Lower Cholesterol Levels Naturally
At NND we find that most people think they simply need to cut down on fat if they want to lower cholesterol levels. But there’s actually much more to lowering cholesterol levels with diet than just this.
In fact, cutting down on total fat intake isn’t the answer – instead you should be aiming to replace saturated and trans fats (in animal foods and many processed foods such as biscuits, pastries, snack foods and fast foods) with the healthier fats found in fish and plant foods such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
There are also many foods you should be adding to your diet if you really want to bring your cholesterol levels down. These include:
- Nuts, particularly almonds
- Legumes including lentils, chickpeas and dried or canned beans
- Oats, oatbran and barley, and cereals made from these
- Soy foods including soybeans, tofu, tempeh, soymilk and soy & linseed breads
- Vegetables high in soluble fibre such as eggplant and okra
- Psyllium husks – these look like sawdust but are a concentrated source of soluble fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol. These are also used as a laxative to keep you regular, so start with a small amount (e.g. 1 teaspoon) and build up gradually, along with plenty of water.
The Portfolio Diet
Designed by Canadian researchers to combine a number of known cholesterol-lowering foods (those mentioned above, along with plant sterols), the Portfolio Diet has been shown to be far more effective for cholesterol lowering than simply following a low fat diet. In addition to incorporating these key foods, it’s also limited in animal foods (meat and dairy products) and encourages the consumption of 5 to 9 serves of fruit and vegetables each day.
A number of studies have shown the benefits of this diet – these are just a few of the findings:
- the Portfolio diet achieved a cholesterol lowering effect similar to the starting dose of some cholesterol lowering medications
- the diet achieved a 35% reduction in LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol in 2 weeks – this was about 3 times that achieved on a diet low in saturated fat
- the diet achieved a similar cholesterol lowering effect to statin medications (the most common cholesterol lowering medication) over a 4 week period
- a longer term study of the diet found that after following the diet for 3 months, subjects had an average reduction in LDL cholesterol levels of 14% and this was maintained at 13% at the end of the 12 month study. Almost one-third of participants had reductions in LDL cholesterol of more than 20% after 12 months.
- The Portfolio diet reduced levels of harmful LDL cholesterol by 13% compared to only 3% on a low fat diet over 24 weeks
So if you want to reduce your cholesterol levels, cutting down on saturated fat is important, but you should also make sure you eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains such as oats and barley, soy products and don’t forget a handful of nuts each day.