Cholesterol is a topic very near and dear to my heart. I myself along with a few family members have battled high cholesterol and managed to completely reverse it naturally. I have helped clients to achieve this result as well, and today I want to share my tips with you. There are a few reasons why cholesterol levels get high. First being your own body’s predisposition to make more cholesterol. Second, and most well-known, is eating foods high in cholesterol. Lastly, it is possible to have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol levels – which was the case for myself. It is scary to develop high cholesterol as we know it is linked to heart disease and stroke; two of the largest contributors to fatality in the United States. The issue with cholesterol is that there are no signs or symptoms as with many other health complications. Because of this, I highly recommend getting a full blood test done yearly. You will want to check to make sure cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL (the “bad cholesterol”) are levels are low and HDL (the “good cholesterol”) is high.
Overall, the best thing we can do to improve not only our lipid profile, but your overall health as a whole is to transition to a whole food plant based diet, even if you can do it a few times per week. I will be discussing some of my favorite foods that fall under this category while lowering cholesterol.
The first nutrient I would like to discuss is fiber. We know there are two types (soluble and insoluble). You may be most familiar with insoluble as it speeds up G.I. activity and keeps digestion “regular.” In case of reducing cholesterol, we want to eat foods high in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber combines with water in your body to make a gel-like substance. This gel helps slow down the absorption of cholesterol and sugar in the bloodstream. Foods high in soluble fiber include steel cut oats, barley, apples and citrus.
One of my personal favorites for reducing cholesterol are nuts. I recommend a handful of nuts each day (almonds, walnuts, pistacchio) as a snack. Instead of reaching for chips or crackers, try seasoning nuts with sea salt and paprika. As we’ve discussed before, nuts are very calorie dense so be sure to eat them mindfully.
If you’ve been keeping up with me for a while, you know avocados are another of my favorite foods. These are packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, which are proven to help lower cholesterol. Avocado’s are a wonderful way to incorporate healthy fats into your diet. I am not suggesting store bought guacamole or similar products as these have a lot of added salts and sugars. You can eat avocado raw, add it to salads, sandwiches or make it into a dressing. I have a wonderful avocado dressing recipe under my recipe tab if you’d like to try it out.
4. Beans and Lentils
I also love beans and lentils as they are high in fiber and protein. Beans can positively interfere with your absorption process and help lower cholesterol through that mechanism. Lentils are a great food to add to your diet as well in addition to beans packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
5. Omega 3’s
Omega 3 fatty acids are great to add to your diet especially for vegetarians trying to naturally lower cholesterol levels. I suggest eating a spoonful of flaxseeds or flax powder each day. If you eat fish, many fatty fish like salmon and tuna contain optimal levels of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Phytosterols are important for cholesterol lowering too. These compounds work to limit absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. One of the best foods high in phytosterols is hemp seeds. These are high protein seeds that taste great in sauces, dressings and baking. If you are having a difficult time with phytosterols, supplementation is always an option.
Soy is also very important on your cholesterol journey. Soy contains no cholesterol and can be used to substitute many traditional processed foods. We discussed earlier how important transitioning to a plant based diet is; and soy is a big part of that for me. Although the western world has somewhat stigmatized soy, it is quite healthy as some studies have linked soy consumption to lowering LDL. You can eat soy in so many ways, but one of my favorites is tofu. Tofu is so versatile and is best known to substitute meat. You can also get soy from soymilk. I recommend adding this to your steel cut oats in the morning for a super cholesterol fighting breakfast. Edamame is packed with soy and is a super delicious snack or addition to any meal.
As I wrap up my favorite cholesterol lowering foods, I do want to mention that supplementation is always an option. I recommend Omega-3 and niacin tablets. For a more natural route, eating raw garlic is a great solution. You can eat it whole in the morning or add it to other foods throughout your day. My favorite way to incorporate garlic is by making a garlic infused olive oil.
9. A little about Statins
It is common for those struggling with an undesirable lipid profile to be prescribed Statins. Many of my clients make the mistake of thinking this medication will solve all their problems, and they can eat whatever they like. However, long-term use of Statins can cause high blood pressure and high blood sugar. As a dietitian, I always recommend trying to reverse your cholesterol naturally to avoid these negative outcomes. If you are currently taking Statins and are interested in lowering cholesterol naturally, continue to take your medication as prescribed with the intention to wean off with the guidance of a healthcare profession.
To summarize: always eat a colorful plate (fruits and veggies), prioritize soluble fiber, stay away from polyunsaturated fatty acids and processed foods, and try to incorporate soy and phytosterols into your diet. Make sure you supplement this diet with proper exercise. I always recommend doing something a little different every day. I encourage my clients to exercise in a way that decreases stress like yoga, tai chi or running. Myself and many of my clients have successfully reversed our high cholesterol with these lifestyle changes – and I know you can too! Please send me a message if you would like to have a personalized consultation to discuss your unique goals.
Until next time,