green apple with heart image

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, so we’d like to shed light on what it means to have high cholesterol and show you six easy ways to lower it.

According to the CDC, one in six Americans has high cholesterol.

Having high cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in this country. The good news is, there are ways to lower your cholesterol naturally with lifestyle changes.

Not smoking, exercising more, reducing stress, and maintaining a healthy diet are all ways to help lower your cholesterol. It’s the diet part that is often the most confusing. Seventy-five percent of your cholesterol is manufactured by your liver, leaving a quarter due to diet. This seems like a small number, but that twenty-five percent could make the difference between dangerously high cholesterol and a healthy cholesterol level.

Read on to learn about foods that can help to lower cholesterol:

  1. Eat whole grains for breakfast. Whole grains like oatmeal can help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol. In addition to being a healthy breakfast choice, whole grains help keep you full longer, preventing you from overeating when the lunch hour finally gets here. And it doesn’t stop with breakfast: replace processed carbs, such as pasta, white rice, and breakfast cereal, with whole grains like whole-wheat pasta, brown or wild rice, and quinoa.
  2. Eat from the sea. Seafood has zero saturated fat, the main culprit behind raised cholesterol levels. Salmon, tuna, and trout are the best choices and readily available in your local grocery store. These fish contain omega-three fatty acids, which help lower a kind of fat in the blood called triglycerides, and may also reduce cholesterol levels.
  3. Choose good fats. All fats are not created equally. Saturated fats, found in butter, raise “bad” LDL cholesterol. So do trans fats. Trans fats act as preservatives, and so are found in a lot of processed food: frozen foods; mixes like cake mix and bisquick; canned soups; breakfast cereals; and chips and crackers. Avoid processed foods whenever you can. They are also very high in salt which isn’t healthy for you either.  When choosing fats to cook with, go for vegetable oils like olive oil and canola oil, which have unsaturated fat. (Margarine and shortening have trans fats.) Of course, good fats still have calories, so use them in moderation.
  4. Load your plate with fruits and veggies. The fiber in fruits and vegetables helps lower cholesterol. And people who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to fill up on these healthy options, leaving less room for fatty foods and those overloaded with carbohydrates.
  5. Go nuts for nuts. Nuts contain monounsaturated fat, which lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol while leaving the “good” HDL cholesterol alone. (HDL cholesterol helps clear LDL cholesterol from your body.) Eat a small handful every day to boost your health. But don’t eat more than that–nuts are high in calories and fat.
  6. Think portion control. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to ensure that your cholesterol stays at a healthy level. Keep servings moderate, desserts an occasional treat, and don’t go back for seconds.

Have you had an experience with trying to lower cholesterol naturally through a change in diet? Share in the comments!

For more information, please review our Cholesterol Resources.