Knock Down Your Numbers
Heart health expert Janet Bond Brill offers 10 ways to lower your cholesterol without drugs.
High cholesterol doesn’t always call for a prescription. “Diet and lifestyle changes are very effective in lowering your cholesterol,” says Janet Bond Brill, PhD, RD, LDN, author of Cholesterol Down: 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in 4 Weeks — Without Prescription Drugs.
“Simple changes work,” Brill says. “For example, eating delicious, filling, healthful foods like oatmeal with flax, almonds, and light soymilk for breakfast, instead of high-fat, high-calorie bacon and eggs, is one way many of my readers have gotten their weight and their cholesterol down—almost without
Here are 10 tips for lowering your cholesterol levels without making a monthly trip to the pharmacy:
1) Soy: “By eating soy in place of animal protein, you automatically lower two potent cholesterolraising substances: cholesterol and saturated fat,” Brill says. She calls soy “a perfect protein that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol free, and filled with vitamins, minerals, and isoflavones—hormonelike substances that lower LDL cholesterol by increasing its uptake by the liver.” Soy is also rich in antioxidants, and research indicates that it helps decrease inflammation in the arteries.
2) Garlic: “Garlic, a regular chemical factory with lots of active ingredients, not only lowers LDL cholesterol but also functions as a powerful antioxidant and blood thinner. It helps suppress a main cholesterol-producing enzyme in the liver and can aid the body in dissolving blood clots,” says Brill, who recommends that you “eat a fresh garlic clove a day along with a daily dose—one capsule—of Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract by Wakunaga.”
3) Fortified foods: Eating phytosterols—”a plant’s version of cholesterol”—found in some food products helps reduce LDL cholesterol. “These phytosterols masquerade as cholesterol and are absorbed into the intestinal cells in lieu of cholesterol,” Brill says. Look for phytosterol-fortified orange juice, yogurt, or Brill’s favorite, Promise activ Light spread. One caveat: “These can reduce the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins,” Brill says, so load up on your fruits and veggies to counteract this effect.
4) Apples: They contain a cholesterol-lowering fiber called pectin and help the liver clear LDL cholesterol from the body. “Make sure to eat the skin, as it contains the highest level of antioxidants,” Brill adds. The serving? An apple a day, of course.
5) Beans: “They’re full of heart-healthy vitamins and minerals and one of the richest sources of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber,” Brill says. “Legumes—beans, peas, and lentils—reduce LDL cholesterol by promoting the health of friendly bacteria in the colon. The bacteria ferment the beans, releasing healthful by-products that travel to the liver and squelch the production of cholesterol.”
6) Fiber supplements: Psyllium seed husk, an ingredient in a number of fiber supplements and one of the most potent cholesterol-lowering agents, also promotes a healthy digestive tract. Psyllium husk lowers LDL cholesterol by promoting bile acid excretion and preventing the absorption of cholesterol into the body, explains Brill, who recommends taking one dose a day.
7) Flax: Full of lignins and fiber, ground flaxseeds are a wonderful plant source of omega-3, an anti-inflammatory fat, Brill says. “Considering that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disorder, including more omega-3 fats in your diet is a smart move for the prevention of heart disease.” Work up to consuming two tablespoons of flax meal daily in a smoothie, over cereal, or sprinkled into yogurt.
8) Nuts: “Almonds are one of the best sources of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that blocks the toxic changes to LDL particles that predispose them to building up in plaque,” Brill says. Make sure, though, that you eat only a small handful of nuts daily since they’re high in calories.
9) Oatmeal: It contains beta-glucan, a cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber that keeps cholesterol from being absorbed during digestion. In addition, Brill says, oats cause the liver to make more bile, helping to lower LDL cholesterol. “Oats also contain a unique, powerful type of antioxidant that counteracts the destructive and atherosclerosis-inducing damage of dangerous free radicals.”
10) Walking: A brisk 30-minute walk every day whittles your waistline, decreases inflammation, and lowers bad cholesterol, according to Brill.