What do cheeseburger, French fries and bacon have in common? They are all high in unhealthy and dangerous cholesterol.
Importance of Cholesterol:
Cholesterol either is manufactured by the body or is obtained from the food. It has a waxy and fat like appearance. It is found in every cell of the body and is required for carrying out the body’s normal functioning. It is required to make vitamin D, certain hormones and produce bile for digestion. It also helps to make the outer coating of the cells. However, the excess of cholesterol levels in the blood can put you in danger.
Cholesterol is carried around the body by lipoproteins.
- Low Density Lipoprotein
- High-density lipoprotein
Low-density lipoprotein LDL is also referred to as bad cholesterol as too much if it is unhealthy. A high LDL level can lead to the buildup in the arteries.
High-density lipoprotein is referred to as good cholesterol as it is protective. It carries cholesterol to the other parts of the body and then brings it back to the liver. Having healthy levels of both the types of lipoprotein is important.
Recommended Levels of Cholesterol:
- The total cholesterol should be 200 mg/DL
- 100 mg/DL or less for LDL or bad cholesterol
- 40 mg/DL or higher for HDL or good cholesterol
The level of artery clogging substance, usually rises with age, leading to cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. In fact, most of the middle aged and elderly people suffer from high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is one of the major causes of cardiovascular diseases.
Treatment for Cholesterol:
The treatment of cholesterol depends on factors like health history of heart diseases and health conditions like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. If you are at a high risk, the doctors will advise you a target LDL of less than 70. If the patient is at moderate risk, then LDL of lower than 130 is recommended and if the risk is low, then 160 is a reasonable target.
The default method of controlling cholesterol is usually by popping medicines. The pill approach is usually preferred as the medicines are readily available and require little or no effort. However, several studies have now concluded that diet and lifestyle changes can also have a powerful impact in lowering cholesterol. The natural methods help to lower the dangerous cholesterol without having any negative effects.
20 Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol:
Here are 20 natural ways to lower the cholesterol and enhance the drug’s effectiveness.
1. Stay Active:
Moderate to intense activity on a daily basis can reduce the cholesterol level by almost 10 to 20%. Walking can help reduce the heart disease risk, as long as it is done intensely. The professor of medicine at the Duke University advises the patients to go for 45 minutes of walk after the supper. Aerobic exercises like running, bicycling and swimming get the heart pumping, reducing the risk of heart diseases. Make sure you indulge in moderate intense exercises for 5 days a week.
2. Eat Fiber Rich Foods:
Eating fruits, whole grains and vegetables on a daily basis is important for several reasons. The soluble fiber found in these foods is very beneficial for lowering the cholesterol levels. Fiber comes in two forms- soluble and insoluble. Studies have shown that consuming 15 grams of soluble fiber a day can lower the cholesterol levels by almost 10%. Soluble fiber binds bile and cholesterol in the gut, excreting them through your bowel movements. Fiber is also found to decrease the bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol in the blood. Pectin, a kind of soluble fiber, not only lowers the cholesterol levels, but also curbs overeating by slowing the digestive process.
3. Lose Weight:
You have to maintain a healthy weight in order to lead a healthy life. Losing at least 5 to 10 pounds can lower the total cholesterol levels dramatically. You need to make small and sustainable changes to keep the weight off. Slowly and steadily introduce more activity in your daily routine. Reduce your calorie and sugary food intake and you will see a major improvement in your weight.
4. Red Wine:
Red wine is reported to raise good cholesterol in the blood. Tempranillo red grapes, the grapes used to make red wines can reduce the cholesterol by 12%. Red wine is also rich in antioxidants like proanthocyanidiins, resveratrol and quercetin, which decrease the inflammation and oxidative stress, thereby preventing heart diseases. Women should limit their red wine intake to one glass a day, while men are allowed to have two drinks a day.
5. Reduces your Saturated Fat Intake:
Studies have indicated that saturated fat is one of the main causes of cholesterol. So, the first thing you need to do for lowering cholesterol is to reduce your saturated fat intake. Switch to low fat milk and trim off the fat and skin from the meat and poultry. Avoid foods like pork, lamb and beef and choose lean meat instead. Red meat and partially hydrogenated oils contain saturated and trans fat that can clog the arteries. Instead of coconut and mustard oil, choose canola, corn, soybeans, and peanut oil for cooking. Instead of frying, bake, roast and stew the food to reduce the usage of oil.
Fish and its oil contain omega 3 fatty acids that are known to have a profound effect on the triglyceride and cholesterol levels. They contain high levels of omega 3 fatty acids that reduce the risk of developing blood clots. Doctors recommend eating three to four servings of fish every week. Fishes best for lowering cholesterol levels include salmon, tuna, trout, halibut, herring and mackerel. Remember, you have to restrict your saturated fat intake, lest your LDL levels will stay the same no matter how much fish you consume. Grill or bake the fish to avoid adding unhealthy fats. It can increase the good cholesterol by as much as 4%.
7. Green Tea:
Green tea contains compounds that can reduce the LDL levels in the blood. The tannins present in green tea prevent cholesterol absorption in the gut. In a study conducted at Brazil, people who consumed green tea extract capsules noticed a significant reduction in their cholesterol levels. Regular tea consumption can lower the risk of coronary heart diseases as well. Even black tea can help reduce blood lipids by 10% in three weeks.
8. Go Vegetarian:
People following a vegetarian diet have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If not for a lifetime, consider going vegan for 3 to 6 months to lower the cholesterol levels. Increasing the amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables will supply the body with a wide range of vitamin, minerals and antioxidants, which will eventually lower the cholesterol levels. Consult a nutritionist for a balanced vegetarian diet plan.
Besides adding taste to your dishes, garlic is also believed to have mild cholesterol lowering effects. It halts the artery clogging plaque at its earliest stage, keeping the cholesterol particles from sticking to the artery walls. Both raw and cooked garlic have beneficial effects on the blood. Take a teaspoon of crushed garlic and mix it with honey to make it more palatable. Take this daily to reduce the cholesterol levels.
10. Live a Stress Free Life:
Taking too much stress can have detrimental effects on the cholesterol levels. Tension, anxiety, anger, depression and stress release chemicals that constrict the arteries, raising blood pressure levels and increasing the risk of heart attack. You need to remove the stress triggering situations to block the body’s stress response. Relaxation techniques can help to keep the stress levels under control. Practice meditation, yoga, exercise and indulge in a regular reading practice to put a full stop to your worries.
11. Plant Sterol:
Plant sterol, commonly known as plant statins, are the plant version of the cholesterol, which when consumed in sufficient amount can block the absorption of human cholesterol in the small intestine. There are certain food products that contain plant sterols, which can help you control cholesterol. Margarine, orange juice and yogurt come fortified with plant sterols that can reduce the LDL cholesterol by 10%. Try to consume at least 2 grams of plant sterols a day.
12. Start Your Day with a Bowl of Oatmeal:
Oatmeal is one of the best foods for controlling cholesterol. Taking two servings of oatmeal every day can lower your cholesterol level by 5.3%. It contains beta glucan, a soluble fiber, which keeps you full and interferes with the digestion of cholesterol. Top oatmeal with high fiber fruits like banana to add 4 grams of fiber to it.
Lack of sleep increases the low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, contributing to high blood pressure. If you find yourself excessively sleepy during the day, then there are high possibilities that you may be suffering from high cholesterol. Try to sleep at least 8 hours daily. Keep all the distractions away to ensure a peaceful sleep.
14. Top your Food with Cinnamon:
According to a research, taking ½ teaspoon of cinnamon daily can reduce the total cholesterol by 26%. Sprinkle some on your oatmeal or combine it with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to boost the cholesterol fighting powers of these foods.
Walnuts, cashews and almonds are the best nuts for reducing blood cholesterol. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who consumed 1.5 ounces of walnuts 6 days a week reduced their total cholesterol by 5.4% and LDL by 9.3%. These nuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids that keep the blood vessels healthy. Make sure the nuts are not salted or coated with sugar. Do not over consume nuts, as they are high in calories.
16. Olive Oil:
Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol in the blood. Take 2 tablespoons of olive daily to obtain its heart healthy benefits. Sauté your veggies with it, or use it as a salad dressing. Olive oil, like most of the oils is high in calories and must be consumed in moderation. While purchasing olive oil, consider the extra virgin olive oil, as they are more beneficial than the other varieties of olive oil.
17. Dark Chocolate:
The antioxidants present in dark chocolate prevent the blood platelets from sticking together and keep the artery unclogged. In a 2007 study, participants who consumed cocoa powder saw an increase of 24% in their HDL levels over a period of 12 weeks.
Avocado is an excellent source of heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acid that raises the good cholesterol while lowering bad cholesterol. This creamy food also contains beta-sitosterol, a plant based fat that reduces cholesterol absorption. Avocados are high in calories, so you need to consume them sparingly.
Psyllium is a dietary fiber that is believed to reduce the overall cholesterol levels. It forms a thick gel that removes cholesterol, bile acids and waste from the gut. A study conducted at the University of Kentucky found that the participants, who took 5 grams of psyllium every day for 26 weeks, lowered their cholesterol levels by 5%. You can use psyllium in juice and water.
20. Restrict Caffeine and Gluten Intake:
Researchers have established a link between cholesterol levels and excess consumption of coffee. For proper health, restrict your coffee intake. You also need to restrict your gluten intake as they lead to obesity and inflammation, the major causes of heart diseases. Even if you eat wheat products, make sure they are whole grains.
Some More Tips to Fight Cholesterol:
Here are some more tips you need to be cautious about to keep the cholesterol levels in check.
1. Quit Sweets:
Excess sugar intake can increase the cholesterol levels in the body. So, be heedful on the sugar content present in the foods you consume.
2. Avoid Smoking:
Cigarette smoking reduces the good cholesterol in the blood, increasing the risk of heart diseases. So, quit smoking to control cholesterol levels.
3. Regular Screening:
Get your cholesterol levels checked on a regular basis to ensure a long-term good health. People over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels checked once in every five years. The doctor may recommend frequent screening if the person is at a risk of heart diseases.
Lastly, to win the war against cholesterol, you need to commit yourself to take care of your health and make changes to lead a healthy life.
Don’t you think these natural ways to be far better than resorting to medications in the first go itself? Are your cholesterol levels under control? Found these ways helpful? Feel free to share your views on the same in the below comment section. We would love to see your responses.