Almost 37% of American adults suffer from high cholesterol. That’s around 78 million people. It’s one of the most common ailments of our time, and it’s dangerous not only on its own, but because it is a huge risk factor for cardiac issues later in life. High cholesterol contributes to a buildup of plaque in your blood vessels that can lead to heart attack or stroke, so it’s imperative to address it as soon as possible.
What you eat plays a direct role in your cholesterol levels, so here are a few options to help regulate yours in a healthy, safe, and natural way.
Soluble fiber interacts with water during digestion, and becomes a gel-like substance that slows the digestion process down. At the same time, it interacts with LDL cholesterol particles directly. Though the exact mechanism is still unknown, it’s believed that fiber binds with the cholesterol molecules. Since they’re bound, those molecules can’t be absorbed into your body, which helps lower your blood cholesterol level.
Foods that contain soluble fiber include lentils, broccoli, brussel sprouts, some whole grains, nuts, citrus fruits, strawberries and apples. Remember that soluble fiber and insoluble fiber act differently, and although both are beneficial to your body, insoluble fiber’s primary role is to bulk up feces and help remove toxic waste as quickly as possible.
Plant Sterols and Stanols
Sterols and stanols also prevent the absorption of cholesterol in your gut, but they do so in a different way than fiber. These nutrients have a similar chemical build to cholesterol, so they actually get absorbed instead of cholesterol. Think of it like a bar with a bouncer. There’s a limited number of spots, so the more spots sterols and stanols take, the less there are available for cholesterol.
These nutrients are found in wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, peanuts and brussel sprouts. Other vegetables have sterols and stanols in smaller amounts, and oils including canola, peanut and sesame seed also contain them. In fact, the benefits of plant stanols and sterols are so well-known that companies have begun fortifying some foods with them (the way whole milk is fortified with vitamin D). Some fortified foods include yogurt, milk, orange juice and cereal.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Several studies have shown that omega 3 fatty acids are helpful in lowering cholesterol. As with fiber, how this happens hasn’t been proven. However, there evidence suggests that these acids inhibit the synthesis of low- and very-low-density-lipoproteins, thereby causing a natural lowering of “bad” cholesterol.
Omega 3 fatty acids are mainly found in fish oil, which is why Mediterranean-style diets have often been prescribed for people with high cholesterol. Nowadays, there are also plenty of supplements available for people who don’t eat enough fish. There are also options for vegetarians and vegans: if they cannot consume fish oil, they can purchase Neuromins DHA, a product which is made from microalgae and can serve as a substitute.
Another popular natural cholesterol remedy is garlic. Some research regarding garlic’s medicinal purposes has found it to be effective in lowering cholesterol, as well as reducing blood pressure. Eating garlic raw, has been found to be especially helpful, though the results may be temporary and require consistent garlic consumption. Officially, the jury is still out on their effectiveness, because more research is required to confirm how garlic works in the body, and just how much it assists in lowering cholesterol.
Be careful if you take a blood thinning medication like pradaxa or xarelto, because consuming too much garlic while on one could put you at risk of a serious bleeding event. Also, don’t replace a medication with garlic without first talking to your doctor– stopping a medication too fast has its own number of potential side effects.
If you’ve noticed an increase in your LDL levels, the time to make a change is now. I hope these tips help you find natural ways to regain control and create a healthy lifestyle!