Have you noticed how alternative medicine has become popular these days?
It seems that many of us are happy for the option to use natural remedies to treat our illnesses. You might have heard about reversing diabetes or treating hypertension through diet and lifestyle change but have you ever heard about how to lower cholesterol naturally?
So you have been to the doctor and have received the unpleasant news……Your cholesterol levels are high. Now what? You have heard of the dangers of high cholesterol; clogged arteries and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. It is a very real concern that you are now faced with and you really want to address the problem, but how? What can you do?
One thing you are sure of is that you want to get that cholesterol down.
Lowering your cholesterol: drugs vs naturally
There two ways you can address his problem. You can take drugs prescribed by your doctor or you can lower your cholesterol naturally. If you are looking for the easy way out, the drugs may be the way to go. There is no hard work or sacrifice involved. You just need to pop a pill. But the easy way is not always the best….at least not for everybody.
Problems with drugs
The common drugs used for lowering cholesterol are from a group known as statins. There are many different brand names but all from the same group. Some of the medication prescribed by the doctor, although very effective, can have some serious side effects. There is also the matter of the costs related to these prescriptions although some of them are now available in the generic form (which cost much less).
What are the side effects of these drugs?
Muscle pain and damage
One of the most common complaints of people taking cholesterol reducing statins is muscle pain. The pain can be a mild discomfort, or it can be severe enough to affect your daily activities.
On rare occasions, statins can cause life-threatening muscle damage called rhabdomyolysis. Lab tests will show the creatinine kinase (an enzyme found in the muscles) to be 1000 to 5000 times higher than normal. This shows the extent of the muscle damage. Rhabdomyolysis can cause severe muscle pain, liver damage, kidney failure and death.
Occasionally, people using statin will see an increase in the level of liver enzymes in the blood. This signals liver inflammation. The doctor may allow you to continue with the drug if the increase is not too high. However, if the increase in liver enzymes is high, the doctor will have to take you off that drug.
Neurological side effects
Some people have developed memory loss or confusion while taking statins. Fortunately, it seems that these side effects reverse once you stop taking the medication.
Increased blood sugar or type 2 diabetes
There is a small risk that your blood sugar level may increase when you take a statin, which may lead to developing type 2 diabetes.
All these problems of cost and side effect are of course minimized or removed altogether when you choose the natural way.
So what’s the decision?
I think I hear you say “I want to lower my cholesterol naturally”. Well that’s a very good choice. I suppose your next question will be “Well how do I do it?
Well read on.
How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally
Get rid of trans fat
Trans fat is considered to be the worst type of fat you can consume. It increases your bad cholesterol and lowers your good cholesterol. A diet high in trans fat is known to increase the risk of heart disease.
There is a small amount of naturally occurring trans fat which can be found in some meats and dairy products. However most trans fat that is consumed is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, to form margarine which is used commonly in processed foods. When you are doing your grocery shopping and examining the label, chances are you will not see trans fat listed. However you will see “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on many of the products. That’s the culprit.
If you want to reduce your intake of trans fats, you should:
- avoid products that list partially hydrogenated fat or oil on the label
- use fat-free or low-fat dairy products (if you can’t do without)
- try to eat fewer biscuits, cakes and pastries as these tend to be prepared using large amounts of trans fat.
- use liquid vegetable oil for frying at home instead of margarine
- limit fast foods and when eating out, try to eat fewer fried foods
Lose excess weight
Studies show that losing as little as 5 – 10 pounds of excess weight can significantly lower your levels of cholesterol.
Regular exercise will help to improve your cholesterol levels. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise 3 to 4 times per week. Combine aerobics and strength training for best results.
Increase the soluble fiber in your diet
According to The Mayo Clinic, women need 25 grams of fiber per day and men need 38 grams. However on average, adults are only consuming 15 grams of fiber per day.
Research shows that people who increase their soluble fiber intake by 5 to 10 grams daily have up to a 5 percent drop in “bad,” cholesterol.
Eating more plant food is the best way to increase fiber in the diet.
Choose olive oil
Use olive oil each day in place of other fats in your diet to get its heart-healthy benefits. Also substitute olive oil for butter in your various food preparations. Extra virgin is best as the extraction process of the oil is the healthiest.
Eat lots of nuts
Studies have shown that nuts have powerful cholesterol-lowering effects.
Eating about a handful a day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts, is beneficial in reducing your risk of heart disease.
It is important to pay attention however to your caloric intake of nuts. You don’t want to end up putting on weight because you are getting too many calories from eating too much nuts.
Take time to rest and recreate
There have been studies that show that stress can increase your cholesterol levels in both the short term and long term. Learn how to manage your stress. Take time out for recreation and ensure that you get adequate rest.
Add spices to your diet
Spices such as garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric are known to improve your cholesterol levels. Research shows that eating 1/2 to 1 clove of garlic each day can lower your cholesterol up to 9%.
Avoid smoking or breathing second hand smoke
Smoking increases the risk of heart disease in people who have high cholesterol. Although studies do not show that quitting smoking actually lowers cholesterol levels, cigarette smoking exacerbates the detrimental effects of bad (LDL) cholesterol on your body by lowering the protective good (HDL) cholesterol. Even second hand smoke has been shown to lower HDL cholesterol. Good (HDL) cholesterol levels can increase by about 30 percent withing 3 weeks after quitting smoking.
Eliminate cholesterol high foods from your diet
Last but definitely not least, if you want your cholesterol levels to go down, stop eating foods that are high in cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in animal products. If you change your diet to mainly plant based foods, you will go a long way in reducing your cholesterol levels.
Foods that lower cholesterol naturally
Foods that provide a high amount of fiber are great at lowering cholesterol.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables do not contain cholesterol and are high in fiber making them ideal foods for lowering cholesterol. Some rich sources of soluble fiber include sweet potato, eggplant, okra , broccoli, apples, strawberry, prunes, grapes, oranges, turnips and mangoes.
Oats and Barley
Both oats and barley are rich in soluble fiber. Add these to your meals each day. You can utilize them in various forms; oats porridge, oat bran, oat breakfast cereal, bread made with oat flour or oat bran, oatmeal cookies, pearl barley added to your soups and stews……..whichever way you enjoy.
Nuts are rich in vegetable protein, fiber, heart healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and a host of beneficial plant nutrients. In addition, as mentioned previously nuts have the wonderful ability to lower cholesterol…..even a handful a day has significant benefits.
Peas and Beans
Peas and beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. Kidney beans, pigeon peas, black eye peas, navy beans, split peas, lentils, garbanzo, black beans, butter beans, broad beans, lima beans, pinto beans, white beans………and the list goes on and on. You can’t get bored with peas and beans because there are so many ways to prepare them.
Studies show you can lower your cholesterol by including soy protein in your diet daily. Replace your dairy with soy milk, soy yogurt and soy desserts. Soy bean, soy nuts, tofu and soy meat alternatives are also ways you can include soy in your diet. Try as best as possible to use non-genetically modified soy and soy products.
What’s your choice?
Many people have been diagnosed with high cholesterol and with this comes the risk of heart attacks, clogged arteries and strokes. If you have received such a diagnosis you will definitely want to get your cholesterol levels down. The decision you have to make is what method you will use to address the problem. Are you going to use the drugs prescribe by the doctor and take your chances with the side effects or are you going to try and reduce your cholesterol naturally.
If you decide not to go with the drugs, then adopting a plant-based diet (as well as following the suggestions above) is the key to successfully lowering your cholesterol naturally.
Monitor your cholesterol levels regularly to ensure that your are within normal range.
Whatever you decide make sure to consult your medical practitioner for guidance.