Natural Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol

Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol

You are just three steps away from healthy cholesterol levels but don’t get excited yet. These are big steps. The only natural way to lower cholesterol also happens to be a low-cost way to do so: by changing the foods you purchase and consume, and by engaging in regular physical exercise. Make those lifestyle changes and your cholesterol levels will plummet on their own, without needing dangerous prescription drugs.

Step 1. Things to avoid, as in, eat less

The first thing to do is remove the causes of the problem. And yes, there are several causes. Certain foods in your diet are known to cause problems with cholesterol so there are things to avoid.

There are two ingredients in foods that have a negative impact on cholesterol levels. Number one is hydrogenated oils, also known as partially hydrogenated oils. These oils are found in most margarine products and virtually all baked goods such as cookies, crackers, pastries, and also in many soups and salad dressings. It is probably not possible to eliminate these completely but you can minimize the use of them. To do that you have to read the ingredients on the labels.

The second ingredient to minimize is saturated animal fat. That is the fat found in beef and other red meats. Of course you don’t want to be eating lard or food cooked with lard, but consider limiting consumption of red meat to four ounces a day.

Other foods that will raise your bad cholesterol level include foods made with unhealthy or cheap oils such as soybean oil. It is not that there’s anything really wrong with soybean oil, it’s just that it’s not especially healthy. Since it’s one of the cheapest oils out there, most people get far too much of it and not enough of the healthy oils. We’ll talk about the good fats in a little later.

Finally, avoid processed foods. The more a food has been processed and changed from its original, natural form, the less healthy it’s likely to be, and the more likely it is to raise your LDL cholesterol. Although manufactured foods come in a pretty package, that doesn’t make them healthy.

Step 2. Eat more

Now for the foods that you can eat that will lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol. These are the healthy oils or good fats, such as the omega-3 oils found in flax seeds. You can also get healthy oils by consuming extra-virgin olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, or by eating nuts like almonds, macadamias, pecans, cashews, and peanuts. That is, as long as you aren’t allergic to them. Even the peanut oil in peanut butter is healthy, as long as you’re not buying peanut butter made with hydrogenated oils, such as the Adams brand of peanut butter. It’s the one where the oil has separated from the rest of the peanut butter. That’s how you know it has no hydrogenated oils.

There are a variety of foods that can also help lower your cholesterol levels, such as onions, garlic, ginger, and basically any fruits and vegetables that are not processed or overcooked. Eating whole grains, such as whole grain oats, kamut, pearled barley, or wheat berries can also help reduce cholesterol by giving you extra fiber that interferes with the absorption of cholesterol-promoting fats.

There are foods that are sometimes referred to as Superfoods that are very helpful for lowering high cholesterol and enhancing your overall body health. These include soy products such as soy milk, chlorella, spirulina, sea vegetables, soy cheese, tofu and sprouts. Sprouts are an excellent source of nutrition such as wheat grass, broccoli sprouts, barley grass or clover sprouts, and also the supergrains such as quinoa, millet, and kamut.

Do you take supplements? There are a great number of nutritional supplements that can help lower cholesterol naturally without using drugs. One such nutritional supplement is Garlic, is a popular supplement with well-documented cholesterol-lowering effects. In addition to eating garlic as part of your diet, you can take garlic supplements that will further accelerate the decline in that bad cholesterol. Another supplement, artichoke extract has been shown to significantly reduced total cholesterol after 42 days of treatment. Other supplements to consider are Policosanol, Pantothine, and Coenzyme Q10.

Step 3. Exercise

Exercise is a vital part of the natural ways to lower cholesterol. Exercise helps keep the body functioning properly. A jog, brisk walk, cycling, any outdoor game or any kind of light cardiovascular exercise are all ways to improve circulation and help in lowering those bad cholesterol levels. Of course, this probably isn’t new information to you, since we all know that exercise is good for us, but few people consider exercise as a strategy to lower cholesterol.

Note that if you are under a doctor’s care, check with your doctor before engaging in an exercise program.

If you put all of this together, you have a realistic strategy for gaining control of your cholesterol levels. In fact, the foods mentioned here will save you money over the brand-name over-packaged foods you might have normally been purchasing. Fresh fruits and vegetables are inexpensive compared to the high markups on manufactured foods like frozen foods, breakfast cereals, dinner mixes, and microwave meals.

Step 4. Supplements

You should know that supplements are not as effective as drugs, however, they also do not have the side effects. If you choose to use natural supplements be sure to do your research.

Update April 2011: There is news from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University.

Consumption of tree nuts has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) by 3-19%. LDL is a primary target for preventing coronary disease. Almonds have been found to have a consistent LDL-C-lowering effect in healthy individuals, and in individuals with high cholesterol and diabetes, in both controlled and free-living settings. Almonds are low in saturated fatty acids, rich in unsaturated fatty acids, and contain cardio-protective nutrients that are unique to almonds:

  • a-tocopherol
  • arginine
  • magnesium
  • copper
  • manganese
  • calcium
  • potassium

These nutrients are biologically active by nature and act on the primary mechanistic routes of LDL-C reduction, including:

  • decreased (re)absorption of cholesterol
  • decreased (re)absorption of bile acid
  • increased bile acid
  • increased cholesterol excretion
  • increased LDL-C receptor activity

The nutrients present in almonds may regulate enzymes involved in de novo cholesterol synthesis and bile acid production.

Source: Berryman CE, Preston AG, Karmally W, Deckelbaum RJ, Kris-Etherton PM (2011) Effects of almond consumption on the reduction of LDL-cholesterol: a discussion of potential mechanisms and future research directions. Nutr Rev. Apr;69(4):171-85.

We checked with the American Heart Association and their conclusions: Almonds used as snacks in the diets of hyperlipidemic subjects significantly reduce coronary heart disease risk factors, probably in part because of the nonfat (protein and fiber) and monounsaturated fatty acid components of the nut.

Although recent studies have indicated that nut consumption may improve levels of blood lipids, nuts are not generally recommended as snacks for hyperlipidemic subjects because of their high fat content. Furthermore, the effective dose is still unknown.

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