Natural Cholesterol Management
Author: ANCP Date Posted:26 May 2016
Cholesterol is an essential component of all cell membranes and is required for the production and utilisation of hormones, bile and vitamin D, as well as other metabolic processes. Nevertheless, high blood levels of cholesterol and other lipids (such as triglycerides) can increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and are a potent risk factor for heart disease.
Eat a cholesterol-smart diet
The liver makes much of the cholesterol your body needs, but you also absorb it from some of the foods you eat. Other foods contribute to your cholesterol levels by either increasing your body’s cholesterol production (e.g. saturated fats) or assisting with its metabolism and excretion (e.g. soluble fibre). Foods that should be avoided or limited in order to help maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels include:
- Fatty cuts of red meat and poultry (including processed meats such as bacon and salami).
- Organ meats (offal), such as liver, kidney and brains.
- Refined sugar and other sources of high glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates, high levels of which may contribute to raised triglycerides.
- Any foods that may contain hydrogenated oils. These are a source of trans fats, which may damage good fats, raise LDL-cholesterol levels and cause chronic inflammation. Common culprits include margarine and commercially baked foods such as cakes, biscuits & pastries.
Foods to eat freely include:
- Legumes, whole grains and other sources of carbohydrate with a low GI. (Soy beans are a particularly good choice as the phytoestrogens they contain may have protective effects on the cardiovascular system).
- Sources of soluble fibre, which helps bind cholesterol so that it can be excreted from the body. Good options include psyllium, pectin, flaxseed and oat bran.
- Leafy green vegetables, which are rich in folic acid. Along with vitamins B6 and B12, this member of the B-complex group of vitamins helps lower elevated levels of homocysteine, which may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Turmeric, ginger, onions and garlic, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and other types of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce elevated triglycerides.
- Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados, which help to reduce LDL-cholesterol and raise HDL-cholesterol.
Live an active lifestyle
Being physically active can increase your levels of HDL-cholesterol (the beneficial form of cholesterol) and decrease levels of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol (the ‘bad’ form) and triglycerides. In order to enjoy these benefits, you need to exercise for at least two hours per week , ideally while also making the appropriate changes to your diet.
Natural cholesterol busters
There are many nutrients and herbal medicines that support heart and blood vessel function. Among those that are most important to consider in terms of helping to maintain normal healthy cholesterol levels are:
- Antioxidants such as vitamin E and coenzyme Q10, which help protect LDL-cholesterol molecules from the free radical damage that leads to the development of atherosclerotic plaque (hardening of the arteries).
- Herbal medicines that have traditionally been used as liver and gall bladder tonics, such as globe artichoke and turmeric. Globe artichoke has been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and works by helping to decrease the production of cholesterol in the liver and stimulating its conversion into bile for elimination from the body. Similarly, clinical studies suggest that turmeric, and in particular an antioxidant compound it contains called curcumin, may help to inhibit the oxidation of cholesterol and have other benefits for healthy cholesterol levels.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil and krill oil, which support the maintenance of healthy triglyceride levels.
- Psyllium and other sources of soluble fibre, which bind to cholesterol and prevent it being reabsorbed by the body.
These diet and lifestyle tips are intended for normal healthy people. If you have a cardiovascular disorder, do not take supplements or change your diet or exercise routine unless advised to do so and supervised by your healthcare professional. To do so may interfere with your medication requirements.