Cholesterol is a waxy, fat like substance that is found in each and every cell in the body.
We are all born with cholesterol in our bodies, it is an essential compound that we require for healthy function.
If particular types of cholesterol become high in the blood, it may increase the risk of other negative health outcomes.
Here are 11 tips to help reduce your cholesterol levels without medication.
11 Tips to Reduce Cholesterol Without Medication
- Incorporate exercise into your daily routine
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Quit smoking
- Cut down/out saturated and trans fats
- Lose a few pounds
- Get your cholesterol tested on a regular basis
- Add healthy proteins to your diet
- Eat more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Make checking food labels a habit
- Eat more fruit and veg
- Check your cooking habits
It’s important to note that some people may require medication to reduce cholesterol levels due to an inherited disorder which results in a raised cholesterol level or due to other health conditions. Sometimes cholesterol cannot be reduced without medication, but these lifestyle changes will help to improve your overall health.
Let’s do a quick recap on some key phrases before we dive in on how to reduce your overall cholesterol without medication.
Cholesterol: is a type of fat that is found in every cell in the body. Cholesterol is produced in the liver, it also comes from the foods that we eat each day. Cholesterol is used to build cells and hormones.
Triglycerides: are fats that exist in the blood and are produced when the body converts unused calories into fat cells. Triglycerides are stored as fat cells. Triglycerides are also used to transport fat cells and glucose in the body.
HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol: is also known as “good cholesterol”. HDL cholesterol is made of both fats and proteins. HDL cholesterol transports excess fats to the liver to be expelled.
LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol: is also known as “bad cholesterol”. LDL cholesterol is made of both fats and proteins. LDL cholesterol can be transported to the arteries and is deposited, increasing your risk of heart disease.
1. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is one of the most efficient ways to reduce your cholesterol without medication.
Here’s what happens to your cholesterol levels when you start exercising on a regular basis:
Regular exercise helps to reduce your overall cholesterol by breaking down and lowering the number of triglycerides (fat cells).
Regular exercise also helps to increase HDL in the blood which aids the process of removing excess cholesterol from the blood.
Regular exercising may not have a significant impact on LDL unless exercise is combined with better dietary habits and overall weight loss.
Regular exercise doesn’t need to be particularly intensive, and you can break up your session into 15 minute blocks throughout the day. Try to park the car further away from where you need to go, or get off a few stops early on the bus. Maybe take a walk around the block after your evening meal or go for a walk on your lunch break a couple of times a week. These are all positive small steps that you can take for better health.
To reduce your cholesterol levels without medication, lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke, 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity is recommended, three to four times each week.
Mayo clinic recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week for optimal heart health.
Regular exercise that uses multiple muscle groups is one of the most efficient ways to reduce your cholesterol without medication, while also making your look and feel good.
In sum: Try to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine to reduce your cholesterol levels and improve your overall health.
2. Drink alcohol in moderation
If you drink alcohol, it should be in moderation, as this is one way to reduce your cholesterol without medication.
Cholesterol is produced in the liver, and alcohol is processed through the liver.
Your cholesterol levels as a result of drinking alcohol will depend on how much and how often you drink alcohol.
You shouldn’t exceed more than 1 unit of alcohol a day for women and 2 units of alcohol a day for men.
Here’s what happens to your cholesterol levels when you drink to excess:
Alcohol is processed by the liver. Excess calories from carbohydrates and glucose that is found in most alcoholic drinks are stored as triglycerides, this may lead to an overall increase in your triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
Though certain alcoholic drinks (such as wine) contain sterols, which are said to increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels, there are no health benefits from overdoing it on a night out of the town.
In sum: Drink alcohol in moderation to reduce your cholesterol without medication.
3. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking is another way to reduce your cholesterol levels without medication. (It’s also definitely one of the best steps you can take to improving your overall health.)
Smoking is a highly addictive habit and we know that it’s not easy to quit but there are multiple health benefits to quitting including: a reduced risk of heart attack and a lower risk of developing most cancers, most notably lung cancer.
Here’s what happens to your cholesterol levels when you smoke:
When you smoke, you inhale a whole host of negative chemicals and toxins, we know this much. One of these chemicals is called acrolein.
Acrolein affects the way that the body metabolizes cholesterol, it also damages the oxidation process of LDL cholesterol in the body. This metabolic change and damage to molecular structure may lead to a build up of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the arteries.
Smoking is said to lower the volume of HDL (good cholesterol) in the bloodstream, this hinders the body’s ability to process and expel cholesterol from the body.
In sum: Quit smoking, we know it’s hard but once you do, you are decreasing your not only your cancer risk, but you may reduce your cholesterol levels without medication.
4. Cut out trans fats
Cut out trans fats where possible. The FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) is currently forcing food companies to phase trans fats out of their products
Trans fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. This practice is carried out to increase the shelf life of products.
Trans fats are often found in ready made meals, frozen and microwavable foods, processed baked goods and margarine.
Here’s what happens when you eat trans fat:
Trans fats raise your LDL (bad cholesterol levels).
Trans fats lower your HDL (good cholesterol levels.)
Regularly eating trans fats increases your risk of high cholesterol, developing type 2 diabetes and increasing your risk of heart disease.
In sum: Cut out trans fats to lower your cholesterol without medication. Trans fats have no nutritional benefit and should be avoided where possible for optimal health.
5. Lose a few pounds
If you are living with high cholesterol, losing weight is one way to help reduce your cholesterol levels without medication.
You may be a healthy weight but still have high cholesterol, however, high cholesterol is more common in people who are overweight or obese,
If you are overweight or obese, losing a few pounds is one of the best things your can do to lower and maintain your cholesterol levels.
If you have high cholesterol and start to lose weight, here’s what happens:
Weight loss increases the production of HDL (good cholesterol), this improves the transportation of excess cholesterol from all around the body to the liver.
Weight loss may decrease the amount of LDL (bad cholesterol in the blood, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Weight loss has been found to reduce overall cholesterol levels.
In sum: Lose weight to help reduce your cholesterol levels without medication. Weight loss benefits your health in not only increasing HDL levels but also reducing LDL levels.
6. Get your cholesterol tested on a regular basis
Any adult over the age of 20 years of age should get their cholesterol tested and other risk factors checked at least every 4-6 years. There are no symptoms of high cholesterol which makes it even more important to get tested on a regular basis.
High cholesterol increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease which makes it all the more important to get tested.
After the age of 40, your physician will use an equation which takes your cholesterol levels and lifestyle risk factors into consideration to calculate your cardiovascular risk score. This offers a 10 year look into your potential risk of having a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke.
The most accurate way to check your cholesterol is through a blood test.
LetsGetChecked offer at home cholesterol tests that measure total triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol).
7. Add healthy proteins to your diet
Adding healthy proteins is a good approach for reducing your cholesterol levels without medication.
The Cleaveland Clinic reports that choosing cleaner and leaner proteins may help to lower both your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure.
If you are trying to lose weight to improve your cholesterol levels, it’s also good to know that healthy proteins help you to control your appetite by helping you feel fuller for longer.
Whey protein may also help to lower cholesterol levels, as it carries the health benefits of dairy products without high levels of fat, it also acts as a good source of supplementation for those who are vegan or vegetarian.
Here are some healthy proteins that may lower cholesterol and leave you feeling fuller for longer:
- Skinless turkey
- Skinless chicken
- Whey protein
- Low fat milk and yoghurt
How much protein should you eat each day?
Women should aged 19-70 years of age should aim to consume 46 grams of protein each day.
Men aged 19-70 years of age should aim to consume 56 grams of protein each day.
In sum: Eating more protein acts as a double whammy in improving your cholesterol levels by reducing the unhealthy fats that are associated with certain protein sources, and by leaving you feeling fuller for longer, which helps you on your weight loss journey to lower cholesterol levels without medication.
8. Eat more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Eating more omega 3 fatty acids may decrease your overall cholesterol levels without medication.
Omega 3 fatty acids are present in a number of foods. Omega 3 fatty acids are known as “nutraceuticals”. (A compound that provides health benefits.)
Omega 3 fatty acids may have an impact on lowering your total cholesterol levels.
Here are some foods that contain omega 3 fatty acids:
- Most seeds
- Most nuts, excluding peanuts
- Flaxseed oil
- Canola oil
It is recommended that you eat a portion of the above foods at least twice a week. Not only do omega 3 fatty acids potentially lower your cholesterol but they may also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, reduce blood pressure and are thought to prevent a common eye disease in old age called macular degeneration.
In sum: Try to incorporate more omega 3-rich foods into your diet to help reduce your cholesterol levels naturally.
9. Make checking food labels a habit
Reading and understanding food labels is a good method for helping to lower your cholesterol levels without medication.
If you understand how much fat you should be eating each day as part of a well-balanced diet, there’s a better chance that you will be better able to make better food choices during your grocery shop.
20-35% of your daily caloric intake should come from fat.
Let’s break this down by going through the steps of how to calculate how much food is in a particular food product:
- Check how many grams of fat are in a product.
- Multiply this number by 9. (There are 9 calories per gram of fat.)
- Check how many servings there are within the food package.
Total fat (5 grams) X Calories per gram of fat (9 calories) X Serving sizes per packet (2 servings) = 90 calories.
If you follow a 2,000 calorie a day diet, this would mean that you have consumed 4.5% of the total recommended fat intake via eating 90 calories of fat.
10. Eat more fruit and veg
Eating more fruit and veg can be an effective way to help lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
Fruit and vegetables contain substances known as plant sterols or plant stanols. Plant sterols naturally occur in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Some foods, such as margarine are fortified with plant sterols as an alternative to butter.
Here’s what happens when you eat plant sterols and stanols:
Plant sterols and stanols closely resemble cholesterol molecules, the more plant sterols and stanols you have circulating in the blood, the better your defence mechanism against the absorption of cholesterol into the blood.
Plant sterols and stanols mimic cholesterol molecules and therefore block its absorption into the digestive tract.
The regular consumption of plant sterols and plant stanols is said to lower cholesterol cholesterol levels by A) Reducing how much cholesterol can be produced in the body. B) Limiting the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract.
In sum: Incorporating more fruit and vegetables into the diet can increase the amount of plant sterols and stanols in the blood, naturally decreasing the amount of cholesterol in the blood in a natural way.
11. Check your cooking habits
Reviewing your cooking habits is one of the best ways to get an idea on how to lower your cholesterol levels.
Daily nutrition makes a huge impact in lowering and controlling your cholesterol levels.
Cooking the majority of meals yourself can help make a huge difference in your cholesterol levels as you know exactly what ingredients are going into your meals.
Grill/stirfry/steam and boil all foods when cooking as opposed to frying, baking or deep fat frying.
Cook food in a small amount of vegetable oil and add a little water during cooking to reduce the amount of oil you’re using in your cooking.
Make healthy swaps. Use unsweetened yoghurt instead of cream sauces and fruit purees instead of sweet or syrup based sauces.
Have at least one meat-free day per week.
Put an emphasis on portion sizes, the more you understand your portion sizes, the better.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Susan O' Sullivan