Cholesterol is not all bad. Your body naturally produces it, and it plays some pretty important roles. It helps build new cells, produce hormones and insulates the nerves. But, when you have too much, it becomes a health problem.
When cholesterol levels are high, it means you have too much yellow, mushy fat substance circulating in your blood stream, which can clog your arteries and restrict blood flow leading to heart attack, stroke or angina pain.
Another problem with cholesterol, is all the terms that come with it; such as, dietary cholesterol, serum cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Here is how to keep them all straight.
Dietary cholesterol is what is contained in food (mostly of animal origin). The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily intake to 300 milligrams.
Serum cholesterol is what is in your bloodstream and what the doctor measures with a cholesterol test. (A reading less than 200 is desirable, a reading between 200 - 240 is borderline high risk, and a reading greater than 240 is high risk.)
HDL cholesterol (“High” Density Lipoprotein) is a distinct part of serum cholesterol that is considered “good” because of its artery cleansing ability. The “higher” the HDL level, the better.
LDL cholesterol (“Low” Density Lipoprotein) is considered to be HDL’s evil twin because of its artery clogging ability. The “lower” the LDL level, the better.
Here are 13 natural remedies that lower your cholesterol.
1. Watch your weight. Studies have shown that the more overweight you are, the more cholesterol your body produces. Every 2.2 pound rise in body weight elevates your cholesterol 2 points. Aim for a diet composed of two-thirds fruit, vegetables, cereals and whole grains. Only one-third of your calories should come from meat and dairy products. (Which are often high in fat and calories.)
2. Watch your fats. Saturated fat elevates blood cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fat lowers blood cholesterol. So, it would be wise to cut back on such sources of saturated fat as meat, butter, cheese and hydrogenated oil. Replace these sources with fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products and polyunsaturated oils like corn, safflower and soybean.
3. Eat less eggs. You don’t have to cut them out completely. Just limit yourself to three whole eggs per week. Since only the yolk contains cholesterol, use the egg whites freely. You can substitute two egg whites for every whole egg. Even when baking. You can make scrambled eggs or an omelet using one whole egg with two to four egg whites.
4. Eat more beans. Beans, and other legumes contain pectin, which surrounds cholesterol and escorts it right out of the body. One cup of beans; navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lima beans, soybeans, black-eyed peas and lentils, will all perform this cholesterol lowering activity.
5. Eat more fruit. Fruit also contains pectin. Try to eat a variety of fruit. For instance, a half a grapefruit at breakfast, an apple at lunch and some orange sections at dinner, could probably lower your cholesterol quite nicely.
6. Eat your oats, brans and barley. Oat bran, corn bran and barley appears to lower serum cholesterol in the same fashion as pectin rich fruits and does as good a job as beans. Oatmeal can also reduce cholesterol.
7. Eat carrots. Carrots also have pectin content. Studies have shown that eating just 2 carrots a day can lower high cholesterol 10 to 20%. That could be enough to bring levels into a safe range.
8. Drink skim milk. A compound in the nonfat portion of skim milk inhibits cholesterol production in the liver.
9. Take garlic. Large quantities of raw garlic can reduce harmful blood fats. Unfortunately, it can also reduce your number of friends. One gram daily of liquid garlic extract, however, can reduce your cholesterol level an average of 44 points in six months.
10. Fiber rich psyllium seeds. Psyllium seeds are the main ingredient of the bowel regulator Metamucil. Metamucil and other psyllium seed products may be a good alternative treatment when diet alone does not bring blood cholesterol levels down.
11. Exercise. One of the best ways to lower your levels of LDL cholesterol is through vigorous exercise. It also increases the body’s ability to clear fat from the blood after meals.
12. Do not smoke. A Swedish study showed that smokers tend to suffer from low levels of HDL cholesterol. But when a group of habitual smokers kicked the habit, they all experienced rapid and noticeable increases in HDL concentrations.
13. Drink Tea. The tannins found in tea may also help lower cholesterol. A study found that people on a high cholesterol diet that habitually drank tea had blood cholesterol levels within a normal range.
Some nutritional supplements that may help to counter cholesterol are Vitamin C, E and calcium. Studies have shown that when Vitamin C is added to a pectin rich diet, cholesterol drops even lower than with pectin alone. Another study showed that Vitamin E can significantly increase HDL levels. And yet another study showed that 2 grams of calcium carbonate taken daily, reduced cholesterol by 25% in 12 months.
Herbal supplements that are beneficial in lowering LDL levels include alfalfa, black cohosh, cayenne and ginseng. Skullcap may be beneficial for increasing HDL levels.