When there are more natural ways to keep your bad cholesterol down, taking medication seems inorganic and foreign. If you simply want to manage your cholesterol but don’t want the fuss of medications (or the side effects), here are the ways to start being heart-healthy today and reduce cholesterol without medicine.
Table of Contents
How to Reduce Cholesterol Without Medicine
Work on Your Diet
- Eat Garlic: Garlic is an excellent substance to add to your diet to keep your cholesterol levels at a reasonable number. It can reduce cholesterol level without causing any side effects, in addition to preventing blood clots, reducing blood pressure and protecting against infections. Although it is best to take it in raw form like pickles. Next time you hit the supermarket, pick up a tub of freshly peeled garlic cloves and challenge yourself to make sure it’s gone before the ‘best by’ date. Chip up and toss on pizza, in soup or in side dishes.
- Chomp on Nuts and Seeds: Though they are all great, sunflower seeds are particularly efficacious in keeping the cholesterol levels down. They’re full of linoleic acid that reduces plaque formation, keeping your blood flowing down arterial easy street. Walnuts, almonds and other nuts are good, too; it’s not just the sunflower variety. They’re generally all full of polyunsaturated fatty acids, that’s the good kind. As long as the nuts aren’t coated in salt or sugar, you’re good to go. Aim for a handful (1.5oz; 43grams) a day.
- Go Fish: Eating fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and herring is ultra-heart-healthy to do their high level of Omega-3 fatty acids. Those guys can lower your blood pressure and prevent your blood from clotting. If you’ve already had a heart attack, they can even reduce the risk of sudden death. If you’re not quite a chef de cuisine, canned tuna isn’t exempt from Omega-3 category. And to go even further, you could always take fish oil supplements, once you’ve talked to your doctor, of course.
The American Heart Association says the natural source, the fish itself, is better, but something is better than nothing.
Alternative sources to reduce cholesterol without medicine also include soybeans, canola, flaxseeds, walnuts and their oils, for our herbivore friends.
- Load up on Fiber: Not only are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains great for your waistline, but they’re wonderfully full of heart-healthy antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering dietary fibre. There are different kinds of fibre, actually, and these three food groups are clock full of the soluble kind, the kind that sits in your digestive tract and absorbs the cholesterol before it gets to your arteries. Talk about useful. It’s practically a super-food, oatmeal is. And when it comes to cholesterol, it’s full of the soluble fibre that lowers your LDL cholesterol. Aim for 5 to 10grams (or more!), of fibre a day to reap the cholesterol-lowering effects. If you’re curious, 1½cups of cooked oatmeal ranks in 6grams of fibre. Not an oatmeal fan? Kidney beans, apples, pears and prunes are also high-fibre foods.
- Use Healthy Vegetable Oil: Always use oil in your food that are full of good fats such Olive oil, sunflower oil or walnut. Cutting down on your saturated and trans fats is imperative to lowering your cholesterol. Olive oil is particularly masterful in lowering your LDL level while not lowering your HDL levels (that’s a very good thing). Replace other fats in your diet (butter, shortening, etc), with olive oil to reap the benefits. Try it with sautéed vegetables, as a salad dressing, or on bread. If you do make the leap, know that extra virgin olive oil is even better than the plain ol’ regular kind. It’s generally less processed and therefore has more nutrients and anti-oxidants. And when you see an olive oil that’s light in colour, know that that does not mean light in calories or fat – it’s just means more processed.
- Munch on Raw Fruits and Veggies: Raw vegetables are always a better source of fibre and antioxidants than cooked ones. When they’re raw, they maintain all their vitamins and nutrients – all the stuff that’s good for you. The good stuff gets cooked away when heated. Turn your main dishes into vegetarian ones – casseroles, lasagnas, soups and stir-fries are all easy to make sans meat. And as for fruits, try to keep it fresh – dried fruit often has more calories. If you do have a penchant for the dried kind, however, keep it to a handful. Spinach is a great source of lutein, which has recently been found to help shrug off cholesterol invaders. Shoot for ½cup (100grams) a day to reap the benefits. What’s more, fruits and veggies are low caloric and low fat. Cutting back on stuttered fats (which can also be done by consuming soy products) helps your heart and reduces LDL cholesterol.
- Keep Fit: Include as much as exercises as your physical conditions. Physical activity increased the body’s flexibility and helps pumps the blood through your arteries. And of course, follow your doctor’s advice too. Choose a form of exercise you can do for 10-20 minutes at a time; with at least moderate intensity such as walking, biking, swimming, jogging, or using an exercise machine at low speed. First, exercise stimulate enzymes that help move LDL from the blood (and blood-vessel walls) to the liver. From there, the cholesterol is converted into bile (for digestion) or excreted. So the more you exercise, the more LDL your body expels. Second, exercise increase the size of the protein particles that carry cholesterol through the blood. That’s a good thing – the smaller, denser ones burrow into the lining of your heart and start clogging away.
- Lose Weight: It doesn’t have to be a lot either. If you lose just 3 to 10% of your weight, your cholesterol levels could reduce greatly. Not to mention the seeds of other health benefits! Watch your calories. There are no ‘ifs, ands, or buts’ about it: an increased caloric intake will lead to weight gain. Keep a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy. Stick to good fats(like the ones in avocados, nuts and olive oil) and cut out processed junk. Try to incorporate activity into your daily endeavors. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator, making taking the dog for a walk, a pre-dinner activity, and bike to do an errand or two. Exercise doesn’t always have to be a formal ‘workout’ session if your schedule or body doesn’t allow for it.
Go the Extra Mile
- Understand the Nature of Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is an essential ingredient of the body used in various metabolic activities of the body. However, when it exceeds the normal limits (150-200 mg/DL blood) it poses a serious threat to the arteries and heart. It can be successfully regulated and treated by means of slight changes in your diet. Cholesterol can’t dissolve in the blood. It has to be transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as “bad” cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein is known as “good” cholesterol. These two types of lipids, along with triglycerides and LP(a) cholesterol, make up your total cholesterol count, which can be determined through a blood test.
- Talk to Your Doctor: He or she should be your first opinion. They will be able to tell you what’s a good number for you. Your family history and lifestyle will factor into their conclusion. What’s more, they can help you stick to a plan. Ask them what physical exercise and diet regime you should be starting. They can help you by giving your ideas and telling you the do’s and don’ts of maintaining low cholesterol.
- Set A Target: For each person it’s different- so what’s your ideal number? Your doctor will probably ask you a few questions to find out what’s right for you. It all depends on your family history, your weight, blood pressure and lifestyle habits (like smoking and drinking). For high-risk patients, a target LDL of less than 70 will likely be advised. If you fall into the category, under 130 may be your number. And if you’re one of the lucky ones and your risk is low, less than 160 is acceptable.
Whatever branch you fall into, it’s best to know this earlier than later.
If you smoke, stop. Apart from all the other reasons it’s not good for you, it may help to raise your good cholesterol- the HDL kind. Just 20minutes after quitting, you’ll see a change. Within a day, you’re less likely to get a heart attack. If you make it a year, your risk of heart disease gets cut in half. And in 15years, it’s like you never smoked. So, yes, you still have time. A person’s risk of heart disease and heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. People who smoke have a two to four times higher chance of having heart disease. And smokers continue to increase their risk of a heart attack the longer they smoke. Women that smoke and also take birth control pills increase several times their risk of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
11 Foods to Increase Your HDL, Good Cholesterol Levels
- Olive Oil: Olives and olive oils are high in HDL and reduces the inflammatory effects of LDL. Choosing extra olive oil over any other oil is a good option to start with. You can use the oil as a dressing for your salad or include chopped olives in your sandwich or soups.
- Fish: Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fishes help boost your HDL levels and lower bad cholesterol. Salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel and trout contain high levels of Omega-3. Including these fishes in your diet twice a week promotes health benefits. There are various supplements of fish available on the market, which also serve the purpose, though not as much as the fish does.
- Avocados: The monounsaturated fatty acids and folate present in avocado increase the level of HDL and decreases LDL levels. The fibre in avocado also plays an important role in this. Avocado smoothie is a good option to keep yourself full for a long time. You can also include avocado slices in sandwich, salad and soups.
- Red Wine: The fact that alcohol is beneficial to health is too good to be true. Red wine has the potential to enhance HDL levels in the blood. This significantly reduces the chances of getting a heart disease. Moderation is key, and the usual limit suggested is 1glass per day for women and 2glasses per day for men. However, it is best to discuss this with your doctor in case you have liver disease or diabetes.
- Nuts: Packed with Omega-3 fatty acid, nuts enhance your HDL levels and reduce the levels of LDL, keeping your blood vessels healthy. They also have high amounts of plant sterol which reduce the absorption of LDL in the body. Some of the nuts are almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnut, pecans and peanuts. You can munch on nuts as a snack or include them in salads and soups.
- Flaxseeds: These plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids regulates the levels of HDL in the body. Flaxseeds as a whole are not broken down by our digestive system and so the nutrients are not absorbed. The best form to consume it is as a powder or as oil. You can add flaxseeds oil to salads and sprinkle the powder on baked foods, cereals, oats and salads.
- Beans and Legumes: lentils, black-eyed peas, black beans and kidney beans are loaded with fibre and folate. While fibre helps in the absorption of good cholesterol, folate reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Lentils can be best consumed as soups and beans as a side dish.
- Fruits Rich in Fiber: Apples, pears, and prunes have a high amount of fibre which enhances the HDL levels. Eating them as they are, retains the high fibre content and has greater benefits. You could also make a smoothie or include them as toppings on your cereals.
- Soy: A vegetarian alternative to meat, soy reduces LDL levels in your body. Studies also show that consumption of soy has led to decreased consumption of meat in many people. Soy chunks can be soaked and added to your side dishes slices of tofu can be used to replace the cheese slices in your sandwich.
- Dark Chocolate: Eating dark chocolate increases good cholesterol levels in the body. Research indicates that eating 0.5oz of dark chocolate every day increases good cholesterol levels by 9%. You don’t need tips on how to eat chocolate, do you?
- Whole Grains: Whole grains bread, oatmeal, brown rice and other whole grains are the best sources of soluble fibre and boost the levels of HDL in the body. Including two servings of whole grains or their unprocessed byproducts are recommended.
Cholesterol is widely classified as good and bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol comprises of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and bad cholesterol is made up of Low-Density Lipoprotein(LDL). HDL helps remove the LDL which are harmful to the body, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. The normal level of HDL is 60mg/dl or above and a level below 40mg/DL is considered as low.