Tips for Lowering Cholesterol Naturally
Whether or not you’ve been told you have high cholesterol, you may be interested in learning how to keep your cholesterol levels at a healthy range. Cholesterol is an integral part of your body, but having too much in your bloodstream can be harmful.
Keep reading to learn more about what cholesterol is, why it’s important, and tips for lowering your cholesterol levels naturally.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is part fat and part protein, also known as lipoprotein. It is found in your blood and is a key component of every cell in your body. Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs, but you can also obtain cholesterol from eating animal products.
There are 2 main types of cholesterol, which are:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): this is often called the “good” kind of cholesterol since it helps remove cholesterol from your blood and arteries and back to your liver for removal from the body. High levels of HDL can help lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and other health problems.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): this is the “bad” type of cholesterol since it can lead to the buildup of fatty deposits called plaque in your blood vessels. Plaque can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other heart conditions.
Both LDL and HDL contribute to your total cholesterol. Triglycerides are another type of lipid that is similar to cholesterol. They are often checked as part of the same blood panel since they play similar roles in heart health.
The normal ranges for adults in each of these lab values are as follows:
Is All Cholesterol Bad?
While cholesterol often gets a bad reputation, it is actually a vital part of your body. We all need cholesterol to survive.
Here are some of the essential functions of cholesterol:
- Part of cell membranes. These are what provide your cells with structure. Since cells make up every organ in your body, cholesterol plays a pretty important role in helping them function properly.
- Helps make vitamin D. Cholesterol helps your body produce vitamin D from sunlight. Since vitamin D plays many important roles in your health, including reducing disease risk, this is another crucial cholesterol function.
- Assist with hormone production. Your body uses cholesterol to make hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol. This means cholesterol also plays a vital role in sexual development, fertility, and even stress levels.
- Digestion. Cholesterol is needed to produce bile, which is a substance that helps your body break down fats and absorb nutrients. Not enough bile can lead to malnutrition and even bacteria overgrowth in the intestines.
- Brain & nerve function. Your brain has the highest cholesterol content compared to any other organ in your body. Cholesterol is also an essential component of myelin membranes which protects your nerve cells and helps transmit electrical impulses that control things like movement and sensation.
Dangers of Too Much Cholesterol
Even though cholesterol is essential, too much of it can cause problems. It is well known that high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and heart attacks, which is the number one cause of death in America. This happens because having high cholesterol leads to the formation of plaque. Plaque sticks to the walls of your arteries and can lead to a condition known as atherosclerosis, which makes the arteries narrow and stiff and can create blockages.
In addition, having high cholesterol also increases inflammation in your body, which is another risk factor for heart disease.
You may be surprised to learn that eating foods high in cholesterol does not lead to high cholesterol in the blood. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans removed the old recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol since adequate evidence was not available.
However, other things can contribute to high cholesterol.
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
- Eating a diet high in saturated or trans fats or processed carbohydrates
- Advanced age
- Having type 2 diabetes
- Smoking tobacco
Ways To Lower Cholesterol Naturally:
While medications known as statins can be prescribed to lower cholesterol, they may come with side effects and do not treat the root cause of the problem. Making diet and lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol naturally is the best way to protect your health.
Even if you’re already taking cholesterol-lowering medications, the following changes can help make them more effective and/or possibly help you wean off of them*.
Things that can help lower your cholesterol naturally include:
- Spices like cinnamon and turmeric: Cinnamon has been proven by research to help support healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Similarly, turmeric has been found to help lower both cholesterol and triglyceride levels. You can enjoy either spice in various recipes, including curries, stews, smoothies, beverages, etc.
- Focus on fiber. Fiber from complex carbs binds to cholesterol to help prevent it from entering your bloodstream and can help lower cholesterol levels. High fiber foods include nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.
- Choose the right types of fats. Reducing your saturated fat intake from animal products and replacing it with unsaturated fats is known to help lower cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats come from foods like nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil, and fatty fish. Omega-3 fats are a type of unsaturated fat and have the benefit of helping fight inflammation that can contribute to heart disease and help lower both cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Omega-3 fats can be found in foods like walnuts, fatty fish, chia, hemp, and flaxseeds. Trans fats from highly processed or packaged foods should be avoided.
- Cut back on sugar. Eating too much sugar can raise LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while lowering HDL cholesterol. High sugar intake can also increase inflammation in your body, leading to heart disease and other health complications.
- Be consistent with exercise. Being active helps raise HDL cholesterol, which is the good kind. It is best to choose a variety of exercises that you enjoy and can be consistent with, and keep in mind that no fancy equipment or expensive gym memberships are required!
- Strive for a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for high cholesterol, and losing weight can help reduce cholesterol levels if your weight is in this criteria. Just be sure to avoid fad diets or quick weight loss, which often produce only short-term results and make you more likely to gain the weight back in the long run.
- Be moderate with alcohol. Alcohol is processed through your liver, which is the same organ that makes cholesterol. Excessively drinking alcohol can raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels, so it’s important to practice moderation. This means 2 drinks at a time for men and 1 drink for women.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking causes inflammation in your body and can raise LDL cholesterol while lowering HDL. Cigarette smoking is a leading contributor to cardiovascular disease.
*Remember to always consult with your doctor before changing the way you take any prescription medications.
Cholesterol is an essential component of your body, but too much of it can be dangerous. It is important to keep up to date with your cholesterol levels. Thankfully, there are many natural diet and lifestyle tips you can follow that can be very effective in preventing and treating high cholesterol levels to protect your health, so you can take steps to choose what is best and most realistic for you.