How can you lower your cholesterol naturally?

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Answered by: Marie, An Expert in the Healthy Living 101 Category
Getting your cholesterol levels under control doesn't require a strict diet or medications with potentially serious side effects. It's not only possible, but also

preferable to lower your cholesterol naturally. A few small yet significant changes in the way you live could bring your cholesterol levels to a healthy range in just a few months.

Choose Your Fats Wisely

The types of fats you eat can dramatically affect your cholesterol levels. Keep the beef, pork, and lamb in your diet to a minimum (ideally, less than 18 ounces a week). These meats are high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Instead, opt for lean meats like fish and skinless poultry. Not only are these choices lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, but they're also richer in heart-healthy polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and omega-3 fats.

You'll also find healthy fats in vegetable oils like olive oil and peanut oil as well as in seeds like sunflower and sesame seeds, and nuts like walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. Try stirring a few spoonfuls of olive oil into your home-cooked soups. Flavor your salads with olive oil, grape seed oil or sesame oil in place of high-fat salad dressing. Add chopped or ground nuts and seeds to your baked goods, vegetable dishes or even meat dishes.

Your cooking methods make a difference, too. Stash the frying pan and bake, steam, roast or broil your foods instead. When you need to baste a food, use olive oil or wine instead of butter.

Snack Smart

Commercially packaged snack foods and baked goods are often loaded with trans fats. These processed fats can wreak havoc with your cholesterol levels.

For better heart health, stick with minimally processed, low-fat snacks like popcorn, dry-roasted nuts and seeds, fresh or dried fruit, and fresh veggies. Homemade oatmeal cookies and angel food cake are also relatively low-fat snack options. If you can't resist the occasional packaged snack, pick ones labeled "trans fat free" and eat only small portions.

Get Your Fill of Fiber

What do oatmeal, apricots, raspberries, and sweet potatoes have in common? These foods are all rich in soluble fiber, a type of carbohydrate that helps lower your cholesterol naturally by stimulating your liver to use up more stored cholesterol.

Fiber requirements vary by age, but on average, women need around 20 grams or more a day, while men should aim to get 30 grams or more daily, with 10 to 25 grams of that coming from soluble fiber. The typical Western diet provides only around half the soluble fiber most people need, so if you have high cholesterol, make a point to work more fiber-rich foods into your diet.

Whole-grain products--oats and barley, in particular--along with legumes like peas, beans, and lentils, and numerous vegetables and fruits are all good sources of soluble fiber. Adding more of these foods to your diet is great, but if you need an easy way to get started, try switching to a high-fiber breakfast cereal and whole-grain bread.

Move Your Body

Eating better isn't the only way to improve your cholesterol profile. Cardiovascular exercise like brisk walking, dancing, and cycling help bring your total cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats) down slightly and can significantly boost your HDL (good) cholesterol.

It doesn't have to be intense exercise, either; it just needs to be vigorous enough to get your heart pumping and increase your breathing rate. On most days of the week, try to fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise.

Give Yoga a Try

Believe it or not, yoga can have serious health benefits, including better cholesterol and blood sugar profiles. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in April 2005 found that after just nine days of practicing yoga, study participants had lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, along with higher HDL cholesterol levels. Yoga's ability to reduce stress hormone levels may be part of the reason for this effect.

By taking significant steps to lower your cholesterol naturally, you should be able to get your cholesterol levels under control within three months. If making major lifestyle changes seems overwhelming, just start with whatever you can. Even small improvements like cutting back on red meats and eating more beans and vegetables can put you on the path towards lower cholesterol and better health overall.

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