We’ve all heard (and let’s be honest…we KNOW) that high cholesterol is bad for us.
It affects a large number of Americans, especially because of widespread obesity, and doctors and health professionals constantly warn us to watch cholesterol levels.
It starts to feel repetitive after a while, but they are warning us for good reason. High cholesterol has a lot of negative effects on the body, and while some of them are reversible, it is best to stay ahead of the problem.
Cholesterol affects the circulatory system because it moves through the bloodstream via lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins, and we need them both, but one kind is considered bad cholesterol and the other is considered good.
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are considered the “bad” cholesterol. It is their job to transport cholesterol where its needed, but when there is an excess of LDL, it is deposited into the arteries where it starts to build up and quickly cause problems.
The “good” cholesterol is high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which take the extra cholesterol from tissues and cells, and return it to the liver for repurposing.
The buildup of LDL that happens as a result of excess LDL ends up as plaque buildup in the arteries, preventing blood from moving through as efficiently as it needs to.
This can lead to serious consequences, namely stroke or heart attack, in addition to other issues like jaw pain, chest pain, gallstones, and numbness in the legs.
The average American has “borderline high” cholesterol, and 1 in 6 has a high level. It’s a serious health risk that affects a large number of the population.
But all hope is not lost!
We can use natural remedies to help us fight high cholesterol.
Here are a few natural solutions for lowering high cholesterol and helping prevent serious side effects start taking a toll on your body.
Limit Intake of Saturated & Trans Fats
Foods high in saturated fat include butter, fatty flesh (like red meat), full-fat and low-fat dairy products, palm oil, coconut oil, egg yolks, and shellfish.
Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces risk of heart disease.
Polyunsaturated fats, most often called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, come from vegetable oils, fatty fish, and most nuts. Opt for olive or avocado oil, fatty fish like salmon, and walnuts or pecans.
Eat More Fiber
The best fiber rich foods are soluble fiber from beans, oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables. Foods that are naturally rich in soluble fiber have been proven good at lowering cholesterol.
Other fiber rich foods to eat are oat bran, barley, peas, yams, sweet potatoes, legumes, and beans (pinto, black, garbanzo). The best soluble fiber rich vegetables are carrots, brussels sprouts, beets, okra, and eggplant.
For fruit sources eat berries, passion fruit, oranges, pears, apricots, nectarines, and apples.
Eat Protein-Rich Plant Foods
Protein rich plant foods are a very healthy and protein packed alternative to meat. These foods include legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, peas, and beans.
Legumes especially have been shown to lower total cholesterol, LDL, blood sugar, insulin, and possibly risk of cancer.
Nuts modestly lower LDL, but be sure to choose dry roasted or raw varieties that don’t include excess salt and processing.
Lose Excess Weight
Losing weight can help lower blood cholesterol levels in people who are overweight.
It is the most effective lifestyle change for reducing high blood pressure and diabetes, both risk factors for plaque buildup in the arteries and heart disease.
The best method for losing weight is a healthy combination of diet and exercise through making healthy food choices and practicing food control with an active lifestyle.
One of the major ways that exercise helps lower cholesterol levels is by helping you lose or maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity increases the amount of LDL in the blood, so losing excess weight helps lower bad cholesterol levels.
Exercise stimulates enzymes that move LDL from the blood to the liver, where cholesterol is converted and excreted, eliminating more LDL from the body than someone who does not exercise.
Vigorous exercise has also been shown to raise good cholesterol levels. Increase exercise slowly to avoid injury and aim for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise.
Get Quality Sleep
Sleep is essential for allowing the body to heal, maintaining balanced blood sugar levels, and overall health.
Both too much and too little sleep has been found to have a negative affect on cholesterol levels, with both less than 5 hours a night and more than 8 hours resulting in risk of low HDL levels in adults over age 20.
Make sure to get a moderate amount of sleep, aiming for 7-8 hours per night, in addition to following a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Take Natural Supplements
There are several recommended supplements for helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. A daily intake of plant sterol supplements has been shown to lower LDL.
Sterols are naturally occurring substances found in plants, and a good choice for supplements because they don’t contain calories, sugar, trans fats, or salt that many foods enriched with plant sterols usually have.
Psyllium (Metamucil is one of the more popular brands) is also a good soluble fiber supplement for controlling cholesterol levels.
Although there is a little work on your part involved, you can naturally reduce the potential for high cholesterol and even contribute to lower cholesterol levels!
Have another natural solution to lowering cholesterol? Share it with the community in the comments below!