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Natural Strategies to Lower Cholesterol

Posted on October 5, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Keeping bad cholesterol, what doctors call low density cholesterol or LDL, under control is important for good cardiovascular health. Fortunately, there are many natural strategies that can be used to lowercholesterol. Here are a few of the best researched ones:



Life Style Changes


Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to lower cholesterol in many people.


Lose Weight: Carrying some extra pounds — even just a few —contributes to high cholesterol. Losing as little as 5 to 10percent of your body weight can help significantly reduce cholesterol levels.



Some Supplements Can help to Lower Cholesterol


Some of the herbal and nutritional supplements that may lower cholesterol include:


Garlic: According to some studies, garlic may decrease blood levels of total cholesterol by a few percentage points. Garlic may prolong bleeding and blood clotting time, so garlic and garlic supplements should not be taken prior to surgery or with blood-thinning drugs such as


Other herbal products: The results of several studies suggest fenugreek seeds and leaves, artichoke leaf extract, yarrow, and holy basil all may help lower cholesterol. These and other commonly used herbs and spices - including ginger, turmeric, and rosemary - are being investigated for their potential beneficial effects relating to coronary disease prevention.



Dietary Approaches to Lowering Cholesterol


Increased consumption of dietary fiber, soy foods, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant compounds similar to cholesterol (plant stanols and sterols) can significantly reduce LDL cholesterol, or bad



Fiber: Only plant foods (vegetables, fruits, legumes, unrefined grains) contain dietary fiber. The soluble fiber found in foods such as oat bran, barley, psyllium seeds, flax seed meal, apples,

citrus fruits, lentils and beans are particularly effective in lowering cholesterol.


Soybeans: Substituting soybeans or soy protein for other proteins have been shown to prevent coronary heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Soy protein is present in tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy yogurt, edamame, soy nuts, and many other food products made from soybeans.


Phytosterols: Phytosterols (plant sterol and stanol esters) are compounds found in small amounts in foods such as whole grains as well as in many vegetables, fruits, and vegetable oils. They decrease LDL cholesterol, mostly by interfering with the intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Phytosterols can be found in spreads (like the cholesterol-lowering margarines Benecol, Promise, Smart Balance, and Take Control), dressings for salads,and dietary supplements. Additional phytosterol-fortified foods include Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice, Nature Valley HealthyHeart chewy granola bars, CocoVia chocolates, Rice Dream Heartwise rice drink, and Lifetime low-fat cheese.


Omega-3 fatty acids: Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the rate at which the liver produces LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.They have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, decrease the growth of plaque in the arteries, and aid in thinning blood. Aimfor at least two servings of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel,herring, tuna, and sardines per week. Other dietary sources ofomega-3 fatty acids include flax seed and walnuts. Supplement sources include fish oil capsules, flax seed and flax seed oil. If you are considering taking omega-3 fatty acids, first discuss with your health care provider if omega-3 fatty acid supplements are right for you, especially if you are currently taking blood-

thinning medication.


Dietary fiber, soybeans, and phytosterols decrease cholesterol levels by different mechanisms. Therefore, it is not surprising that the combined dietary intake of these foods and other plant

substances, along with a low intake of saturated fats, is more effective at reducing cholesterol levels than each individual substance alone.



Avoid Trans Fats


Avoid partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oils.These man-made oils are sources of trans fatty acids known to increase LDL cholesterol. They lower heart-protecting HDL (good)

cholesterol and increase the inflammatory response in the body.You can now find trans fats listed on the Nutrition Facts panel of packaged foods. Minimize consumption of trans fatty acid-

containing food.



Use Common Sense When Trying Any of the Above Remedies


Remember, before you add any supplements or alternative therapies to your diet, talk to your health care provider. Some supplements may interact with other medication you may be taking or have dangerous side effects. Also, never substitute a supplement or alternative therapy for cholesterol lowering medication your doctor has prescribed for you without your doctor's approval.

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