Most of us would rather naturally treat high cholesterol if at all possible. But depending on your cholesterol level, many physicians will prescribe medication such as a statin. Statins can be effective in lowering cholesterol but may also cause adverse side effects for some individuals. First, always listen to your physician and never quit taking your medication without consulting them but do ask questions to thoroughly understand all the options that can be helpful in lowering your cholesterol.
One option is to reduce cholesterol in a more natural way, namely by what you eat. If you have to go on medication do so. But also making changes in food choices can have a positive impact on bringing your cholesterol back into the normal range.
Here are some possible cholesterol lowering dietary options to consider:
Whole grain oatmeal is an inexpensive nourishing food that has many health benefits including lowering cholesterol but also blood pressure, stabilizing blood sugar and providing fiber to fill you up. Oatmeal contains both soluble and insoluble fiber but the soluble fiber contains a component called beta-glucan, which is particularly good in helping lower LDL cholesterol, the bad kind, by blocking the absorption of it. Use either the old-fashioned rolled oats, quick cooking oats or steel cut oats as they contain the whole grain. Avoid instant oatmeal as it is not considered a whole grain and many varieties contain unnecessary additives such as sugar and salt.
2. Almonds and Pistachios
These cholesterol-lowering pros contain important substances to battle high cholesterol. Almonds are rich in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that blocks absorption of LDL cholesterol and almonds also contain the amino acid arginine necessary for making nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps relax the arteries so blood pressure is lowered and prevents blood platelets from sticking to blood vessels that could cause blood to clot leading to a heart attack. Pistachios are rich in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants both of which are heart healthy substances. Together, almonds and pistachios provide fiber and phytosterols which can block absorption of dietary cholesterol. Since both contain a high amount of fat which means more calories, a handful a day is all you need.
3. Apples and Oranges
These common fruits found year round contain a cholesterol lowering ingredient called pectin. Pectin, a soluble fiber partially dissolves in water to form a gelatinous mass which catches cholesterol. The trapped cholesterol is prevented from being absorbed and returning back to the liver and instead is carried out of the body helping lower LDL cholesterol. Apples and oranges also contain a class of antioxidants called polyphenols that can increase HDL cholesterol, the good kind, by helping to counteract atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol and other fatty substances on artery walls. You’ll get more of the cholesterol-lowering benefits from eating a whole apple (with the skin) or orange as opposed to drinking their juice.
A recent meta-analysis study showed that garlic appears to be clinically significant in reducing total blood cholesterol along with slightly improving HDL cholesterol. Garlic has a remarkable ability to inhibit cholesterol synthesis and suppress LDL oxidation. It also has shown other cardiovascular attributes of reducing blood pressure and platelet aggregation. Garlic is generally safe and tolerable to use for most people but may cause a garlic taste or breath with slight mild gastrointestinal side effects. Use fresh garlic in cooking and consult with your physician on using garlic extract.
5. Blond Psyllium
This herb is found in seed husks and the laxative Metamucil. It is primarily meant to be used as a laxative but also claims to reduce the risk of heart disease by treating high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Those with mild to moderate high cholesterol appear to benefit the most with reduced cholesterol levels and is most effecting when taken with food at mealtimes. Using blond psyllium (Metamucil) may also make it possible to reduce the dosage of cholesterol-lowering medication. Blond psyllium contains soluble fiber and works by trapping bile acids within the intestine excreting them causing the liver to take more LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream.
The humble flaxseed can be a powerhouse in combatting high cholesterol. The health-promoting properties of flaxseed is its rich omega-3 fatty acid content and its high concentration of lignin and soluble fiber. Research has shown that flaxseed appears to reduce total cholesterol and the bad cholesterol or LDL. It does not appear however to have much effect on increasing HDL, the good cholesterol. Flaxseed can be purchased whole or ground. Either can be used in various cooking methods of sprinkling into yogurt, a smoothie, mixed into meat dishes or baked in breads and muffins.
7. Green Tea
Commonly used as a beverage this product comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and the extract can be made from the leaves. Various epidemiological, clinical and experimental studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between green tea consumption and cardiovascular health by its effectiveness in treating high cholesterol. The main polyphenol involved in green tea’s favorable effect on lipid levels is catechins. Catechins inhibit key enzymes involved in lipid synthesis and reduce intestinal lipid absorption thus lowering blood cholesterol levels. Brew a cup of green tea today and enjoy the advantageous health results it can have.
8. Beans and Lentils
Last on the list but not least, these fiber-filled legumes are packed with soluble fiber, our friend in helping to reduce LDL cholesterol. Beans and lentils are fermented in the colon hindering cholesterol production and absorption. They also contain an array of phytochemicals preventing plaque buildup causing atherosclerosis. Low in fat, they are a healthy alternative to animal protein which contains the not-so-healthy saturated fat and can be used in a variety of foods from soups to adding to rice or within a burrito.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robot prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi’s blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.