Your cholesterol level has hit the roof. A high cholesterol level is a risk for developing heart disease, heart attacks and strokes especially with pre-existing chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Statins – the most popular cholesterol lowering drugs – have undesirable side effects. You opt for natural ways.
Here is what you can do. Start with determination.
Set a Goal
If you have a family or personal history of heart disease or have factors that increase your risk for heart disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity or smoking you’ll have to go for a lower target of 70.
A target of 160 should be practical if you have low risk and 130 for a person with moderate risk.
Heart Healthy Foods
Lowering cholesterol levels involve a sensible diet – avoiding foods high in cholesterol and choosing foods that can pull those numbers down. Some foods that can help:
1. Eat High Fiber Foods
Take a second look at foods loaded with soluble fiber and you’ll not need to go after those statins. Soluble fiber works by blocking absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. It reduces low density lipoproteins (LDL) dubbed as the “bad” cholesterol.
Soluble fiber rich foods include:
- oatmeal, oat bran, rye, barley
- legumes – Kidney beans, peas
- fruits – apples, pears, prunes, berries
- vegetables – Brussels sprout, broccoli, carrots
- root crops – yams
Consuming five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber daily can significantly lower your LDL cholesterol. A one and a half cup of cooked oatmeal can provide 6 grams of soluble fiber. Add fruits and you’ll even add more grams of fiber. Vary the fruits you so your meals won’t be boring.
2. Do you love fish?
Choose fatty fishes. Grill or bake them not fry. They have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids – heart healthy polyunsaturated fatty acid that lower bad cholesterol and increase the High Density Lipoprotein (HDL). Cohort studies as reported by the Linus Pauling Institute show that high levels of omega 3 fatty acids can decrease risk of a heart attack and sudden death. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish twice weekly.
Best fishes with the highest Omega 3s:
- Lake trout
- Albacore tuna
A fish oil supplement can help. But if you’re concerned about mercury in fish oil you can use canola oil in cooking and take flaxseed oil. They contain an adequate amount of Omega 3 fatty acid.
3. Be Nutty
Nuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids that pull down your cholesterol levels and keep your arteries clog free. They’re yummy too.
Eat at least a handful daily sans coating of salt or sugar:
- Hazel nuts
- Pine nuts
- Pistachio nuts
4. Good old fashioned Virgin olive oil
Olive oil abounds with antioxidants that lower bad cholesterol.
You’ll love it in salads. A study showed that people who love salads with olive oil and vinegar dressing have a lesser risk for heart attacks. 2 tablespoon daily is sufficient. Replace other fats in your cooking with olive oil. Sautee veggies, use in marinades and as a salad dressing.
5. Consume foods or beverages fortified with sterols or stanols .
Sterols or stanols are chemical substances found in plants that block cholesterol absorption. Some food products are fortified with sterols or stanols like orange juice, yoghurt drink and even margarine . Consume at least 2 grams which is equivalent to a two 8-ounce of sterol fortified orange juice drink.
6. Shift to green tea
Clinical researches say that compounds in green tea have a lowering effect on LDL cholesterol. So, if you love guzzling sodas or sugary drinks, it’s time to experience this brew. Green tea is chockfull of antioxidants too that can help prevent chronic diseases.
To get the most benefits from these foods, avoid foods loaded with saturated fats and trans-fat.
Saturated fats are found in meat, full fat dairy products and oils. Trans-fats are found in some margarine, cookies, cakes, crackers. These culprits raise the bad cholesterol indiscriminately and lower the good ones. Be wary, learn to read labels.
Drop those Pounds
If you’re over weight take sensible measures to lose those extra pounds. Adopt portion control. Learn how many servings you should eat in every meal and snacks. Track your food intake.
It’s the Same Word – Exercise!
Exercise 3 to 5 times a week for 30 minutes or more. Schedule a regular time and incorporate it in your work week. Be physically active – use the stairs, walk instead of using your car, walk your pets, walk after supper, get up and around if you’re working at a desk.
After a couple of months or so check your cholesterol. You’ll be amazed at how low your levels have gone.