Cholesterol is a complex chemical compound that gets produced by all the cells in the body. More specifically, we can find most of the cholesterol inside hepatocytes (liver cells).
Similar to other fats, cholesterol cannot freely circulate in the blood due to its water insolubility, hence the need for protein transporters, such as lipoproteins.
These proteins will transport cholesterol from and to different organs in the body, including the liver, blood vessels, and brain.
There are many types of lipoproteins, but for our purpose, we will discuss the major two types; LDL and HDL.
LDL or Low-Density Lipoprotein is the protein responsible for transporting cholesterol from the liver to different organs. It is the major reason cholesterol starts to deposit inside the blood vessels, leading to cardiovascular disease (e.g., coronary artery disease).
HDL or High-Density Lipoprotein, on the other hand, is the protein that takes out cholesterol from the bloodstream and transports it back to the liver to be metabolized.
Cholesterol is essential for our bodies since it is involved in structural, metabolic, and physiologic functions. However, we all know that too much of a good thing is as bad as too little.
In this article, we will discuss the best 4 natural ways to reduce blood cholesterol.
1. Monounsaturated fats
Including more monounsaturated fats in your diet is extremely beneficial if you are dealing with high cholesterol levels. This healthy fat is found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds.
While it would make sense to eliminate fat from your diet altogether, this may lead to reduced LDL and HDL, which is not our goal here. We want to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and to increase HDL (good cholesterol).
For this reason, it is best to consume more monounsaturated fats.
In a 2010 study, researchers found that eating a diet high in monounsaturated fat increased HDL levels by 12% in 24 participants.
Additionally, monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce LDL oxidation, which is the cornerstone of atherosclerosis (clogging of blood vessels) pathophysiology.
2. Omega-3 is the key
Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, which simply means that it has more than one double bond. These lipids have been shown to reduce the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol.
In a 2016 study, researchers replaced the diet of 115 volunteers from consuming mostly saturated fatty acids to polyunsaturated fatty acids.
At the end of the study, LDL levels dropped by 10% compared to baseline.
This suggests that polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 have a considerable cholesterol lowering effect.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids were also shown to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by 20% in a huge study that involved 13,614 participants.
3. No trans fats!
You have probably heard of trans fats on the news because of their potential adverse effects and oncogenic effect. “Are those allegations true?” I hear you asking. Well, definitely!
Trans fats are unsaturated fatty acids that underwent a process known as hydrogenation in order to conserve their structure for long periods of time to be used in the food industry.
For instance, you might come across a product in your local supermarket and get excited because you read that is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids! However, the sad news is that unsaturated fatty acids are unstable compounds and they lose their double bonds very quickly. As a result, those unsaturated fatty acids become saturated.
In order to counter this effect, industry gurus started doing the process of hydrogenation to conserve the structure of unsaturated fatty acids; however, this reaction becomes at a cost since the final product is highly processed and carries a significant risk of several debilitating diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
Aside from their harmful effects, trans fats are able to increase LDL and decrease HDL levels by 20%.
Furthermore, a 2016 study estimated that trans fats are responsible for 8% of deaths from heart disease worldwide.
By cutting out trans-fat-containing products from your diet, you will be inadvertently increasing HDL and decreasing LDL levels, as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and other maladies.
4. Soluble fiber
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by humans. It is broken down by the symbiotic gut microbiome to ease up its passage.
Cholesterol metabolism involves a closed cycle that goes through the digestive tract and ends up in the liver again. However, fiber can carry those cholesterol molecules and get rid of them via feces, which reduces the number of cholesterol molecules in the body.
This effect is so powerful that taking 3 grams of soluble fiber supplements daily for 12 weeks decreased LDL by 18% in a 2007 study.
High LDL levels are associated with an increased risk of a multitude of diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide with an annual death toll that is superior to pulmonary disease, diabetes, and environmental accidents combined!
Guess what? LDL oxidation inside the blood vessels is the hallmark of this disease.
Fortunately, there are many precautions we could take to decrease cholesterol levels naturally, including the 5 tips listed in this article.
Nevertheless, if you have other helpful tips that you tried yourself, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. We would be thrilled to read them!