- Learn how to lower cholesterol levels naturally. Many doctors put people onto cholesterol-lowering medication (statins) unnecessarily without a thought about the often devastating consequences. This is because the current recommendations for cholesterol levels may, in fact, be incorrect.
- Studies indicate that a slightly elevated cholesterol level may actually be beneficial to health, particularly in women.
- Cholesterol can be lowered by simple lifestyle changes and unlike previously believed, saturated fat does not cause heart disease.
Cholesterol and fat intake has been misunderstood for many decades, unfortunately. With doctors trying to get cholesterol levels lowered, many people are put onto cholesterol-lowering medicines called statins which have many unwanted side effects. Did you know that cholesterol is actually necessary for the body?
In this article, you’ll learn all about cholesterol, what truly raises cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease, as well as how to naturally lower excessively high cholesterol levels without taking medications that cause more harm than good or at very least, make your life unpleasant.
What is Cholesterol and What Does It Do
Cholesterol is a type of fat in your body. There are different types of cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) which also known as the good cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) often thought of as bad, though this is not necessarily true, and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) which mostly makes up your triglycerides (blood fat).
Cholesterol is necessary for your body to function properly, without cholesterol you would die. Your liver makes most of the cholesterol in your body and the rest comes from the food you eat.
Cholesterol does the following in the body:
- Maintains cell walls
- Makes hormones in the body
- Is an ingredient in bile which is important for the digestion of fats and to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
- Lowers inflammation
- Helps to prevent harmful free radicals generated by our bodies and by unhealthy foods and chemicals in our bodies
How Much Cholesterol Is Too Much
It isn’t that cholesterol itself is bad. In fact, a slightly higher than recommended level can actually be healthy, particularly for women. This study shows that a cholesterol level of between 5.0 mmol/L (193 mg/dL) and 7 mmol/L (270.2 mg/dL) is not only harmless for women but even protective.
Rather, excessive amounts of cholesterol, around 8.5 mmol/L (330 mg/dL), or if you have small LDL particles are problematic. HDL cholesterol is better for your heart and that level should be around 25% of your overall cholesterol content according to Dr. Mercola.
In terms of LDL cholesterol, it’s not as much about the amount, but rather the size of the particles. While you do want your HDL to be higher than LDL, the larger LDL particles are not dangerous. The small particles are the real problem and cause the arteries to harden and increase the risk of heart disease.
To be able to truly make sure that you are healthy, you need to get a lipid (fat) particle profile, this test differentiates between the different sizes of cholesterol particles. In this way, you can see how much of the small LDL particles you have and see if your triglyceride (blood fat) level is in the healthy range. If this test is not available, the only other useful test is a full lipid panel.
Pay attention to your triglycerides. If your triglyceride level is too high, along with small particles of LDL, this indicates a higher risk of heart disease. Ideally, your triglycerides should only amount to 2% of your total lipid profile. The test is simple, to get the full picture you will have needed to fast for 8 hours, and all it takes is a little finger prick. The whole test takes about 10 minutes.
Cholesterol is known as the silent killer. There are usually no signs or symptoms until there is a problem. Your cholesterol levels are mainly determined by genetics, and while there may be some foods that can raise your cholesterol levels slightly, not all of them cause your risk for heart disease or atherosclerosis (hardened arteries) to go up.
Cholesterol Causing Foods
The most problematic foods beyond a doubt are refined carbohydrates, sugar, and trans fat. Even whole grains can cause a rise in your triglyceride levels when eaten in excess. This study shows that instead of cutting out saturated fat which actually has no impact on your risk for heart disease that you should lower your carb intake.
Oxidized fats are the absolute worst fat that you can eat. Unlike the other fats, oxidized fats (trans fat) have no place in the body. They have no benefit and only cause harm by raising the levels of the small LDL particles. Always read your food labels to understand what you are eating. Look out for hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils as these are trans fats too.
These foods should be either cut out or limited in your diet:
- Sweets and cakes
- Grains like rice, wheat, barley, amaranth, quinoa, spelt, etc
- Junk food like pies, deep fried foods, potato chips, etc
- Vegetable fats and oils when heated excessively or used incorrectly
- Barbecued meat or meats and eggs fried in a very high heat
Another habit that you should cut is smoking. This will lower your risk of heart disease and increase your HDL levels fairly quickly after quitting.
Having said this, our bodies are not all the same. While some people may be fine on a high-fat diet, others may find that it doesn’t work for them. In some people, high amounts of saturated fat can also cause the problematic rise of cholesterol as seen in this study. But overall, a diet low in carbs and higher in fat is the best way to go. Get tested after a few months to see what works best for you.
Bear in mind that the quality of the food you eat and the cooking method used also affects your health directly. Always choose to eat grass-fed meat and organic dairy and eggs. No antibiotics should be present in these foods.
How To Lower Cholesterol and Protect Your Heart Naturally (Cholesterol Diet and Habits)
1. Healthy Fats
Fats are part of a healthy diet. Consuming saturated fat has been confirmed to be safe and there are many delicious foods that contain saturated fat. If you don’t eat meat or eggs you can find it in coconut oil and MCT oil. B It’s also very important to include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as these have a heart-protective function. These would be omega 3, 6, and 9.
Foods containing these fats are:
- Fatty fish
- Leafy green vegetables
To avoid causing inflammation in the body, keep your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio as close to 1:1 as possible. Fatty fish, krill oil supplements, walnuts, and flaxseeds are high in omega 3.
Fiber, particularly, soluble fiber lowers cholesterol. Women require 25 g of fiber and men 38 g of fiber (soluble and insoluble). Foods high in soluble fiber include:
- Fruit: Stick to only one serving a day and choose fruits low in sugar. You might want to try dried amla (Indian gooseberry) which is very effective at lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels.
- Vegetables: Get three cups a day, one cup each of leafy greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens, beet greens), colorful veggies (carrots, beetroot, squash, bell peppers), and sulfuric veggies (onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower).
- Psyllium: You can add this to your meals, but be sure to get only high-quality psyllium from reputable manufacturers.
- Foods containing beta-glucan: Mushrooms, seaweed, algae. Why not try spirulina?
Exercise increases blood circulation, burns fat, increases your oxygen intake, and helps you sweat out toxins. It also helps you to lower harmful levels of cholesterol and lower stress levels. Stress can also raise your cholesterol and inflammation in your body. Yoga and meditation are great stress relief tools.
HIIT exercise combines aerobic (running, walking, swimming, cycling) workouts with anaerobic (sprinting or resistance training). Want a good beginner workout? Check here for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and 30-minute workouts.
The best form of exercise, however, is one that you like. If you prefer swimming, or dancing, or lifting weights, then do that a few times a week. As long as you exercise vigorously for at least 75 minutes per week or moderately for at least 150 minutes a week, you will experience the benefit.
Caution With Statins
Statins are commonly prescribed but their cholesterol-lowering effect for most people can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle. Statins come with a host of side effects, one of the most common being damage to the liver and fatigue. Rather try to decrease your cholesterol naturally.
If you are on statins, your doctor should give you an additional medication called ubiquinol (coenzyme Q10) to protect your health as it gets depleted by statins and causes DNA damage. The only time you should consider statins is if you are struggling with familial hypercholesterolemia which may make it harder to lower your cholesterol levels through a healthy lifestyle alone.
Do you have high cholesterol? Please share your story with us. And if you have lowered your cholesterol naturally, please share your tips with us.