ticker in tip-top shape), you might be wondering what to eat to keep your HDL levels up.

Plenty of foods can help improve your cholesterol ratio and promote good heart health overall. Here’s a look at what you definitely want to be eating more of.

The lowdown on HDL

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance found in your cells. Your liver makes some cholesterol, and you get more from animal food sources like meat and dairy.

Some cholesterol is essential to helping your body function properly, but too-high levels of cholesterol in your blood can up your risk for heart problems.

Cholesterol moves through your blood on special proteins called lipoproteins. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is a helpful lipoprotein that mops up cholesterol in your blood and brings it back to your liver, where it can be flushed from your body.

That’s why HDL is often called “good” cholesterol: Having a lot of it can promote healthier cholesterol levels and help protect your heart. (Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, doesn’t do this — it just builds up in your blood, leading to high blood cholesterol.)

How exactly can you get more HDL? Eating the right foods and limiting your saturated fat intake can help lower your levels of LDL. That can improve your overall ratio of HDL to LDL and reduce your risk for heart problems.

A simple blood test can tell you what your cholesterol levels are and whether you need to make changes to the way you’re eating. (The American Heart Association recommends all adults get their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years.)

Healthy HDL levels are between 40 and 60 mg/dL, but if you want to be a heart health superstar, aim to get your number over 60.

What does a cholesterol-friendly diet look like? One key to improving your HDL-to-LDL ratio is limiting your intake of unhealthy fats, like saturated and trans fats. But eating the right foods can help too.

Here are 15 foods worth adding to your menu.