The American Heart Association estimates that 102.2 million (almost 50%) of adults in the United States have total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL, placing them at risk for cardiovascular disease – elevated cholesterol is one of the most important risk factors for heart disease.
In the Framingham Heart Study, deaths due to heart disease were absent in subjects with total cholesterol levels below 150 mg/dL, but as cholesterol increased above 150 mg/dL, heart disease rates began to increase.
A high nutrient diet is by far the most effective method of reducing cholesterol while avoiding side effects. And should be your front line of defense, rather than reaching for a pill bottle. Drugs are not as effective for reducing cholesterol as a high nutrient diet. After six weeks of taking cholesterol-lowering statin medications, cholesterol levels decreased by 26% compared to a 33% with a high nutrient diet. Statins have many side effects and are associated with liver dysfunction, acute renal failure, cataracts, diabetes, and impaired muscle function.
Not only will a high nutrient diet lower cholesterol, it will also decrease heart disease risk by improving other factors such glucose levels, blood pressure, and body weight.
The safest and healthiest strategy for reducing cholesterol:
•Eat a high nutrient, vegetable-based diet with plenty of raw vegetables and cooked greens.
•Eat berries and pomegranates. The antioxidants in berries and pomegranates, such as anthocyanin and punicalagin, are especially effective in improving both LDL and HDL cholesterol.
•Avoid trans fats and minimize saturated fats. High cholesterol and heart disease deaths are more closely associated with saturated fat intake than any other part of the American diet.
•Avoid refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates have been found to be just as damaging to the cardiovascular system as saturated fats.
•Eat at least one ounce of raw nuts and seeds daily. The phytosterols found in nuts and seeds lower blood cholesterol by blocking both cholesterol absorption during digestion and the re-absorption of cholesterol produced by the liver.
•Limit your intake of animal protein to at most 6 ounces per week. If you have heart disease or significantly high cholesterol, avoid animal products altogether. Animal protein consumption directly increases heart disease risk.
•Eat beans daily. Beans are packed with resistant starch, soluble fiber, and phytochemicals which help to lower cholesterol. A 19-year study found that people who eat beans at least four times a week have a 21% lower risk of heart disease than those who eat them less than once a week.
•Have 1 Tbsp. of ground flaxseed each day. Flaxseeds contain beneficial omega-3 fats, lignans, flavonoids, sterols, and fiber. Clinical trials show that daily flaxseed consumption reduces total cholesterol by 6-11%. Try adding ground flaxseeds to smoothies or sprinkling them on salads.
Joel Fuhrman, MD http://www.drfuhrman.com
Michael Greger, MD http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/cholesterol/
When dietary intervention is not enough
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Plant sterols have long been recognized, and are FDA approved, for their capacity to reduce LDL cholesterol. Plant sterols (also known as phytosterols) naturally occur in a range of plant sources such as vegetable oils, nuts, grains, and seeds. They function as cholesterol-lowering agents in the blood by blocking the absorption of cholesterol from food during digestion and by blocking the re-absorption of cholesterol manufactured by the liver. There is a significant amount of evidence – more than 40 human studies – supporting the LDL-lowering properties of plant sterols, collectively showing an approximate decrease of up to 15% in LDL levels. No negative health effects were reported in these studies. Read more…
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