Chronically high cholesterol, called hypercholesterolemia, is linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Conventional medical treatments include dietary modifications and prescription medications. In addition, there are certain things you can do on your own to help lower your cholesterol naturally.
Certain treatments, such as herbs, may even help you to decrease your need for prescription medications, which can have harmful side effects. Talk to your doctor about the benefits of natural supplements.
Step 1 – Watch What You Eat
The first step in managing your cholesterol is changing your diet. There are many myths and misconceptions regarding a proper cholesterol-lowering diet. Here are some diet basics:
- There are 3 macronutrients that your body needs; protein, carbohydrates and fat. Severely restricting or eliminating any one of these nutrients can have dire health consequences.
- All fat is not bad, and does not raise your cholesterol. In fact, some fats such as EFA’s or essential fatty acids, found in foods like salmon and flax seeds, can actually help lower your overall cholesterol. Fats are required for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K.
- Low-fat does not equal heart-healthy! In fact, many low-fat foods are also high in sugar, which has been linked to type II diabetes and weight gain.
A true heart-healthy diet is universal. It includes plenty of fresh fruits and veggies (about half your plate at each meal should be fruits and/or vegetables); whole grains such as oatmeal and brown rice; quality protein foods like fish, poultry and legumes; dairy products; and, healthy fats and oils such as those found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.
Cut out all junk foods, especially deep-fat fried foods, chips, cookies, cakes and soda. They are high in calories yet paradoxically low in nutrition.
Step 2 – Eat More Garlic
Garlic is valued as both food and medicine. Herbalists also use garlic to treat severe bacterial infections and support immune function. Because of its time-honored use in herbal and folk medicine, garlic is one herb which has actually undergone extensive scientific research.
One study found in the “Journal of Nutrition” from 2001 reports that aged garlic extract is effective in lowering cholesterol in both human and animals. The results were significant, with a total of 7 to 15 percent drop in total cholesterol.
Garlic can be eaten fresh, added to your favorite dishes, or even taken in capsule form. The therapeutic dose is 2 to 4 grams per day of fresh garlic, or 600 to 1,200 mg daily of aged garlic extract (divided into smaller doses).
Setp 3 – Substitute Green Tea for Coffee
Although there has been some hype recently about the benefits of coffee, green tea has been studied more extensively for its many health benefits. It is the non-fermented version of commercial black tea. Herbalists use it to treat cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis and heart disease, and boost the immune system. It is also now believed to help lower cholesterol.
Experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center cite animal and human studies that have shown green tea not only lowers overall cholesterol, but triglycerides, another risk factor for heart disease.
The recommended daily amount is 2 to 3 cups per day. However, please note that green tea does contain caffeine, and may interfere with certain medications. Talk to your doctor before using green tea for medicinal purposes.
Step 4 – Take Red Yeast Rice
One herbal remedy which is widely recognized to lower cholesterol is red yeast rice, a fungus which grows on rice. It is used as a food additive in Asian dishes like Peking duck. It has also been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM.
Newer Scientific studies have determined that it is especially effective in lowering LDL, or bad cholesterol. A 2009 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that patients who took 600 mg of red yeast rice twice daily had a decrease of LDL cholesterol at an average of 35 points.
Another added benefit is that red yeast rice does not cause the typical side effects of conventional cholesterol medications like severe muscle pain. For this reason it was used by the researchers with patients who could not tolerate statins.
1. “Journal of Nutrition”: Cholesterol Lowering Effect of Garlic – http://jn.nutrition.org/content/131/3/989S.abstract?sid=24464cf4-0a43-4a81-a899-1b6a59223717
2. University of Maryland Medical Center: Green Tea – http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/green-tea-000255.htm
3. Medical News Today: Red Yeast Rice – http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/155270.php