...for high cholesterol are aplenty. Choose well and smart.
If you Google ‘natural remedies for high cholesterol’, you will get millions of hits. As you scroll through them, you’ll see that what ‘natural’ means is in the eye of the beholder. For many people, natural means dietary supplements or ‘superfoods’ thought to have special cholesterol-fighting properties. But in the end, based on science, the ‘natural’ remedy for high cholesterol is sustained lifestyle change. Weight loss, if you’re overweight and changing your diet, can actually decrease your LDL significantly, but it does require dedication and motivation. The bottom line is that it’s the total package of foods and nutrients that help to maintain a healthy cholesterol profile and prevent heart disease, as opposed to eating specific foods, vitamins, minerals or herbs to tweak your cholesterol. And, of course, a healthy lifestyle also has
additional benefits, including lower blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight and reduced stress.
Shifting to a healthier profile of fats in your diet can have a potent effect on LDL and total cholesterol and lower your overall risk for heart attack, stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease. Eating more unsaturated fats from foods like nuts, plant oils and fish lowers blood levels of the ‘bad’ cholesterol and increases the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. These foods also have other beneficial nutrients that likely lower cardiovascular disease, making it a win-win for health. But the solution is not to completely ban red meat, butter and other sources of saturated fat, or starches that raise VLDL cholesterol (another type of cholesterol that increases heart attacks). The idea is to shift the balance toward unsaturated fats from plant oils like soybean, corn and olive, as well as from nuts and fish. And remember that when substituting carbohydrates for saturated fat, make sure they are not refined grains and added sugars. For carbohydrates, the best choices are whole grains, which should make up at least half of your total grains, as well as fruits and beans.
Fish oil supplements are popular but have little effect on LDL, although in sufficient doses fish oil supplementation can lower triglycerides (a marker of VLDL) if your levels are elevated. There is a lack of evidence that fish oil supplements prevent heart disease in otherwise healthy people. However, fish meals, especially those high in Omega 3, as part of an overall healthy diet are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease across the board.
Eating more unsaturated fats from foods like nuts, plant oils and fish lowers blood levels of the ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Some of the benefits may come from what you don’t eat when choosing fish. Fish may replace options such as fatty meats, starchy foods or fried foods that are high in saturated fat. Again, it’s all about the healthy eating pattern, not lionizing (or demonizing) individual nutrients.
Whole grains contain fibre, which does have a moderate effect on blood (serum) cholesterol. Several foods high in soluble fibre - that is, fibre that dissolves in water - such as oats, psyllium and barley, carry a health claim for cholesterol benefits. But have realistic expectations if you switch to whole oats for breakfast. The effect of soluble fibre on cholesterol is not dramatic. Daily intake of 3 grams soluble fibre from either 3 apples or 3 bowls (28-gram servings) of oatmeal can decrease total cholesterol by 5 milligrams per deciliter.
Eggs are an inexpensive source of high-quality protein, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.