Cholesterol is an important nutrient essential to many bodily functions. Every one of the body’s cells is surrounded by a membrane in which cholesterol plays an important part. Cholesterol is responsible for the building and maintenance of these cell walls and also helps regulate membrane permeability. Cholesterol is also necessary for nerve cell communication, is key to the healthy functioning of the immune system, and is essential to the creation of many hormones in your body. Your liver actually makes most of the cholesterol in your body, so even if you eat little dietary cholesterol, your levels can still be high.
Of course, having high cholesterol numbers is not good, particularly if you have high levels of “bad” cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL), as it indicates there is a problem somewhere in the body. Higher levels of “good” cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein or HDL) are far better because they are a sign that the body is getting rid of cholesterol that’s not needed. The reason for this can be explained something like this: HDL and LDL are not actually cholesterol. They are simply the means by which cholesterol is transported in the body. The purpose of LDL is to transport cholesterol from the liver to where it is needed in the body. HDL transports cholesterol back to the liver when it is no longer needed so it can be eliminated from the body via the digestive system.
Therefore, if LDL is high it is a sign that there is some sort of damage in the body that needs cholesterol for its repair, which is often some form of inflammation. If HDL is higher, is a sign that cholesterol is not needed. Essentially, cholesterol is not the problem. It is only an indication that there is a problem somewhere in the body that needs attention. In other words, blaming cholesterol for heart disease is like blaming firefighters for trying to put out the flames in a burning building. Reducing cholesterol LDL and HDL is not the goal; removing the damage or inflammation that cholesterol is trying to fix is, and if that is done, cholesterol levels will fall naturally. So how can you do this? Following are a few suggestions of some natural ways to lower cholesterol.
Exercise – One of the best things you can do to lower cholesterol is to get moving. And it doesn’t have to necessarily be a strenuous workout. Even walking for 30 minutes to an hour a day can seriously affect your numbers.
Avoid processed foods – These are filled with high amounts of unhealthy fats, sugar and chemicals, all of which cause damage in the form of increased risk of chronic illness such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, which cholesterol is produced to fight against.
Avoid trans fats and hydrogenated oils – It isn’t necessary to avoid all saturated fats and cholesterol-containing foods like eggs and meat, particularly if they are organic. It’s the trans fats and hydrogenated oils that cause the most damage. Eat more unsaturated oils such as that contained in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, and stick to saturated fats such as butter in moderation.
Increase intake of whole foods – Foods high in fiber such as oatmeal and whole grains have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. One of the reasons the traditional Mediterranean diet is so good at reducing heart disease is that people from this region cook whole foods and incorporate a lot of fruits, vegetables, olive oil and a glass or two of red wine (which also can lower cholesterol) into their daily diet.