Welcome to The Cooking Cardiologist Blog! I write about health, food and cooking from my perspective as a cardiologist (as you can imagine, there’s a lot to know). If you don’t see something you’re interested to know, please ask!
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 100 million Americans have elevated cholesterol. When the level of cholesterol exceeds 200 mg/dL, cholesterol becomes a key contributing risk factor for future heart disease. Cholesterol is necessary for many bodily functions, such as hormonal production and cellular health, but when it occurs inside the lining of an artery, it’s bad news. By controlling cholesterol – and especially LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol – you can reduce your risk of future heart attacks and strokes.
If your cholesterol is elevated, be sure to seek professional advice. Here are 10 tips to help you lower cholesterol in a natural way.
Saturated fat is found in red meat, processed foods with hydrogenated oils and trans fats. A few oils, such as coconut oil and palm oil, have very high saturated fat content even though they’re made from vegetables. Be vigilant in reading food labels to reduce saturated fats in your diet.
Americans do not get enough dietary fiber – especially soluble fiber found in whole grains, oats, vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils. Shoot for 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day.
Butter is high in saturated fat. Learn to enjoy foods without the heavy use of oils, fatty spreads or sauces. Cook foods by steaming, poaching and baking, and season your food with lots of fresh herbs.
Walnuts, pecans and soy nuts provide healthy oils, vitamins and protein to your diet. Consume ¼ cup of these nuts each day to lower coronary risk.
Salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are loaded with omega-3 fats, the good fat. Add more servings of these types of fish to your diet each week.
Twenty-five grams of soy protein per day will help lower cholesterol. Consider soymilk, soy protein cereal, soy protein smoothies and soy burgers.
The studies on garlic yield mixed results, but on average, adding garlic to your diet can help you reduce cholesterol by 4%. To gain this and other benefits of garlic, you need to eat 2 to 3 cloves of fresh, uncooked garlic per day. Garlic supplements are effective, too.
Plant stanols and sterols occur naturally in vegetables and other plants. The sterols block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. Do not confuse these substances with fat blockers or artificial fat substitutes, which have several side effects. Studies have shown that plant sterols will help lower cholesterol even when you’re taking a drug, such as a statin, to lower cholesterol. Several margarine-like spreads contain these substances. Check the dairy case: Benecol, Take Control, New Smart Balance with omega-3 fats and certain brands of orange juice all contain these substances. Plant sterols are also available in capsules. Look for brands such as Cholestoff (Walgreens), Cholesterol Success (Twin Labs) or Benecol Chewables (www.benecol.com).
Several vitamins affect cholesterol as well as other factors that reduce heart disease risk. These helpful vitamins include niacin, folic acid and fish oils. Natural products such as gugulipid and red yeast rice also help lower cholesterol. You’ll find these products in pill form at specialty vitamin stores.
Finally, stay fit because exercise helps lower cholesterol. Restricting calories and losing weight impact cholesterol reduction, and exercise improves the good HDL cholesterol in your body.
If your cholesterol is high, remember to seek good professional advice to get your levels back to acceptable ranges. Should adding medication to control your cholesterol become necessary, staying on a healthy diet becomes even more important. The lifestyle you lead can greatly influence the effects of the medicine you take.
As always, cook well, live long!
—Richard Collins, MD