High cholesterol is a prime example of getting too much of a good thing. Your body needs cholesterol, but too much leads to blockages that hamper blood flow to your heart and brain. Whole grains, black tea, and a good breakfast are among the easiest ways to lower your cholesterol. Take a look at these five proven ways to lower your cholesterol without sacrifice or medication.
1. Drink black tea
In one study, participants drank five servings of black tea daily, and there was a 6% to 11% reduction in blood cholesterol in tea drinkers compared to those drinking a tea-flavored placebo. Drinking tea can affect your cholesterol levels in as few as three months.
Even if you’re not up to drinking five cups of tea a day, start with a cup or two per day — every little bit helps.
2. Eat less bad fat and more good fat
If you see “partially hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients, pass that product by. It isn’t doing your body any favors. According to Harvard Health: “Partially hydrogenated oil is not the only source of trans fats in our diets. Trans fats are also naturally found in beef fat and dairy fat, in small amounts. Trans fats are worse for cholesterol levels than saturated fats because they raise bad LDL and lower good HDL.”
Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, which are derived primarily from animal products, aren’t exactly heart-healthy, but it’s OK to eat them in small amounts. So-called “healthy fats” are your best option. These fats reduce the bad LDL cholesterol in your blood and increase the good HDL cholesterol.
The Heart Association recommends these sources of healthy fat: olives; nuts; seeds; oils made from olives, nuts and, seeds (e.g. olive oil, canola, sunflower, safflower); fish; lean meats and poultry; and eggs.
3. Stick to a plant-based diet
True, it’s trendy these days, but that doesn’t mean that a plant-based diet is just a fad. Getting your fill of fruits and veggies has a serious impact on your health — it’s seriously good for you.
Results from a study conducted by Stanford University showed that after four weeks, participants eating a plant-based diet rich in nutrients and phytochemicals reduced their total and LDL cholesterol significantly more than the participants consuming a standard low-fat diet.
Eat a diet with a low glycemic load that is high in fiber and includes healthy fats. It should be plant-based, and you should consume plenty of good-quality protein, such as beans, nuts, and seeds.
This doesn’t mean that the only way to be healthy is to cut out meat completely. Focus instead on devoting a larger portion of your plate to plants.
It should go without saying: exercise, exercise, exercise. You don’t have to run a marathon. Just get moving. One way exercise can help lower cholesterol is by helping you lose or maintain weight.
Being overweight tends to increase the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in your blood, the kind of lipoprotein that’s been linked to heart disease. Exercise helps lower your LDL and even raises the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in your body.
Although any type of exercise helps your heart health, studies have found that cardio done for 30 minutes or more (and that include intervals) seem to increase good-for-you HDL cholesterol levels.
5. Eat plenty of whole grains
A heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering diet doesn’t have to leave you hungry. In fact, whole grains are on the “friendly” list, and they’re super filling. The fiber in whole grains may act as a natural anticoagulant and appetite suppressant, both of which can keep cholesterol from blocking blood vessels.
According to Harvard Health, “Eating whole instead of refined grains substantially lowers total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels. Any of these changes would be expected to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.”
Try some of these whole-grain, delicious, and heart-healthy combos: whole-grain toast with avocado, a whole-grain cereal topped with fresh fruit, or oatmeal with bananas and almond butter.