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How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally

lifes-little-cholesterol-busters-thumb.jpgby Mary Ellen Bingham, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.

Q. How can you lower your cholesterol (slightly elevated) without taking prescription drugs?
—Susan, Florida

A. An active lifestyle and healthy diet can go a long way when you're trying to lower cholesterol naturally. Master these, and your whole life might change.

HDL Vs. LDL Cholesterol

You may have heard that the whole point of cholesterol control is to raise your HDLs and lower your LDLs. But what does that mean?

Cholesterol travels through the blood in little structures called lipoproteins. These vehicles also contain proteins and other stuff. HDL and LDL stand for high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein. HDL has more protein; LDL has more cholesterol. Which do you think is the bad guy?

You're right. LDL. This little villain likes to make its home inside blood-vessel walls, which can narrow them and make them less flexible.

The good guy, HDL, shuffles cholesterol out of the bloodstream and into the liver.

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Natural Tip 1: Choose Good Fats
One key to solving cholesterol woes (or preventing them) is to choose the right fats.

These are the wrong fats:

  • Saturated. They’re “used as the raw material for the liver to make cholesterol," explains cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, M.D., author of Dr. Nieca Goldberg's Complete Guide to Women's Health. They can raise your LDL levels. Beware of red meat, butter, whole milk and other high-fat dairy products, and foods fried in coconut or palm oil.
  • Trans fats. These can be a double whammy, raising your LDL level and lowering the HDL! You’ll find them in commercial baked goods such as cookies, cakes and donuts, as well as hard margarine and many French fries.

In contrast, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those in fish, nuts and vegetable oils, are beneficial. They can help raise your HDL and lower the LDL. (Of course, remember that even the healthy fats are high in calories, so don’t overdo it!)

Natural Tip 2: Make More Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Regular exercise
may increase HDLs. and smoke (firsthand or secondhand) may lower them. Soluble fiber, like that in oats, beans and certain fruits and vegetables, can bind to cholesterol and remove it from the body.

Click here for another dietary tip: plant sterols for lower cholesterol.

Many people are quite successful lowering cholesterol naturally with appropriate lifestyle changes. Discuss all this with your health-care provider as well.

is a registered dietitian in private practice in New York City specializing in nutrition counseling for weight management, sports nutrition and medical nutrition therapy.

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Last updated and/or approved: June 2011.
Original article appeared in May/June 2008 former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.
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