9 Natural Cholesterol-Lowering Agents
High levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. That’s why you need to do everything you can to keep your cholesterol levels healthy.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe statin drugs, which are designed to lower LDL cholesterol. Your doctor may also recommend changes to your diet and exercise program. Dietary changes may include adding foods that are especially good for lowering cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol
- Bad cholesterol
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol.
You want to have both LDL and HDL. The recommended cholesterol level is .
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol: 50 mg/dL or higher.
If you are overweight or do not exercise enough, you may have high LDL cholesterol. You may also inherit a predisposition to high cholesterol.
The liver makes cholesterol, which can also come from foods that contain cholesterol, but not as much as foods that contain saturated or trans fats. These types of fats cause the liver to make more cholesterol.
However, there are foods – and supplements made from foods – that can lower cholesterol.
Talk to your doctor about which supplements you are considering taking, especially if you are pregnant.
Niacin is a B vitamin. It may be recommended by your doctor if you have high cholesterol levels or heart problems. It benefits you by raising levels of good cholesterol and reducing triglycerides (another type of fat that can clog your arteries). Niacin can be obtained from foods and supplements, such as liver and poultry.
The recommended daily dose of niacin is 14 mg for women and 16 mg for men.
Supplements should not be taken unless recommended by a doctor. This may cause side effects such as itching, redness and swelling of the skin and nausea.
- Soluble fiber
There are two types of fiber: soluble, which dissolves into a gel in liquids, and insoluble. Soluble fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol in the blood.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations, the recommended amount of fiber is as follows
- Men under 50: 38 grams
- Men over 50: 30 grams
- Women under 50: 25 grams
- Women over 50: 21 grams.
The good news for those who struggle with cholesterol is that soluble fiber can be found in foods you may already enjoy.
- Oranges: 1.8 grams
- Pears: 1.1 to 1.5 g.
- Peaches: 1.0 to 1.3 g.
- Asparagus (1/2 cup): 1.7 g.
- Potatoes: 1.1 g.
- Whole wheat bread (1 slice): 0.5 g.
- Oatmeal (1.5 cups): 2.8 g
- Beans (175 ml, about 3/4 cup): 2.6 to 3 g.
- Supplement Psyllium
Psyllium is a fiber made from the seed husk of the plant Plantago ovata. You can take it in pill form or mix it with a drink or food.
Regular intake of psyllium (a reliable source) has been shown to significantly lower cholesterol levels. It can also relieve constipation and lower blood sugar levels in diabetics.
Phytosterols are a plant-derived wax. They help prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. They are found naturally in whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Food manufacturers are now adding phytosterols to prepared foods like margarine and yogurt. Of course, you can eat foods that contain cholesterol and counteract the effects of cholesterol at the same time, even if it’s just a little bit!
- Soy protein
Soy and the foods derived from it can help lower LDL cholesterol a bit.
Tofu, soy milk, and steamed soybeans are all high in lean protein, so eating them in place of fatty foods like beef can help lower overall cholesterol levels in your diet.
The cholesterol-lowering effects of garlic are not known. It may help prevent heart disease, but a 2009 meta-analysis of medical studies concluded that it does not specifically lower cholesterol.
Garlic is thought to have other health benefits – a safe source – including lowering blood pressure. Enjoy it in your diet or take it as a supplement.
- Red yeast rice
Red yeast rice is white rice that has been fermented with yeast. In China, it is consumed and used as a medicine.
Some red yeast rice supplements contain monacolin K, which has been shown to lower cholesterol. It has the same chemical composition as the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin.
However, monacolin K is not found in red yeast rice sold in the United States because FDATrusted Source ruled in 1998 that monacolin K is a drug and cannot be sold as a supplement.
Red yeast rice supplements are still available, but they do not contain Monacolin K.
Red yeast rice from Trusted Source can also cause kidney, liver, and muscle damage.
A 2014 study from a safe source found that ginger can lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and a 2008 study from a safe source found that ginger can lower LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol.
You can take ginger as a supplement or powder, or simply add it to your diet in the form of ginger.
Flax is a blue flower that grows in temperate climates. Its seeds and the oil it produces are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits, including raising HDL cholesterol levels.
To get the most out of flaxseed, use its oil or eat ground flaxseed instead of whole flaxseed. Our bodies cannot break the shiny shell of the seeds.
People with high cholesterol levels can manage their risk by taking statin drugs. While there may be benefits to taking fish oil, lowering LDL cholesterol is not one of them.
Talk to your doctor about the treatment options, benefits and risks of statins.
Many people take supplements as a preventative measure. However, the best way to prevent high cholesterol is to make healthy lifestyle choices, such as
- quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats
- Controlling your weight