Our modern lifestyles and eating habits have caused an increase in people suffering from high cholesterol. It has become more and more difficult to avoid this problem because there is just so much food out there, full of fat and sugar, readily available everywhere. We are always in a hurry, so instead of cooking from scratch, we buy precooked meals or opt for a takeout. Sure it’s practical but, usually, not healthy. The result is a level of total cholesterol in the blood higher than it should be.
The good news is, we do know about some natural supplements to lower cholesterol.
Why High Cholesterol Is Bad For You
Before I give you a list of the best natural supplements that could help you lower your cholesterol, it’s important to be aware of the problems that high levels can cause.
There are actually 2 types of cholesterol. There’s the “good” one called HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) and of course the “bad” one, called LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein). I have got a good tip to help you remember this. In HDL, the H could stand for “High”, so the one that is good and that you want to keep high. In LDL, the L could stand for “Low”, so the bad one that you want to keep low. Easy right?
And when we talk about total cholesterol, it means HDL and LDL combined.
Our body, the liver to be precise, makes cholesterol to use in normal bodily functions, but when there’s too much of it, it starts building up on the walls of the arteries, which then prevents the blood from flowing properly.
Since high cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms, the only way to find out is a blood test.
This is what high cholesterol can cause:
- Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
There are some easy steps that you can take to help prevent or lower cholesterol naturally.
Make Some Lifestyle Changes
What you eat is directly linked to your cholesterol levels. If you haven’t already, these are the things that you should ditch ASAP:
- Highly processed foods
- Anything that contains trans fats
- Deep fried foods
- Heavy drinkingYou should also limit your intake of saturated fats mostly present in animal products like animal fat, meat, poultry skin. Instead, you should choose foods that contain unsaturated fats, like nuts, seeds, fish, avocado, vegetable oils.Staying active is also essential to maintain a good cholesterol level. A lack of activity is linked to weight gain, obesity and diabetes. And all these are known to increase the risks of high cholesterol. When you exercise regularly, you lose body fat, and then the levels of cholesterol go down as well.
The Best Natural Supplements To Lower Cholesterol
There are in fact many different supplements that people often take to try lower their cholesterol level. But only a few have been proven to be effective. So it’s important to know which supplements come from natural sources and actually work for this particular issue.
Soluble Fiber (Psyllium)
There are actually 2 types of fiber. There is soluble fiber that dissolves in water and forms a gel, and insoluble fiber that is indigestible. Here, we are interested in soluble fiber because it can help reduce LDL cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of cholesterol from food.
Plus, when you increase your daily intake of soluble fiber, you get lots of other benefits. It makes your stomach empty more slowly so it can help to keep blood sugar levels steady and control diabetes. And as it keeps you full for longer, it can be helpful for weight loss as well. It’s also great to prevent constipation.
One thing to remember while taking soluble fiber supplement is to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
You could also try to gradually increase the amount of fiber you take to prevent gas and bloating.
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Niacin or Vitamin B3, is one of the most used supplements to lower cholesterol. It’s a water-soluble vitamin necessary to convert food into energy and for the proper function of the cells in our body.
There are different kinds of niacin, but Nicotinic acid is the one that is effective to lower cholesterol. It has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL cholesterol.
If you have ever tried to buy a niacin supplement, you may have noticed that it is available in 3 different categories, depending on how quickly it is released in the body:
- Immediate release nicotinic acid: it is released in the bloodstream at once so it is much more likely to have side-effects.
- Sustained-release nicotinic acid: It is released in the bloodstream more slowly so it usually has less side-effects.
- Extended-release nicotinic acid: it is also released more slowly but is only sold on prescription.
To make it easier on your body and avoid the common side-effects like redness and flushing, it is better to choose a sustained-release nicotinic acid supplement.
Other proven health benefits of Niacin: it acts as an antioxidant, as it can lower cholesterol it also reduces the risks of having heart problems, it protects skin cells and so could reduce risk of skin cancer, helps keep the brain healthy.
Taking a niacin supplement could be a good option if you can’t tolerate statins.
Some possible side-effects include flushing, redness, burning, itching, tingling, headache and dizziness.
Always talk to your doctor before taking a niacin supplement. Taking it in too high doses could be dangerous and toxic.
Plant Sterols and Stanols
Plant sterols or stanols are naturally present in fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. You can also find some food products that have been specially fortified with plant sterols like spreads and yogurts, and they are usually safe to take in addition to statin drugs.
As plant sterols and stanols are substances that resemble cholesterol (they have a similar structure), they are absorbed instead of cholesterol, which in turn lowers LDL levels in the blood.
While taking plant sterol supplements, you should always stick to the recommended dosage as taking too much could reduce the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). These supplements should also be taken during meals.
There are many different food supplements that claim to lower blood cholesterol but you should be aware that these claims are not always entirely true. We have done a lot of research before coming up with this list and the supplements that we have talked about here are those we truly believe are worth trying.
Just keep in mind that even thought they come from natural sources, it’s always better to ask your doctor before taking any of these supplements, especially if you are already taking other medications or suffer from other health problems.
To get the most out of your natural supplement, you should always try to eat a balanced diet and stay active as much as possible.