Wondering how to naturally lower LDL levels? Well, you should first know that cholesterol is an essential substance which helps the human body to build cells. It travels through the blood on proteins which are called lipoproteins. These proteins are classified into LDL or Low-density lipoprotein and HDL or High-density lipoprotein. HDL or good cholesterol absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, excess of which is flushed out of the body. On the other hand, LDL or bad cholesterol make up most of the body’s cholesterol. When our body has LDL in excess, it can build up on walls of blood vessels, making it narrow. These narrow blood vessels blocks flow of blood to and from the heart, thus causing a heart attack. A lesser known fact is that HDL can lower risk for heart disease and stroke. The LDL particle concentrations are typically categorized by percentiles and the optimal range is 0 – 20% in adults.
What causes LDL?
Cholesterol is vital to the human body, and hence it is produced naturally. But there are some foods that can only increase the LDL level, more than the body actually requires. Unhealthy food habits or a diet rich in saturated and trans fats, lack of physical activities, exposure to smoking and excess weight are the main reasons for high cholesterol levels. Some people inherit genes from their previous generations too.
How to naturally lower LDL?
Cholesterol enters our body through two sources. The liver makes all the cholesterol which is required by the body. The remainder of it comes from food from animals and dairy products. There are lifestyle changes that can improve cholesterol levels. So, if you are wondering how to naturally lower LDL in your body, include these in your diet.
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are the main source of soluble fibers which absorbs cholesterol in intestines by binding it with bile. They are rich in antioxidants and low in calories.
- Whole grain food
Whole grain, like oats and oat bran, beans are rich in insoluble fiber which increases the movement of the material through the digestive tract, thereby producing more stool.
- Fat-free dairy product
Low-fat dairy products are preferred over full-fat products for reducing LDL cholesterol.
- Lean meat or poultry without skin
Meat is a good source of protein when consumed without visible fat. Prefer chicken and turkey over duck and goose. It is suggested to remove chicken and turkey skin before cooking.
- Fatty seafood
Fatty fish, such as Salmon and mackerel, are rich in long chain Omega3 fatty acids. The healthiest ways to consume these are baked, grilled, raw or broiled.
- Dry fruits, Nuts, and Legumes
Unsalted nuts, especially walnuts and almonds are exceptionally dense in nutrients, monounsaturated fats, and protein.
- Omega 3 rich vegetable oils
All oils are unhealthy, but cooking oil suitable for low-cholesterol diet would be oils which are high in Omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats. These properties are found in sunflower, groundnut, canola, flaxseed, avocado and walnut oils.
Cereals have high fiber content and are low in fat. Since these are plant-based food, it helps in digestion and lowers absorption of cholesterol. But remember to choose cereals without sugar.
The proteins in soy help to decrease LDL and increase HDL. Tofu and soy milk are protein-rich foods, and a powerful way to reduce LDL.
- Food with sterols and stanols
Sterols and Stanols belong to the same family as cholesterol but are derived from plants. These, when taken as part of meals help reduce absorption of cholesterol.
- Fiber supplements
Dietary fiber prevents the digestive tract from absorbing cholesterol, thereby reducing the amount of LDL in the body.
In addition to these, if you are thinking of how to naturally lower LDL, you should avoid certain foods.
- Saturated Fats
Saturated fat is bad as it contributes to most of LDL in the blood. High saturated fats are found in red meat and pre-processed meat, chocolates and baked food.
- Trans fats
It can reduce HDL and increase LDL. These are mostly found in food that is made of hydrogenated oil such as French fries, margarine, and crackers.
Food with lots of sodium and sugar such as pastries, cookies, chips etc.
- Dairy Products
Limit all full-fat dairy products such as butter, ice-cream, and milk cream. Avoid any food which has trans fat, added sugar and hydrogenated fat in the Ingredients panel.
- Alcohol and Smoking
Limit alcohol and quit smoking.
Managing high cholesterol
Still wondering how to naturally lower LDL? Choose a healthy lifestyle and follow a diet low in saturated and trans fats. Physical activities help maintain the healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. If you are on medication treating high LDL, always follow your health advisor’s instructions carefully. Do not discontinue any medication you are advised without first consulting your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. Check cholesterol level regularly, if required.