High cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia, is a big concern in the US. More often than not your doctor will prescribe medication to lower your cholesterol. While this is effective, I want to provide you with 10 steps to lower your cholesterol, naturally.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that is important for our body in many ways.
- It is part of our cell walls
- It makes important hormones that help our bodies to function
- It is part of the bile acids that help our bodies digest food
- It helps our bodies make Vitamin D – which is necessary for good health.
Cholesterol is carried around the blood as either “LDL” cholesterol or “HDL” cholesterol. LDL comes from the liver and is carried into the blood to do its work around the body. HDL pushes extra LDL into the liver. HDL may also lower inflammation in the blood vessels and act as an anti-oxidant.
When is Cholesterol a Problem?
When LDL is too high, it can cause blockage in the blood vessels (arteries). This is called atherosclerosis. If there is a build up of atherosclerosis this can lead to heart disease, stroke and problems with circulation around the body.
LDL is often called “lousy” cholesterol and you want this number to be “low.” A good level is less than 130 mg, but ideally under 100 mg (especially if you have diabetes or any history of heart conditions).
HDL is often called “good or healthy” cholesterol and you want this number to be “high.” A good level is over 60. You are at higher risk of complications when your HDL is less than 40 for men and less than 50 for women.
What Helps Lower LDL and Total Cholesterol?
#1: Replace Saturated Fats with Unsaturated Fats
By reducing the saturated fat in your diet and replacing it with unsaturated fat this will help you lower your LDL, raise your HDL and may lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
You can find unsaturated fats in olives, olive oil, canola oil, almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, pumpkin and sesame seeds, peanut and almond nut butters and avocados.
This is one of my FAVORITE peanut butters which includes tons of Omega-3s. Find it HERE and make sure to read #7 below!
#2: Avoid Trans Fats
These are just terrible! Found to be worse for our hearts than saturated fats. This can be tricky to read on food labels because it’s not always clear. However, the ingredient list cannot lie. Look for “hydrogenated oils” or sometimes noted as partially-hydrogenated oils. If you see this in the ingredient list … RUN! Throw it back on the shelf and run away.
#3: Lose Weight – just a little helps
Studies show that weight loss takes a lot of stress off your body, including your heart. Even a 7-10% weight loss will be a great start. Example: if you weight 200 lbs, losing 14-20 lbs would be appropriate.
Accomplishing weight loss is easier said than done, but it takes baby steps to make changes. You can start by taking the stairs more or parking further away, eating carrot sticks and cucumbers in place of chips or fruit in place of candy.
Slowly incorporating healthier lifestyle changes into your routine, like moving more and better nutrition, can have a positive impact on your weight, and by extension, may help to lower your cholesterol.
#4: Exercise and Stay Active
Aerobic activity includes running, dancing, brisk walking (a pace where you are slightly out of breath and you wouldn’t be able to sing a song), swimming, Zumba, cycling…etc
- This should be done at least 5 days per week. Minimum 30 minutes per day for heart health and 45-60+ minutes per day for weight loss.
- Start slow. No one said you have to be the ‘rabbit’ – start with 10 minute increments and increase weekly.
You can read more about different exercises and the benefits of each HERE.
#5: Increase Your Soluble Fiber Intake
This includes whole grains, beans/legumes. Fiber is not digested in our intestines so it slows down the absorption from the sugar that is coming from carbs. Soluble fiber, more specifically, helps to lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase your good cholesterol (HDL). You’ll mostly find soluble fiber from eating the edible peels of fruits and vegetables and also from whole grains and legumes.
You could also consider taking a pure soluble fiber supplement, like this one. This is a good way to get more fiber in your diet if eating a ton of vegetables just isn’t your jam.
#6: Eat Berries
Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries. These fruits are richest in antioxidants which will help combat free radicals and start the healing process. When you have diabetes your body is stressed and inflamed. Incorporating more antioxidants in your diet will improve your blood sugar and help you feel like pure awesomeness.
#7: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
This is in the unsaturated fat category, but it also may have anti-inflammatory benefits. Omega-3s reduces blood clotting, lowers triglycerides and may lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Eat fatty fish such as salmon, flounder, albacore tuna, halibut, mackeral, or sardines at least twice weekly and/or…
- Eat a plant source of omega-3 daily: 1 tbsp flaxseed oil or canola oil or walnut oil OR 1 ounce walnuts (1/4th cup) OR 1-2 tbsp ground flaxseed or chia seeds OR 1 cup edamame beans (note: edamame beans contain carbs and 1 cup would provide approximately 30 grams carb).
You could also consider taking a legitimate Omega 3 supplement. I always recommend this one.
#8: Nix the Soda
Not really more to say than that. Drinking your calories is not good for you, but soda is far worse. Cut out the soda and replace with sparkling water or La Croix – try adding lemon or lime to freshen it up and serve it in a wine glass because you’re fancy like that!
#9: Eat More Plants
Vegetables that is! You want to aim for at least 2 fist size portions of non-starchy vegetables with lunch and dinner. Make half your plate full of vegetables and try to eat different colors of the rainbow to really increase your nutrition game!
#10: Laugh More
More than just brightening up your day, sharing a good laugh can actually increase your alertness. Laughter triggers the release of endorphin, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Laughter gives you a renewed boost of energy. In addition, the sound of laughter draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. By seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to your life. Simple put: more laughter = less stress = better health (Feel free to use this as permission to go on YouTube for the next 30 minutes.).