I have always been fortunate to have a healthy level of cholesterol so managing my HDL and LDL was never a concern for me. I eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly and that has kept my cholesterol in check over the years.
Mr. Real Food, on the other hand, has not been as fortunate. For all of his adult life, his cholesterol level has hovered in the low to mid 200 range. Now that he’s in his upper 40s and has had a family history of heart disease, getting his cholesterol under 200 became a high priority for him.
Unfortunately, many doctors (his included) opt for the easy solution – medication. It is estimated that somewhere around 36 million Americans currently take cholesterol lowering statin drugs to help lower their risk of heart attacks and strokes. After reading many of the potential side effects of statins, we decided to avoid medication and try a natural approach.
Our natural approach worked! Through the changes we made, we were able to lower his cholesterol from 226 to 196 over a six week period. These changes may not work for everyone, and you should ALWAYS consult your doctor (as we did) to make sure this is a safe approach for your specific health needs. This is simply what worked for him.
A Natural Approach to Lowering Cholesterol
- Change your diet. The foods you eat play a significant role in the amount of cholesterol found in your blood. Foods that are high in saturated fats are especially harmful, while fruits, vegetables and whole grains are helpful. We opted for a strictly vegetarian diet during this period and substituted beans, lentils and other vegetarian options for meat products. Check out this list of cholesterol lowering foods.
- Eat oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, meaning that it makes you feel full longer and interferes with the absorption of cholesterol. In essence, it removes the cholesterol from your body before it is able to get into your bloodstream.
- Add a quality fish oil supplement. Fish contains heart-healthy omega 3 fats. While our normal diet included salmon once a week, Mr. Real Food needed more of these heart-healthy fats so we decided to supplement. After doing some research, I learned that there were significant differences in the quality of supplements on the market. Fish oil comes in two types – natural triglycerides and artificial ethyl esters. Similar to processed foods, manufacturers are able to significantly cut production costs by using artificial ingredients. However, ethyl esters are less well absorbed by the body rendering them less effective. We decided on Intelligent Labs Ultra Pure Omega 3 supplement. Made with natural triglycerides, it has 2250mg of omega 3, which is well above the industry average and it’s highly refined and purified. These have a pleasant taste (slightly lemon-y) and don’t create fish burps. If you’ve ever experienced fish burps, you’ll know how significant this is! They are easy to take and have benefits beyond being heart-healthy; it has also been linked to improving athletic performance, helping with weight loss, and developing muscle strength.
- Move more throughout the day. Exercise has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and allow your body to flush it out. If you don’t currently have an exercise routine, consult with your doctor to find a healthy approach to add exercise into your day. Even a few minutes of moderate to vigorous movement has been shown to help maintain cholesterol levels. If you’re not ready to hit the gym, consider these tips to add more steps into your day or to start an exercise program.