Optimise your cholesterol levels naturally
If your doctor has tested your cholesterol level and found it to be too high (above 5mmol/L) they may have wanted to put you on statin medication such as Lipitor, Lescol, Zocor or Crestor. Perhaps you are already taking one of these cholesterol-lowering drugs which are the most commonly prescribed medications in the world.
Statin drugs work by blocking the enzyme in our liver that is responsible for making cholesterol. The majority of cholesterol is made by our liver because we need cholesterol for many functions especially sex hormone production, the production of cell membranes and bile acids to digest fat.
25% of the cholesterol in our body lies in our brain and is critical in the role of learning and memory.
Although statins are effective at blocking cholesterol, they don’t come without side effects, including:
- muscle pain, damage and aches
- type 2 diabetes
- mitochondrial damage
- sexual dysfunction
- neurological problems.
Fortunately, there are natural and safe ways to lower and optimise cholesterol to healthy levels without the side effects.
12 steps to optimising your cholesterol levels
- Avoid hydrogenated and trans fats. These are found in most processed foods, especially margarine, baked goods, sauces and salad dressings. They are inflammatory and damaging to the human body. Focus on good fats such as coconut oil, avocados and olive oil.
- Never cook with plant oils such as vegetable oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and rapeseed/canola oil as they quickly oxidise when heated. The exception is coconut oil which is very stable due to it being saturated. Extra virgin olive oil and grass-fed butter can be used for low heat cooking.
- Reduce sugar intake and replace all white starches (bread, rice, pasta) for whole grain alternatives and avoid foods with added sugar. As much as 15 to 20g of fat can be synthesised in the body every day, simply by eating more carbohydrates than are required for energy production.
- Minimise excessive consumption of fructose (fruit sugars) as this is converted to fat in the liver and can lead to elevated serum triglyceride levels, non-alcoholic and fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. Limit fruit to two to three pieces per day and avoid fruit juice (or at least consume it sparingly).
- Moderate your alcohol intake as alcohol leaches B vitamins which are important in the production of anti-inflammatory mediators.
- Stop smoking. The negatives are extensive but smoking can also cause inflammation, which can increase cholesterol.
- Stay physically active and take steps to lose weight as this can increase triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol).
- Try to eat oily fish two to three times per week.
- Almonds, apples, oats, beans, lentils and legumes are rich in plant sterols which are beneficial as they bind to excess cholesterol and remove it from the body.
- Meat should ideally be grass fed and organic, otherwise, try to avoid processed meat such as shop bought burgers and sausages. Organ meats such as kidney are particularly nutritious and healthy options.
- Eat a variety of vegetables every day, aim for at least five portions with green vegetables at least once per day.
- Improve your response to stress.
Foods high in cholesterol such as eggs, are safe to eat despite advice being given to the contrary for many years. New evidence has emerged that dietary cholesterol and saturated fats bear little correlation to heart disease.
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About Alexander Georgiou
Alex is a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist with clinics in Marylebone and Brixton. He is passionate about making it as straightforward as possible for you to take control of your health through guided nutrition and lifestyle advice. He focuses on examining root causes and redressing balance within the body in order to restore optimum health.