Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in your blood and in some foods. It is essential for many functions in your body, such as making hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D. However, having too much cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is often called the “bad” cholesterol because it can build up in your arteries and form plaques that narrow or block the blood flow. HDL is often called the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove excess cholesterol from your blood and prevents plaque formation.
The level of cholesterol in your blood depends on many factors, such as your genes, diet, lifestyle, age, gender, and health conditions. Some people may have high cholesterol due to inherited conditions, such as familial hypercholesterolemia , which affects how the body processes cholesterol. Others may have high cholesterol due to unhealthy habits, such as eating too much saturated fat , trans fat , or cholesterol , smoking , being overweight or obese , or being physically inactive .
The good news is that you can lower your cholesterol naturally and avoid heart disease by making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Here are some of the best natural ways to lower your cholesterol and protect your heart health.
Eat more fiber
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Fiber can help lower your cholesterol by binding to it in your digestive system and preventing it from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Fiber can also help lower your blood sugar , blood pressure , and inflammation , which are all risk factors for heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA) , you should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day , with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber . Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance that can trap cholesterol and other substances in your gut. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oatmeal , oat bran , barley , beans , lentils , apples , pears , citrus fruits , strawberries , and psyllium husk .
To increase your fiber intake , you can start by eating more fruits and vegetables , especially those with edible skins or seeds . You can also switch to whole grains instead of refined grains , such as brown rice instead of white rice or whole wheat bread instead of white bread . You can also add beans , lentils , nuts , seeds , or psyllium husk to your salads , soups , stews , or smoothies .
Eat more healthy fats
Fats are an important part of your diet, but not all fats are created equal. Some fats can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease, while others can lower your cholesterol and protect your heart health. The key is to choose the right types and amounts of fats for your diet.
The AHA recommends limiting your intake of saturated fats to less than 6% of your total calories per day . Saturated fats are found mainly in animal products, such as red meat, poultry, butter, cheese, cream, and eggs. They can raise your LDL cholesterol and increase inflammation in your body.
You should also avoid trans fats as much as possible . Trans fats are artificial fats that are created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them solid at room temperature. They are often used in processed foods, such as baked goods, snacks, margarines, and fried foods. They can raise both your LDL and total cholesterol levels and lower your HDL cholesterol level.
Instead of saturated and trans fats , you should eat more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats . These are healthy fats that are found mainly in plant foods, such as avocados , nuts , seeds , olive oil , canola oil , sunflower oil , safflower oil , flaxseed oil , and soybean oil . They can lower your LDL cholesterol and increase your HDL cholesterol level.
You should also eat more omega-3 fatty acids . These are a type of polyunsaturated fat that have anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties. They are found mainly in fatty fish, such as salmon , tuna , mackerel , herring , sardines , trout , and anchovies . They can lower your triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood) and prevent plaque formation in your arteries.
The AHA recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish per week , with each serving being about 3.5 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. You can also take fish oil supplements or eat foods that are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, such as eggs , milk , yogurt , or bread . However, you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners.
Exercise is one of the best natural ways to lower your cholesterol and improve your heart health. Exercise can help you lose weight , lower your blood pressure , reduce inflammation , and improve your blood sugar . It can also help you raise your HDL cholesterol level and lower your LDL cholesterol level.
According to the AHA , you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week , or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week . Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise is any activity that makes your heart beat faster and makes you breathe harder, such as brisk walking , cycling , swimming , or dancing . Vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise is any activity that makes your heart beat much faster and makes you breathe very hard, such as running , jumping rope , or playing sports .
You should also do some strength training exercises at least two times per week . Strength training exercises are any activities that make your muscles work harder, such as lifting weights , doing push-ups , or using resistance bands . Strength training exercises can help you build muscle mass , which can boost your metabolism and burn more calories .
To get the most benefits from exercise , you should do it regularly and consistently . You can start by doing some warm-up exercises for 5 to 10 minutes before each session . You can also do some cool-down exercises for 5 to 10 minutes after each session . You should also vary your activities and intensity levels to avoid boredom and injury .
Smoking is one of the worst habits for your cholesterol and heart health. Smoking can damage the lining of your arteries and make them more prone to plaque formation. Smoking can also lower your HDL cholesterol level and raise your LDL cholesterol level. Smoking can also increase your blood pressure , heart rate , and risk of blood clots .
Quitting smoking can have immediate and long-term benefits for your cholesterol and heart health. According to the AHA , within 20 minutes of quitting smoking , your blood pressure and heart rate drop . Within 12 hours of quitting smoking , the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal . Within a few weeks of quitting smoking , your circulation and lung function improve . Within a year of quitting smoking , your risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s .
Quitting smoking can be hard, but there are many resources and strategies that can help you. You can talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement products, such as patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers, or sprays. You can also use prescription medications, such as bupropion or varenicline, that can reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. You can also join a support group, call a quitline, use an app, or seek counseling.
Drink in moderation
Drinking alcohol in moderation may have some benefits for your cholesterol and heart health. Alcohol may help raise your HDL cholesterol level and prevent blood clots. However, drinking too much alcohol can have negative effects on your cholesterol and heart health. Alcohol can increase your triglycerides, blood pressure, inflammation, and calories. Alcohol can also interfere with some medications that lower cholesterol.
Moderate drinking is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start drinking for the sake of lowering your cholesterol. If you do drink alcohol, do it in moderation and choose drinks that are low in calories, sugar, and salt.
Some supplements may help lower your cholesterol naturally and support your heart health. However, supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety or effectiveness. Therefore, you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking any medications. You should also follow the dosage instructions on the label and report any side effects to your doctor.
- Plant sterols: These are substances that are naturally found in plants and have a similar structure to cholesterol. They can help block the absorption of cholesterol from food in your intestines. A daily intake of 1 to 2 grams of plant sterols has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels by about 10%. Your best choice is supplements, such as CholestOff (by Nature Made), because they do not have the calories, sugar, trans fats, and/or salt of many foods enriched with plant sterols.
- Psyllium: This is a type of soluble fiber that is derived from the seeds of a plant called Plantago ovata. It can help lower your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by binding to them in your intestines and preventing them from being absorbed into your bloodstream. It can also help lower your blood sugar and blood pressure. A daily intake of 10 to 12 grams of psyllium has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels by about 5%. You can take psyllium as a supplement, such as Metamucil, or add it to your food or drinks.
- Garlic: This is a herb that has been used for centuries for various health benefits. It contains compounds called allicin and ajoene, which can help lower your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by inhibiting the enzymes that produce them in your liver. It can also help lower your blood pressure and prevent blood clots. A daily intake of 600 to 900 milligrams of garlic extract has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels by about 10%. You can take garlic as a supplement, such as Garlique, or eat fresh or cooked garlic.
- Red yeast rice: This is a traditional Chinese food that is made by fermenting rice with a type of yeast called Monascus purpureus. It contains compounds called monacolins, which are similar to statins, a class of drugs that lower cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme that produces it in your liver. It can help lower your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by about 20%. However, red yeast rice supplements may also contain a toxic substance called citrinin, which can cause liver damage. Therefore, you should use red yeast rice supplements with caution and under the supervision of your doctor.
Cholesterol is a vital substance for your body, but having too much of it in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. You can lower your cholesterol naturally and avoid heart disease by making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. You can also consider taking some supplements that may help lower your cholesterol and support your heart health.
The best natural ways to lower your cholesterol and protect your heart health include:
- Eating more fiber
- Eating more healthy fats
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Drinking in moderation
- Considering supplements
By following these tips, you may be able to lower your cholesterol naturally and avoid heart disease.