How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally
There are two ways we acquire the fatty substance called cholesterol within our bodies. Firstly, it is produced within our liver, and secondly, it can be found in some of the foods we eat. Cholesterol plays an important role in the human body, but if there is too much of it, it is not good for our health, which is why we are going to talk about how to lower cholesterol naturally.
Even though it can cause many problems, we should remember that in order for our bodies to function effectively, we do need some cholesterol. It is used to make bile, which then helps digest fats that you eat. It also forms a part of the outer layer of every cell within your body and has the ability to create vitamin D and hormones, which ensure that our bones, teeth and muscles are healthy.
Why is High Cholesterol a Problem?
Increased cholesterol levels are not something which you can feel and the symptoms of the condition do not show until it may be too late. As a result, many people are not aware there is a problem.
High cholesterol causes fatty deposits to develop within your blood vessels. As they grow in size, they can then make it difficult for the blood to flow. Sometimes, the deposits can suddenly break off, which then creates a clot. This can cause a stroke or heart attack.
For some people, high cholesterol is caused by a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. However, for most of us, it is the result of the lifestyle choices we make. When our liver already produces enough cholesterol, it is good to avoid cholesterol-rich foods such as butter, cream, fried foods and red meat. If not, you could end up with elevated levels of cholesterol.
How to Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels
For many of us, lifestyle changes can help to make a real improvement in our cholesterol levels. Here are the top recommendations.
Change Your Diet
- Reduce saturated fats. Red meat and full-fat dairy are the worst offenders here. They have high levels of saturated fats, which then cause your cholesterol to increase.
- Eliminate trans fats. You might need some detective skills to spot these ones. That's because they are often listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” You'll often find them in margarine and store-bought cakes and cookies. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils will be banned by the FDA in 2021.
- Increase soluble fiber. This is found in foods such as kidney beans and apples. Soluble fiber can reduce the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed into your bloodstream.
- Add whey protein. When given as a supplement, whey protein has been shown to lower both cholesterol and blood pressure.
Taking part in moderate physical activity can help you increase good cholesterol. Chat to your Doctor first and aim to build up your exercise routine to 30 minutes, five times a week. This might include:
- Joining an exercise group
- Going for a walk at lunchtime
- Walking or cycling to work
While you can still have high cholesterol when you are not overweight, even carrying just a few extra pounds can increase the likelihood of problems. If you are heavier than you should be, you can see some significant reductions in your cholesterol levels by losing just 5% to 10% of your body weight.
Introducing more exercise and healthier foods can really make a difference in your weight and, in turn, lower your cholesterol.
When you quit smoking, the good cholesterol, HDL, begins to increase. Then, after just three months of not smoking, both your lung function and your blood circulation will begin to improve. Within a year, you will have reduced the risk of heart disease to half of what it was when you were smoking.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Even though alcohol does not contain any cholesterol, what you mix with it, how much and how often you drink, influences the health of your heart.
Now it has been suggested that moderate consumption of alcohol could be linked with higher levels of the “good” cholesterol, HDL. However, the benefits do not outweigh the cons.
Moderation is what is important here. For women, that means up to one drink per day. For men older than 65, you should also stick to no more than one drink per day. For a man under the age of 65, then they should limit themselves to no more than two drinks per day.
While there is limited research to support the use of natural products to reduce cholesterol, some people have found them to be helpful.
Barley and Oats
Both of these grains contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan. It's thought that this fiber can reduce the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Plant Sterols and Stanols
These plant chemicals are a similar size and shape to cholesterol. Once absorbed into the bloodstream they block some of the cholesterol from being absorbed. Although we do get a small amount of these from plant-based foods, it is not enough to make much difference to our cholesterol levels. That's why some food companies now offer ranges such as fat spreads, yogurts and milks with plant sterols added to them.
As an excellent source of unsaturated fats, while also being low in saturated fats, nuts can help you to keep your levels in good shape. This is because the fiber they contain helps to stop some of the cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Nuts are also filling, so they may help you to avoid the temptation of less healthy snacks! A handful of nuts, around 30 grams, is recommended.
There is some evidence that the amount of sleep you get could contribute to these levels. Research indicates that getting too little sleep and too much sleep can cause problems. Women seem to be more affected and this has been evident in those who get less than six hours and more than eight hours of shut eye each night.
Do remember to check with your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes or adding supplements to your diet.