Cholesterol! It’s the evil substance plugging arteries everywhere, and statins are the drug industry’s Drano. Even orange juice is jumping on the bandwagon! What did Americans do before the advent of plant oils, margarine, cholesterol-free soy protein, fat-free dairy, and statins? Back when they lived on beef and lard and salt pork and butter and cream and there was no 1% milk to be found, how did they manage their cholesterol? Whatever did they do?
Oddly enough, one thing they didn’t do was die of heart disease.
Cholesterol, and saturated fat, are not necessarily unhealthy. People who eliminate trans fat and carbohydrates from grains (soda, pasta, bread, desserts) see major drops in bad cholesterol and triglycerides despite continuing to eat cholesterol-rich foods like red meat, eggs, cream, and butter. In fact, there’s good reason to question the reigning “lipid hypothesis“, which posits that dietary cholesterol clogs the arteries and leads to heart disease. LDL (bad) cholesterol builds up in the arteries not from how many omelets you eat, but in response to inflammation. This is triggered by a diet high in trans fat and processed carbohydrates, not saturated fat.
If you want to lower your cholesterol, what you’re really talking about is improving your health and reducing your risk of heart disease, right? Right. So be sure that along with lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol you boost good (HDL) cholesterol and control inflammation.
These foods will help you do just that!
1. The grain issue.
Most cholesterol-lowering guides will recommend that you switch refined carbohydrates to whole-grain carbohydrates (such as whole-wheat pasta and whole-grain bread). If you’ve been living on a diet of starchy carbohydrates, this switch will help lower your cholesterol. But to really lower your cholesterol – and reduce inflammation, which is just as significant to heart health and more significant for overall health – eliminate grains entirely. Yes – you read that correctly. Here’s why you need to banish even complex grain carbohydrates from your diet.
2. Eat fruit instead of guzzling juice.
If you are going to eat something sweet, first make sure it’s fruit instead of desserts and candies. But choose fruit, not fruit juice. The benefit of fruit comes from the fiber, so if you drink juice, you’re losing that wonderful benefit and essentially drinking sugar water.
3. Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables daily, and work up to 9.
4. Raise your good cholesterol!
We tend to focus on the negative, but it’s equally important to raise your good cholesterol. Do this with a daily serving of essential fatty acids from avocados, nuts, olive oil, nut oils, and nut butters.
5. Take advantage of every opportunity for Omega-3’s.
Switch from regular eggs to DHA-enhanced eggs. They’re all over the place and relatively inexpensive.
6. Fish: the multi-tasker.
Eat wild, fatty, cold-water fish and consider a fish oil supplement. (Best bets: wild, Alaskan salmon, wild mackerel, Nordic sardines.) Fish is the richest source of Omega-3 fatty acids, so aim for two or three portions a week. Make sure you choose wild, cold-water fish to reduce exposure to chemicals like mercury.
Garlic is wonderful for your cardiovascular system and as part of the allium family of plants it’s a natural anti-inflammatory. Other great foods that reduce inflammation: ginger, curry, and chili peppers.
8. Onions ‘n things.
Whether it’s scallions, leeks, chives, white onions, red onions, or shallots, these flavorful bulbs are terrific for quelling inflammation and healing your arteries. Onions also contain high levels of quercetin, an important flavonoid that reduces cholesterol. Try to eat some every day.
In general, focus on eating only fresh, whole, unprocessed foods: meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts.