5 Effective Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally with Your Diet by Dr Michael MacDonald

We know that having a high cholesterol is associated with heart attacks, strokes and death (cardiovascular disease) and that lowering cholesterol with medications called statins is an effective way to lower your risk of disease. Everyone over the age of 40, or those with a family history of heart attack or stroke should visit their doctor for a health screening that includes an assessment of their risk of cardiovascular disease. One piece of that assessment is a measurement of blood cholesterol (lipid) levels. Higher levels of “bad” cholesterol – LDL – and lower levels of “good” cholesterol -HDL are associated with increased risk of disease. Your doctor will make an assessment of cholesterol and other factors to determine if you would benefit from treatment with lipid lowering medications, but there are also simple things you can do yourself to lower your cholesterol through your diet.

  1. Avoid trans fats – These are really bad news. They raise your LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol and increase your risk of developing heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Watch out for “partially hydrogenated oils” on food labels. They are often used in fast food establishments for frying as the oil can be used several times over. Singapore already limits their supply to food and beverage outlets, and they will be banned as an ingredient in al foods from June 2021. Common foods that contain them are doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pastries and pies.
  2. Reduce dietary saturated fats – Saturated fats have a significant impact on your LDL levels. Most of them come from animal meet or dairy ie fatty beef, lamb, pork, butter, cheese, cream. There are also high levels in coconut oil and palm oil. Choose leaner cuts of meat and extra virgin olive oil instead.
  3. Increase dietary fibre – Soluble fibre is a type of plant fibre that cannot be digested. It can bind cholesterol in the gut and reduce the amount you absorb into your blood stream. Aim for 5-10 grams per day. Examples of foods high in fibre are oatmeal, oat-bran, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, apples.
  4. Phytosterols/ plant sterols – are naturally occurring plant compounds. They are very similar looking to human cholesterol and because of that they block the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. They can lower LDL by up to 10-20%. We should aim to eat 2 grams per day. They are present in grains, fruit and vegetables, but to get up to 2g per day you need to eat foods that are fortified with them usually in the form of margarine spread.
  5. Red yeast rice – it is the product of yeast (Monascus purpureus) grown on white rice. It contains many substances that lower cholesterol, the most important of which is called monacolin K that is the same chemical as the cholesterol lowering drug lovastatin. It is an unregulated supplement, the potency varies between manufacturers and there is the potential for side effects and drug interactions. It should only be used after discussion with your doctor.

Most importantly before you embark on significant dietary changes, you should consult your doctor to get a full health check. There is a lot more to health than just cholesterol.

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