Cholesterol is essential for life and health. Cholesterol is predominantly made within the liver, intestines, adrenals, ovaries, and testes and a portion is also derived from the diet but too much bad cholesterol combined with inflammation can increase our risk of heart disease. It can be scary, but with some simple changes, you might be able to lower your cholesterol. Here are 7 relatively easy ways to lower your cholesterol, protect your heart, and be healthier overall.
1. Increase Fiber Intake: Soluble fiber is particularly helpful for reducing cholesterol absorption in the intestines. Good sources of soluble fiber are oats, barley, legumes, psyllium husks, chia seeds, flaxseeds, peas, squash, carrots, cabbage family vegetables and pectin containing fruits such as apple, strawberries, grapes and citrus fruits.
2. Avoid saturated fats: Saturated fats are loaded with cholesterol, so avoid them, and instead eat a diet that focuses more on leaner choices. For instance, rather than having a muffin with butter, eat whole wheat toast with margarine.
3. Spice It Up: Spices like garlic, curcumin, ginger, black pepper, coriander, and cinnamon do more than flavor your food, they can also improve cholesterol. Research shows that eating a half to one clove of garlic each day could lower cholesterol up to 9%.
4. Include Phytosterol-Rich Foods: Foods rich in phytosterol bind with cholesterol within the intestines and reduce the absorption of LDL cholesterol. Phytosterols are similar to cholesterol in structure and have a cardiovascular protective effect. Include phytosterol-rich foods such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, macadamias, sunflower seeds, pumpkin, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, avocados, and cold-pressed oils such as flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower and olive oil.
5. Quit Smoking: It’s been shown that smoking can lower your HDL (“good”) cholesterol, as well as all of the other horrible things it can do to your body, inside and out.
6. Go Green: Studies have shown that drinking green tea, which is rich in antioxidants, helps lower bad (LDL) cholesterol. But make sure you’re not opting for green tea “juice blends” which can be loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and only contain a little green tea.
7. Go Fish: Try to eat it two to four times a week. Not only are the omega-3 fats in fish heart-healthy but replacing red meat with fish will lower your cholesterol by reducing your exposure to saturated fats, which are abundant in red meat.