In this article, we reveal the truth about why you don’t want your cholesterol levels too low and what foods actually promote the build up of excess cholesterol along the arterial walls. At the end, we list our 5 tips on how to lower your cholesterol (without statins). Plus, discover why you don’t need to give up your egg yolks or red meat, if you choose wisely.
Cholesterol has become one of the most misunderstood substances in the body. We have been taught to demonize egg yolks and saturated fats as a cause of heart disease. We compare our numbers at cocktail parties and brag when our total cholesterol numbers are lower every year. There are so many myths surrounding cholesterol and we want to clear up a few in this article so you don’t live in fear and do something unwise like take a statin to manage your cholesterol levels.
At the Nourishing Wellness Medical Center, we believe in normalizing your cholesterol levels because cholesterol is vital to so many roles in your body. This soft, waxy substance is found not only in your bloodstream, but also in every cell of your body. Your liver makes about 75% of the cholesterol in your body. In fact, cholesterol is so precious that the role of your HDL is to scoop up the excess in your tissues and arteries and bring it back to have it recycled in the liver. The following are just a few of the essential roles of cholesterol.
- Cholesterol is needed by almost every cell in the body.
- Cholesterol is a vital component of sex hormones – testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
- It’s needed for the production of vitamin D from sunlight.
- Cholesterol is nature’s repair substance, used to repair wounds, including tears and irritations along the artery walls.
- It is a key component of your brain and nervous system. Low blood cholesterol levels are associated with depression.
- Cholesterol plays a role in the utilization of serotonin, the body’s “feel-good” neurotransmitter.
- Bile salts, needed for the digestion of fats, are made from cholesterol.
- Cholesterol acts as a powerful antioxidant to protect the body against free radicals.
- Cholesterol, especially LDL-cholesterol (the so-called “bad” cholesterol), helps fight infection.
This last one is key to understand. Your cholesterol skyrockets after surgery or even after a dental procedure. Why? Because cholesterol is an anti-oxidant! It is a key component of the inflammation process. Cholesterol is needed to replace damaged cells and heal damaged tissue. Remember that no cell can form without it. So if you have damaged cells that need to be replaced, your liver will be notified to make more cholesterol and release it into your bloodstream.
Here is an analogy to help you understand why cholesterol is in your blood vessels.
Think of cholesterol as the fire department needed to stop and heal the damage from the fires of inflammation. What is causing these fires of inflammation? Pro-inflammatory foods like sugar and refined, processed grains actually damage the tissues in your body.
Your body in its infinite wisdom will send cholesterol, packaged on LDL proteins to the source of the inflammation, where the cholesterol will help put out the fire. But guess what happens when we keep eating sugar and junk food? The fire never goes out, so cholesterol will form a clot.
High sugar/high processed carb consumption → inflammation in the blood vessels from tissue damage →cholesterol crew packaged as LDL appears to repair and make new cells → inflammation doesn’t stop and cholesterol plaque forms → leads to cardiovascular disease.
Here’s how to reverse this situation:
Low-sugar/low grain = less inflammation and need for cholesterol production in your liver→ healthy cholesterol levels and absence of arterial plaque
The good news is that there are practical ways we can eat to improve our cholesterol situation. Read more~
Doc and I see this time and time again. We educate our clients about the sneaky ways that sugar creeps into our diet and how to switch out gluten and refined grains with high fiber starchy carbohydrates like yams, quinoa and beans. It’s almost universal. When our clients put these ideas into practice, their weight drops off, cholesterol comes down, cravings disappear, energy goes up and many other health issues start to improve as well. Here are a few eating tips to help you get started.
Five Proven Tips to Normalize Your Cholesterol Levels …without Statins!
1. Aim to reduce all processed carbs in your diet. If it’s white, refined or comes out of box-throw it out! I am talking about those chippy, snacky, addictive carbs that you can’t stop eating after thefirst bite. Aim for a diet that is low glycemic, high fiber and omega-3 rich.
- Eating tip: Replace crackers and pretzels or popcorn with a handful of dry roasted almonds.
- Try replacing 1-2 sandwiches a week with a trip to the salad bar. Go for a large salad topped with plenty of your favorite protein and beans. Just skip the croutons and bread.
2. Cut back on meat and switch to grass fed meats whenever possible. Why grass-fed? The unnatural living conditions of animals in the modern meat industry prevent these animals from getting normal exercise and they are fed a diet of grains instead of grasses. This makes for an obese animal with the wrong kind of fat. This meat has an unnatural and unhealthy concentration of Omega-6 fatty acids that cause heart disease. Pasture raised animals allowed to eat their native diets of grass have:
- 2 to 10 times more omega-3s than grain-fed meats which have a high Omega-6 ratio
- 2 to 4 times more CLA– (conjugated linolenic acid) – a fatty acid that helps us burn more fat.
- More Vitamin E, Iron, CoQ10, Zinc and Carotenoids than grain fed meats
Eating tip: Try grass fed beef, lamb, bison or wild meats like elk, venison or boar. We buy ours from Whole Foods and for cheaper cuts for stews, we purchase it from US Wellness Meats. Doc Allen eats grass fed beef or lamb patty from US Wellness Meats at least 4-5 times a week and his recent levels of HDL and LDL continue to be in the excellent range. He also buys organic pasture raised eggs and eats the yolk. Aim to eat your eggs poached or sunny side up and lightly cooked instead of scrambled. This prevents the yolks from being over processed and oxidized. Buy the best eggs you can afford and enjoy the yolks, too!
3. Fish Oils: Aim for 700-1000 mg of omega-3 fats (just add the EPA and DHA levels listed on the label). Take this amount at least 2-3 times a day for a total of 1400-2000 mg/day. There are too many benefits to name, including a significant reduction in serum triglycerides. We highly recommend Thorne Super EPA because it provides 700 mg of EPA and DHA per gel cap at a good price.
- Supplement tip: We recommend you purchase a pharmaceutical grade of fish oils to ensure a pure product free of heavy metals and a higher level of EPA and DHA per capsule. If you don’t like to swallow fish pills, then take a tip from Jeanne. Use 2-3 tsps a day of Lemon Flavored DFH Liquid Omega Marine. This can be added into any smoothie (try Jeanne’s Green Smoothie) or used in a salad dressing.
4. Increase Soluble Fibers: So many studies have proven the cholesterol-lowering properties of soluble oat fiber found in oatmeal, pectin found in apples or prunes, and lectins and guar gums found in beans.
Eating tip: We recommend you add the following daily to increase soluble fiber. Add 1 Tbsp of chia or ground flax seeds to your smoothies, salads or yogurt. For a boost of 8 grams of fiber/day, we recommend to our clients, 1 scoop of Medi-bulk or Paleofiber 10 minutes before meals with a glass of water to improve satiety. This way you feel more full on less food and have more fiber available to bind the cholesterol found in your foods.
5. Use a natural statin like red yeast rice. A comprehensive review of 93 randomized trials including nearly 10,000 patients has demonstrated that red yeast rice reduced total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, and increased HDL-cholesterol. Studies have shown that red yeast rice extracts are well tolerated and effective in lowering LDL in patients with statin intolerance.
- Supplement tip: We recommend 1000-1200 mg at night for best results. Because red yeast rice can actually stop the production of cholesterol and CoQ10, you want to include CoQ-10 in your supplements. That ‘s why we LOVE Thorne Choleast. It actually contains 1200 mg of red yeast rice and 100 mg of CoQ10. For a triple whammy approach to normalizing your cholesterol levels, take a look at our Healthy Cholesterol Kit, too.
In our practice, we have so many success stories about clients who put some of these ideas into practice and were able to wean off their statins without seeing a jump in their cholesterol levels. We KNOW you can do this if you pay more attention to the refined carbs in your diet and worry less about the egg yolks and healthy fats in your diet. We would like to hear from those of you that have been able to wean off statins. What have you tried that has helped you succeed in normalizing your cholesterol levels? Please share your tips with us!
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