Lowering Cholesterol Naturally
Lowering cholesterol naturally should be our primary approach in achieving optimal heart health. If you have been with me for more than a page or two you may have read something like this, "Our lifestyle choices have gotten us into this mess. We need to make the right choices to get us out." O.K., I probably didn’t say it exactly like that anywhere else. But I am repeating myself. It is perhaps a sign of aging. But repetition is the mother of learning.
The fact is the exponential increase in heart disease is largely due to the way our lives have changed. The bad news is we are used to living a certain way now and it isn’t easy to change. The good news – the silver lining – is that change is in our power and with it better heart health.
Unfortunately I usually put things off until there is a problem. But when a big problem hits my whole world has to stop and make adjustments. Maybe you are like me. But I have begun to learn. I have begun to make smaller changes that can help prevent the more serious interruptions in life … like a heart attack. Some of these small changes help in lowering cholesterol naturally.
There are many references to research throughout this website. Much of the research has shown that lifestyle changes are the cornerstone of prevention and healing. In this section we are concerned with lifestyle changes that have particular application to cholesterol and coronary heart disease.
Coronary heart disease is killing us. The changes we need to make are inconvenient. But they are less inconvenient than the possible alternatives.
ATP III is the third report of the Adult Treatment Panel associated with the National Cholesterol Education Program’s (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. You can read about it in the
CHD Risk Assessment section.
ATP III does recommend drug therapy for LDL cholesterol reduction. But drug therapy is always secondary to lifestyle therapy. And drug therapy is not the ideal long-term solution to high cholesterol and coronary heart disease (CHD). Drugs are expensive and they have side-effects. Lowering cholesterol naturally is the ideal long-term solution.
ATP III recommendations begin with diet. Diet is the single biggest contributor to the development of coronary heart disease. It is also the single biggest corrective.
Perhaps you can guess many of the recommendations. We have heard them before. We have heard them because they work. I often ignore them because they are inconvenient.
Here are some dietary particulars for lowering cholesterol naturally:
• Total fat: 25-35% of total calories. (Total fat includes the next three items)
• Saturated fat should compose less than 7% of total calories.
• Polyunsaturated fats can compose up to 10% total calories.
• Monounsaturated fats can make up no more than 20% of total calories.
• Carbohydrate intake should be between 50 and 60% of total calories.
• We need 20-30 grams of fiber per day.
• Protein should be about 15% of total calorie intake.
• Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg per day.
These are the basics.
You can read more about Eating for Heart Health through this link.
A Word about Carbohydrates
Notice carbohydrates make up more than half the total calories in this recommendation. Low carbohydrate diets may help you lose weight in the short-run but they are not healthy. We need carbohydrates for energy.
It is true carbohydrates raise triglycerides. So do some fats. But not all carbohydrates are the same. Complex carbohydrates and whole grains digest more slowly than their nutritionally deficient counterfeits. Consequently they are not so quickly converted to triglycerides.
It is really very simple. If given the choice between white bread and whole grain bread which should we choose? What about whole grain rice and white rice? A baked potato and a candy bar are both loaded with carbohydrates. My common sense tells me which to choose. Unfortunately my sweet-tooth sometimes wins. Also fruits and vegetables are good sources of complex carbohydrates and fiber as well.
If your real concern about carbohydrates is your triglycerides then you do need to watch them. But choose your carbs wisely.
For more information on triglycerides you can use this link.
A Couple Words about Fats
Up to 35% of daily calories can be fats. This sounds like a lot. Notice less than 7% can be saturated fat. Saturated fats really are bad news for coronary heart disease. We don’t need them but we do like them. As a younger man I could have eaten rib eye steaks twice a day. Fortunately my tastes have altered a bit. But I do eat steak on occasion. Hotdogs too. But I don’t need them.
Check the labels on food wrappers. You can calculate everything carefully as some diet programs recommend. Or you can simply get in the habit of choosing foods with less saturated fat.
There is another fat that doesn’t fit neatly into any of the fat categories. Technically it is an unsaturated fat. But it is much worse for heart health than saturated fats. We know them as trans-fatty acids, or simply trans-fats.
The sad thing about trans-fats is we manufacture them. To be fair, scientists were making an attempt at lowering cholesterol naturally. However, in an attempt to create a healthier fat we created a monster.
Now trans-fats are everywhere. Look at the labels you find in your pantry. I have even found trans-fats in meal replacement bars made by health food companies I otherwise respect.
Trans-fats are not only bad news for heart health, they are the worst news. Avoiding them is not easy. But we need to avoid them. Shopping at a health food store is one way to do this.
O.K. this is my third word about fats. Polyunsaturated fats are a must. Unlike saturated fats we do need them. We particularly need a group known as essential fatty acids. We need them and our bodies can not make them. Perhaps chief among these is omega-3. Omega-3 and certain other essential fatty acids actually should be consumed in higher amounts than we can normally get in an average diet.
This is not the place to discuss the particulars about unsaturated fats.
But you can read about Essential Fatty Acids by clicking here.
There are other dietary concerns that are not considered here. There are certain nutrients that have a positive effect on cholesterol and, therefore, reduce CHD risk. Though they are dietary in nature they are normally ingested by taking supplements.
Quality dietary supplements are often a necessary addition to any attempt at lowering cholesterol naturally. But they are not only important to help us reduce cholesterol risk; good supplements are a necessary if we are serious about optimal heart health.
There are three grouping of supplements I would like to mention here because of their importance to cholesterol management and optimal heart health.
Omega-3 fatty acids from cold-water fatty fish have far reaching implications for heart health. They have been shown to lower triglycerides, balance cholesterol, regulate heart rate and make blood platelets less sticky.
CoQ10 is a coenzyme which is necessary for the production of cellular energy. It is especially necessary for large organs like the heart.
CoQ10 also acts as a strong antioxidant attacking the free radicals that cause oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Studies have demonstrated that it is the oxidation of LDL that causes it to build up on the inside of our arteries thus promoting coronary heart disease.
Catechins and Theaflavins are the two main groups of flavonoids found in green and black teas. You and I have heard many times that drinking green tea is good for us. The same is true for black teas.
Catechins and theaflavins - like CoQ10 – act as antioxidants to reduce LDL oxidation. Again, reducing LDL oxidation reduces risk for coronary heart disease.
It is important to include high quality whole food dietary supplements in your heart healthy diet. You can read more about Omega-3, CoQ10, and Catechins and Theaflavins by using the links below.
Omega-3 and Cholesterol Management
How CoQ10 Helps Reduce Cholesterol Risk
In addition to dietary changes ATP III recognizes the use of plant sterols to reduce cholesterol. Sterols represent a group of compounds that are an essential constituent of cell membranes in animals and plants. Cholesterol is the sterol of mammalian cells.
The sterols of plants are similar in structure to animal cholesterol. Plant sterols, however, are not synthesized by the human body. They are very poorly absorbed by the human intestine. This fact makes them useful in lowering our cholesterol.
We have known about the cholesterol reducing effect of plant sterols since the 1950s. However, as medicines became more available these gems were placed on the back burner. Fortunately they are receiving more attention today. Some plant sterols are being added to foods and it looks like this trend will increase.
Finally, ATP III recommends weight reduction and increased physical exercise as a way to reduce LDL cholesterol and coronary heart disease. Of course in many situations watching our diets will help with the weight control as will increased exercise.
If ATP III is right, and it is, much of the control for heart health is in our hands. It takes a little disciple and forethought. But we can make the biggest difference in our heart health.
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