Not happy with your latest cholesterol count? There are lots of steps you can take to lower your cholesterol naturally. Sometimes, medicine is inevitable, but not always. Lifestyle changes can, for many of us, do the trick in the long run.
And even if you need medicine, changing your eating habits and increasing your activity level should remain TOP priorities too. If you think of it, taking meds without lifestyle changes is a bit like driving your car into poles and walls all day long and stopping by the auto-body mechanics on your way home each night. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
So, while it's important to check with your Doctor whether or not you need cholesterol-lowering medicine, it's important that you start taking lifestyle measures right now to keep your pipes clean on a daily basis.
Not to mention that when you make lifestyle changes in order to improve your cholesterol count, chances are you will also see your blood sugar, your blood pressure, and your weight go down as well. It's a win-win-win-win situation... Definitely worth a try, don't you think?
Now, how do you do that?
Let's look at 10 ways to improve your cholesterol numbers naturally.
The first and often easiest thing to do is to:
Increase your fiber intake
1/ Eat a lot of veggies
Make sure half of your plate is covered with veggies at each meal. When I say veggies, I don’t mean starchy veggies, so, potatoes don’t belong here. But all other veggies work: zucchini, eggplants, cucumber, carrots, string beans, celery, you name it. If you are still hungry, have second servings of veggies, rather than extra starch or meat. And if you really want more protein or more grain, have another half plate of veggies with them. You can’t go wrong with veggies; knock yourself out!
2/ Eat fruit
You know, most French people eat one piece of fruit at each meal. We consider fruit our dessert. Why don’t you try that? Eat fruit instead of a treat, you will get a nice sweet taste with tons of vitamins and good fiber. Bring an apple or banana with you for snack rather than energy bars or crackers. Fruit is super convenient, you just have to get into the habit of eating more fruit, all kinds of fruit.
3/ Eat beans and legumes
Lentils, split peas, chickpeas, white beans, etc. Whether you buy them dry and cook them or buy them canned and rinse them, they are a great way to add fiber to your diet and can easily replace meat in some of your meals. Think hummus or bean dip - with veggie sticks of course, not with chips! - Lentil soup, roasted chickpeas, edamame. There are so many ways to add them to your diet, start with once a week and increase the frequency little by little. Plus, they are cheap, so you really have nothing to lose (except maybe a few pounds!).
4/ Eat non-processed whole grain
We are not talking whole wheat bread and pasta here, but more like real whole grains such as brown rice, wheat berries, barley, quinoa. Buy whole grains in bulk, they are cheap and extremely filling. Just like beans, they are a great way to eat a super healthy diet without blowing your budget. If you don’t know how to prepare them, think salads: any pasta salad can be turned into a whole grain salad pretty easily. Use your imagination or web browser, inspiration will come!
5/ Eat oatmeal for breakfast
Plain old fashion oatmeal or instant oatmeal, whatever you prefer. Just not the flavored oatmeal with sugar and all kinds of added crap. Oatmeal, cooked a few minutes in water, cow milk, or vegetable milk. Here is a super simple overnight oatmeal recipe if you need help with this.
The second very important thing to do is:
Decrease your animal fat intake!
6/ Eat less meat
Start replacing meat with fish, beans, tofu, or eggs here and there. Little by little, you will end up eating meat maybe no more often than you end up eating one of the above. Go gradually and make sure you still eat the meat you love the most once in a while, without second thoughts. If you love meat, consider it a treat. If you don’t like meat that much, then don’t eat any?!
7/ Eat less cheese
Avoid the cheese that you don’t truly enjoy. Melted cheese is usually the one to skip first because it does not provide as much satisfaction for the same amount. Just like meat, if you love cheese, then consider cheese as a treat, not as a habit. Eat the best ones in the best company. Remember that fermented dairy is not as bad for cholesterol as other dairies. So cheese and yogurt are better than cream and butter!
8/ Avoid butter and cream
Instead of butter on your toast, have nut butter. Instead of butter for cooking, use olive oil, or avocado oil. At home, we use a butter that is a combination of butter and olive oil. We like the taste, plus it never gets hard which is great for sleepy kids in the morning. Instead of cream, you can sometimes use plain whole yogurt or cottage cheese. When preparing a recipe that has cream in it, look for substitution suggestions. You have to be intentional at first, but then it becomes a habit and gets much easier.
What else can you try to lower your cholesterol?
9/ Keep alcohol in check
Alcohol itself, especially red wine, does not necessarily have a bad reputation when it comes to cholesterol. But you definitely want to avoid the extra calories – and thus extra pounds! Not to mention the dehydrating effect of alcohol, which might lead you to skip a workout, or not feeling up to increasing your physical activity as much as you would otherwise. So keep your alcohol consumption to only what you truly enjoy. Be mindful, as with any other treat.
10/ Increase physical activity
If your cholesterol is high with the level of activity you have right now, try to increase it (physical activity, not cholesterol!). As usual, one step at a time. Add a few minutes to your workout sessions and keep adding and adding. Squeeze in an extra session each week, and then 2 or 3. Increase the intensity a bit if you can. You know yourself, you know your body, your constraints, your schedule. Just remember that what you are doing now might not be enough to help you lower your cholesterol, so work on it. If you need motivation, think about joining a group, or finding a partner, or signing up for a program or buying a pass. Anything that will push you a bit further, while keeping you happy and balanced. Of course, make sure it is safe for you to increase your level of physical activity and ask for clearance from your doctor if needed.
Pick one strategy and start today.
Don’t push it to the weekend, don’t wait until next Monday. Start right now with one of those strategies to lower your cholesterol, and once you start doing it without having to think too hard about it, add another one.
Unless you have specific restrictions, make your way slowly but steadily through the entire list and experiment. Give yourself time but work on this and see what your next blood test will tell you. Talk to your Doctor of course. Your cholesterol levels might require more than just lifestyle changes. But remember, whatever your numbers, living a healthier life will always help you move in the right direction. You can do this, let’s go!