Lower Cholesterol Levels Naturally with Simple Diet Changes
High cholesterol can occur for many different reasons such as diet, being overweight, heredity and lack of exercise. While there are some factors you cannot change, such as your family history, there are others that you can change. Especially for people who have borderline-high cholesterol but who do not want to take medication, making a few changes in the diet is an effective way to lower cholesterol.
Understanding Why High Cholesterol is Unhealthy
There are two types of cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which is good cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which is considered bad cholesterol. The good form of cholesterol helps to move cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver where it then leaves the body. Bad cholesterol can attach itself to the walls of the arteries and, along with other substances, forms plaque which can eventually block arteries to the heart and brain. Too much bad cholesterol, over time, can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The body needs some cholesterol to function properly so it is important to eat more foods with good cholesterol and limit the foods that contain bad cholesterol. Making a few changes in the diet will help dramatically to lower cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Diet Changes to Lower Bad Cholesterol
There are several foods that should be limited or replaced by other, healthier, foods in order to lower bad cholesterol. Fatty red meat, high-fat dairy products and saturated and trans fat should be limited or excluded completely from the diet. Instead, choose lean cuts of red meat, poultry or fish, low-fat dairy products and foods that do not contain trans or saturated fat.
Cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, tuna and lake trout are beneficial in raising good cholesterol in the body. These types of fish contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which not only lower cholesterol, but also reduce blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. If you do not like fish, try taking fish oil supplements instead.
Adding oatmeal or oat bran to the diet can actually reduce bad cholesterol. Oatmeal and oat bran contain soluble fiber which reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Other foods rich in soluble fiber include apples, pears, kidney beans, barley and prunes.
According to the Mayo Clinic, adding nuts to the diet can lower cholesterol, maintain healthy blood vessels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Most nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and make a healthy snack. The healthiest nuts include walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans and unsalted peanuts. Nuts are high in calories so the Mayo Clinic suggests eating only a handful a day or adding a few to salads.
Using olive oil while cooking or in salad dressing can reduce bad cholesterol. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggest adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil to your diet each day in place of other oils or fats.
Other diet recommendations suggested by the Harvard Medical School in the article “15 Tips for Lowering Your Cholesterol Naturally” include:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Avoid coconut and palm oils
- Limit processed foods like packaged cookies, crackers and snack foods because they usually contain trans and saturated fats
- Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an excellent way to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol in the blood. The right diet may also prevent having to take prescription medication to lower cholesterol. Talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your cholesterol.
Harvard Health Publications/Harvard Medical School “15 Tips for Lowering Your Cholesterol Naturally” Retrieved