Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. Here’s what experts suggest is the best nutritional advice to remedy high cholesterol. Yes, you can lower high cholesterol naturally! Research studies have shown you can lower cholesterol by up to 37% with the use of exercise and healthy food choices, such as eating more plants. From chocolate to oats, here are 4 delicious foods scientific evidence shows can help remedy high cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, natural component found in everyone’s blood. Cholesterol has many functions in the body, including being a structural component of every cell wall. Cholesterol gets its bad reputation from the so-called “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), which can cause plaque to build up in blood arteries, increasing the risk of a blockage that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. There’s also “good” cholesterol, which can help reduce bad cholesterol. Ultimately there are many factors that play a role in the risk of heart disease, including triglycerides and inflammation. However, the nutritional advice to remedy high cholesterol not only helps to reduce bad cholesterol, it also improves overall cardiovascular health (and can promote weight management).
What Foods Lower Cholesterol Quickly
Experts in the field at John Hopkins Medicine suggest, “…the first line of treatment for high cholesterol is lifestyle modification.” A healthy lifestyle includes eating healthy foods, exercise, and a healthy mindset. Below, Nutritionists at the Pritikin Center share 4 delicious foods that promote heart health with scientific evidence showing they can also remedy high cholesterol.
1. | Legumes
Comparing the lower heart disease rates with people around the Mediterranean, who consume 8 – 23g of legumes per week, to those in northern Europe who consume only 5g, has researchers promoting legumes as a heart-healthy food. As for the ability of legumes to remedy high cholesterol, a review of 26 randomized, controlled studies suggests eating at least 1 serving (130g) of legumes per day can lower high cholesterol. Legumes are easy to cook and take on the flavors of the foods they are cooked with. Best of all, legumes are nutritionally rich in protein and fiber – a diet rich in fiber can remedy high cholesterol. “Even if someone is used to consuming at least 2 servings per day of meat, substituting and adding a meatless option per day provides profound health benefits,” explains Registered Dietician and Nutritionist, Lon Ben-Asher of the Pritikin Center. Try adding legumes onto your next kitchen creation, from chili to salads, dips to soups. There are so many legumes to choose from: beans (pinto, red, white, or soybeans), alfalfa, clover, lupins, green beans, peas, peanuts, dry beans, broad beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils. You don’t just have to eat beans to add more fiber into your diet as a nutritional way to remedy high cholesterol – you can reach for vegetables, fruits, berries, barley, and oats too!
2. | Barley
Most Americans “barley” get enough fiber in their diet, with estimates at only 5 percent of the population meets the Institute of Medicine recommendation of 19 to 38g of fiber per day. It’s not your fault – food packages make it confusing to understand which foods are a good source of fiber, and popular food trends, such as gluten-free, can lure us away from high-fiber whole grains. Eating fiber does more than just remedy high cholesterol. The fiber component of food reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes. Enter barley – a whole grain that cooks easily in water, and is easily added into most foods: salads, soups, casseroles, risotto, and stews. You can simply toss some pearl barley into a salad, or roasted vegetables, or take it up a notch in the kitchen and create a mushroom barley soup or a citrus pilaf.
Why would nutrition experts recommend barley to lower high cholesterol? It’s backed by science. When researchers in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed 11 randomized clinical trials looking at the effects of barley, they found it lowered total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Barley contains beta-glucan, as do oats, and in lower amounts in maitake, shiitake, and reishi mushrooms. Of note, the processing of foods can alter beta-glucan (oat porridge contains more beta-glucan than oat flour cakes). Choose whole foods often.
3. | Onions
Arguably, onions may be best avoided on the menu of a first date, otherwise, make onions and other fiber-rich plants like garlic, leeks, and beans, common visitors to your plate. These plants are great sources of fibers, called prebiotics, that feed the helpful microbes that live in your gut. You want to feed prebiotics to your probiotics! Evidence suggests that probiotics serve an important role in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, and appear to lower cholesterol levels by increasing bile salt synthesis and bile salt deconjugation. Plus, probiotics have anti-oxidant, anti-platelet, and anti-inflammatory properties which are helpful in supporting heart health. Other prebiotic-rich foods include bananas, tomatoes, soybeans, lentils, and asparagus.
4. | Chocolate
Can you really remedy high cholesterol with chocolate? It’s important to recognize that when nutritionists and researchers talk about the health benefits of chocolate, they are referring to dark cocoa – not the convenient store, sugar-laden, milk chocolate bars. But, don’t be unsweetened by this news: dark cocoa is a rich source of flavonoids which have been shown to reduce high cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Wondering how to include dark cocoa into your day? Registered Dietitian, Kimberly Gomer, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center, notes, “…100% cocoa is delicious when prepared with skim, almond, soy or oat milk to create a hot chocolate, sweetened with monk fruit, Splenda, or stevia.” Or, try one of the chocolatey delights, such as Chocolate Ginger Mousse, Pomegranate Chocolate Mousse, or Garbanzo Chocolate Cookies/Brownies, created by Pritikin’s award-winning chefs. You won’t believe something that tastes this good is healthy!
What’s the best drink to lower high cholesterol?
Relax, and pour yourself a cup of green tea – it’s maybe the best drink to remedy high cholesterol. Scientists have noticed a protective effect against high blood fats, including high cholesterol, in populations who consume green tea regularly. In a review of clinical studies, published in the Nutrition Journal, researchers concluded evidence shows green tea can effectively lower cholesterol naturally in both average and overweight individuals.
Drink more water too! Even just a few more sips of water can make a difference – a one percent increase in water consumption lowered cholesterol, sugar, saturated fat, sodium, and total calorie intake in a study that looked at the dietary habits of more than 18,300 U.S. adults.
It’s amazing what a glass of water does for your health, and perhaps even help remedy high cholesterol. Water determines blood volume, blood pressure, and heart rate. Plus, a study suggests a dehydrated body may release more cholesterol into the bloodstream (more research is needed). Good hydration is associated with a reduction in hypertension and fatal coronary heart disease. A dehydrated body has trouble thinking, concentrating, and it can affect your mood. Dehydration makes it harder for the body to regulate temperature, can lead to the development of a headache, and increases your chances of struggling with constipation.
Let’s all go grab a glass of water! But, before you go, let’s talk about the most effective way to remedy high cholesterol.
The Most Effective Way to Remedy High Cholesterol Quickly
Your doctor has instructed you to lower your cholesterol. You don’t have to struggle, become frustrated, or take medications with side effects. The best program for lowering cholesterol naturally is the Pritikin Wellness Retreat offered at the Pritikin Center, in Miami, Florida, that hospitals across the country model in their cardiac rehabilitation programs.
When you treat high cholesterol with medication, it treats the symptom, not the cause. At Pritikin, learning how to confidently integrate the three pillars (nutrition, movement, mental health) into your day in a way that works for your unique lifestyle is “not a Band-Aid solution”, explains Dr. Danine Fruge, Medical Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, in Miami, Florida. “You are still at risk of a major health event later in life… if you do [a healthy lifestyle change], you can be okay.”
Adopting a healthy lifestyle has clinically significant effects:
Lower total and LDL bad cholesterol by 23%
During a stay at Pritikin, over 4500 guests had a reduction in total and LDL bad cholesterol of 23%, reported researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Reduce cholesterol further than statins alone
Statin users had an additional drop in their cholesterol after two weeks at Pritikin. The statins caused an initial 20% reduction, but the addition of a healthy diet added another 19%, reported the American Journal of Cardiology.
At Pritikin, our focus is on helping you adopt a healthy lifestyle – it’s not just about which are the best foods to remedy high cholesterol. You’ll be immersed in an environment that will help you adopt a healthier lifestyle. The food you learn about in workshops with Pritikin nutritionists will be the same foods you enjoy at meals cooked by executive chefs, and learn to cook in Pritikin’s hands-on Cooking School.
Be our guest! Come enjoy a physician-supervised retreat at Pritikin – an integrated approach to helping you achieve good health.
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