High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for heart disease. The good news is there are many effective natural ways for lowering cholesterol naturally through diet and lifestyle changes.
Here are some practical tips to get you started:
Increase Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Good sources include oats, barley, flaxseeds, beans, lentils, apples, pears, Brussels sprouts and psyllium husk. Aim for 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day. Gradually increase fiber to avoid bloating and gas.
Choose Healthy Proteins
Proteins differ in their effects on cholesterol. Lean poultry, fish, beans and soy proteins have been found to lower LDL. Going meatless a few days a week can help reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Limit red meat to a few times per month, and avoid processed meats like bacon and sausage which are high in saturated fat.
Increase Unsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help reduce LDL and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. Great sources include avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Use olive or canola oil for cooking instead of butter and shortening. Limit saturated animal fats found in meat and full-fat dairy which can raise cholesterol.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat while providing fiber plus many beneficial vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. Get creative with produce by trying an array of colors and cooking methods. Aim for at least 4-5 servings per day. Frozen and canned options work too – just watch for added sodium and sugars.
Choose Whole Grains
Refined grains act more like sugar in the body, raising triglycerides and cholesterol. Focus on less-processed whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley and bulgur wheat. Check the ingredient list to make sure a whole grain is the first ingredient.
Limit Sugar and Refined Carbs
Excess sugar gets converted to triglycerides which can raise LDL and lower HDL. Reduce your intake of sweets, sugary beverages, juices, cakes, candies and desserts. Also limit refined carbs like white bread, pasta and rice which act similarly to sugar in the body.
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Lose Extra Weight
Carrying excess body fat, especially around the abdomen, raises your risk for high cholesterol and other health issues. Losing just 5-10% of your body weight can help improve cholesterol numbers. Focus on creating a modest calorie deficit through diet and exercise. Move more and reduce portions of high calorie, low nutrient foods and increase intake of natural drink to lower cholesterol.
Increase Aerobic Exercise
Regular aerobic exercise helps raise HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL and triglycerides. Aim for 150 minutes per week of brisk walking, running, cycling or similar activities. Spread it out over at least 3 days per week. Start slow if needed and work your way up in duration and intensity over time.
Add Strength Training
Some research indicates strength training can help improve cholesterol profiles. Aim for 2-3 weight training sessions per week in addition to aerobic activity. Work all major muscle groups using weights, resistance bands or bodyweight exercises. Be sure to include recovery days as it is one of the important natural ways to lower cholestrol.
Stop Smoking and Limit Alcohol
Cigarette smoke oxidizes cholesterol, damaging arteries. It also lowers HDL. Alcohol can increase triglycerides and raise blood pressure. If you drink, limit intake to no more than 1 drink per day for women, 2 for men. Avoid excessive intake which can cause hypertriglyceridemia.
Chronic stress raises cortisol and inflammation, impacting cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Make stress relief a priority through regular exercise, meditation, deep breathing, yoga or whatever activities help you unwind. Get enough sleep and maintain fulfilling social connections.
Some supplements may help support healthy cholesterol levels, but check with your doctor first. Fish oil, psyllium husk, artichoke extract and plant sterols/stanols may help reduce LDL. Probiotics support healthy gut flora while antioxidants counter free radical damage related to high cholesterol.
Eat Cholesterol-Lowering Foods
Certain foods have been shown to actively lower cholesterol. Some options: avocados, walnuts, almonds, fatty fish, beans, apples, grapes, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, turmeric, ginger, green tea, and foods rich in soluble fiber. Introduce more of these foods into your daily diet.
Know Your Numbers
Get your cholesterol checked regularly so you can track your levels and adjust your diet and lifestyle as needed. Total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL while LDL aims for under 100 mg/dL. HDL should be over 60 mg/dL. Triglycerides are optimal under 150 mg/dL. Discuss your goals with your doctor.
Be Patient and Persistent
Improving cholesterol profiles often requires sticking with lifestyle changes for the long haul. Don’t expect overnight results. Make sustainable habits and be patient. Check your cholesterol every 3-6 months to assess progress. Enlist help from friends, family and health professionals to stay motivated.
The natural approach should always be the first line of defence against high cholesterol. But for some people with genetic factors or mixed dyslipidaemia, medications may also be needed. Work with your doctor to create a personalized plan. With smart dietary choices, an active lifestyle, and eating foods that help lower cholesterol naturally makes it possible to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Small daily steps add up to big rewards over time.