If you are here, reading this article, chances are you have identified cholesterol as an enemy to your health and you wish to devise a plan to combat it naturally. This is an extremely important first step that you have just taken. Pat yourself on the back for that!
Moving forward, what is cholesterol? What does it do? How do high levels of this substance impact your health?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is not inherently bad. In fact, it is required by your body to synthesize certain hormones and vitamins. The problem arises when you have too much of it in your system.
Your body gets cholesterol from two major sources. The first source is your liver that primarily fulfills all the cholesterol needs inside the body. The other source is food such as poultry, meat, and dairy items. These foods are also high in trans and saturated fats which reach the liver and stimulate it to produce more cholesterol. This additional stimulus from the trans fat eventually causes cholesterol levels to skyrocket.
The question that arises: why does cholesterol matter so much? What can happen if its level rises significantly?
Why Cholesterol Matters?
Cholesterol molecules are always circulating in the blood. As their amount increases in the blood, so does the risk to your health in various ways. For instance, a high cholesterol level can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and other cardiovascular issues which can be potentially fatal or lead to a lifetime of disabilities. This is the reason why you must keep your cholesterol levels in check.
There are two types of cholesterol: LDL cholesterol (or “bad cholesterol”) which is bad for the health, and HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) which exerts positive effects on the body. (1) Having too much LDL cholesterol or too little HDL cholesterol leads to the deposition of the former inside the arteries of your heart and brain, affecting both negatively. This condition, known as atherosclerosis, can block the blood supply to the brain and heart, leading to stroke and a heart attack, respectively. (2)
Lowering Cholesterol Naturally
What can you do to keep your cholesterol under control? Mentioned below are some ways to accomplish this all naturally.
#1 - Make it a habit to read nutrition labels
You must have heard this piece of advice over and over again from every health expert out there. This is because this is the easiest way to control your blood cholesterol levels at the most primary level.
In addition to eating a heart-healthy diet, health experts often advise you to avoid the worst enemy to your health: trans fat. This fat is a sneaky ingredient in so many different food items and is never good for you in any form. It is most commonly found in processed foods along with baked goods that use margarine. Trans fat can get inside your body to increase LDL cholesterol levels. This, in turn, poses a direct risk to the health of your heart and brain. (3)
So if you wish to keep your cholesterol under control, make sure to read the label of every food item you buy. If any of your usual grocery items contains trans fat, you know what to do: take it out of your cart right away!
#2 - Choose your meats wisely
Is your refrigerator looking empty? Is your pantry running low on some good protein sources? Before you run down to the nearest supermarket to restock your meat items, sit down and make sure you are choosing your meat sources wisely.
If you are particularly trying to bring down your cholesterol levels, go easy on red meats. These meats are very high in saturated fats which can increase your LDL levels. (4) As healthier alternatives, rely on skinless turkey or chicken. Make sure to cut out all processed foods from your usual diet.
At the same time, try incorporating more fish into your routine. That’s because fish are naturally low in saturated fats. At the same time, they can also boost your HDL cholesterol levels and provide omega-3 fatty acids to nourish your body.
Try incorporating the following types of fish in your diet:
- Lake herring
#3 - Choose snacks rich in fiber and unsaturated fats
Are you running low on energy but dinnertime is far, far away? Have a snack. Snacking between meals is a good idea to boost your energy levels or settle those discomforting hunger pangs. However, if your cholesterol profile is out of whack, choose your snacks wisely.
Make sure to avoid the usual snack foods like cookies, chips, crackers, and pastries as all of them are rich in trans fat. Instead, include more fruits, veggies, and nuts to satisfy your hunger pangs while avoiding bad fat.
Raw nuts are the best snack to start with as they are rich in unsaturated fats. These nuts lower your LDL cholesterol while improving your HDL cholesterol levels. (5) At the same time, these nuts along with many vegetables and fruits can provide you with soluble fiber which has been proven to exert cholesterol-lowering effects on the body.
Mentioned below are some healthy snack suggestions to munch on while lowering your cholesterol naturally:
- Blueberries and strawberries
Remember, the more processed your snack is, the lesser benefit it will provide. For example, eating a whole apple is much more beneficial than having some applesauce. So stick to raw, natural versions as much as you can.
#4 - Choose low-fat dairy
Are you a fan of dairy products? We have some good news for you. You do not need to give up your most favorite food, even if your cholesterol levels are on the rise. All you need is a little adjustment.
So what can you do to keep consuming dairy without getting your cholesterol levels off the charts? Make smart choices and pick healthier alternatives. For example, for items like yogurt, milk, cream, and cheese, try using low-fat versions instead of the regular ones. You can also experiment a little by trying out new healthy dairy free products like soy milk.
Introducing these changes to your life is crucial as dairy products are a chief source of saturated fats and cholesterol. So by switching to the low-fat versions of these products, you will be doing yourself a huge favor. If possible, aim to reduce or cut out dairy products from your diet completely.
#5 - Prepare your food differently
When it comes to lowering cholesterol, pay attention not only to what you eat but also to how you eat it. Just like you can make your grocery items healthier, you can also choose to adopt healthier ways to prepare your food so that your cholesterol stays under control. Here are some examples of what you can do in this regard:
- Remove the skin and trim extra fat from your meat. This can be done just before cooking or eating it.
- Prefer boiling, poaching, baking, broiling, or grilling your food. These methods of preparation are way better than breading and deep-frying as the latter only adds extra fat to your meals and contribute to issues like heart failure. (6)
#6 - Add some exercise to your daily routine
What has exercise got to do with your cholesterol profile? The list is long and includes some important stuff like increasing the HDL cholesterol, controlling blood pressure, getting rid of fat which would otherwise increase LDL cholesterol levels, and so on. (7)
So what type of exercise should you perform? It depends on you!
Want to start running every day? Go ahead. Wish to join a gym for some cardio? Great! It’s all about finding what works best for you and moving on with it.
Whichever exercise you wish to proceed with, remember that you have to incorporate 150 minutes of moderate-level physical activity into your weekly routine. You are free to break it up however you like.
In addition to exercising, you can also work on making your normal life more active. For instance, try taking stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car far away from the shopping mall and walk to the building. Try stretching as you watch TV. Try walking as you talk to someone on the phone or listen to your favorite songs.
Conclusion: Start Lowering Your Cholesterol Today
While cholesterol is a natural part of your body, having too much of this waxy substance wandering freely in your blood can wreak havoc on your system. So if this nasty substance is on the rise, you need to do something about it right away!
By making healthier dietary choices and getting more exercise, you can be on the way to better cardiovascular and neural health.
Sounds like a lot to absorb and work on? Don’t feel intimidated. Lowering your cholesterol levels naturally doesn’t necessarily mean changing your life completely. It’s more about changing your mindset. Remind yourself that you are not moving away from things; instead, you are adopting new, healthy habits that are going to have a lasting effect on your overall health.
Now is the time to make a move!
If you feel like you are alone, you can always rely on your family and friends. And don’t forget, you can always consult with a doctor for advice, support, and motivation for a healthier lifestyle.