Six in every 10 people in the UK are currently living with raised or abnormal cholesterol levels, putting them at an increased risk of a range of cardiovascular diseases including strokes and heart attacks.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as there are several simple lifestyle changes you can make to naturally decrease your cholesterol levels and improve your health in the long term.
Top nutritionist Sarah Flower says, “The build-up of cholesterol and fats in the body form a plaque in the artery walls. This plaque can limit the blood flow, particularly to your heart and makes the artery walls thick, hard and inflexible. To stop this build up from happening, I have put together a range of simple tips and lifestyle changes which will help you to lower your cholesterol, with minimum effort.”
1) Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol consumption increases the risk of fatty deposits in the blood. Excessive alcohol consumption also leads to nutrient deficiencies, particularly of those wonderful antioxidants whose role is to protect against lipid (fat) formation in the first place. So if you are worried about your cholesterol or heart, you really need to limit your alcohol consumption – maybe a glass of red wine occasionally as this has been shown to help lower cholesterol – but in moderation!
2) Opt for Good Fats
Oily fish, nuts and seeds are good fats which can help to improve our health and wellbeing. Everyone needs fat in their diet, but to reap the health benefits we need to choose good fats, and limit the amount of saturated fats found in convenience foods. Nuts, seeds and oily fish are all packed with amazing nutrients and omega 3, which is essential for good health. Oily fish has been shown to help lower cholesterol by up to 4%. Walnuts and almonds are fantastic nuts that not only help keep you fuller for longer but also have been shown to help lower cholesterol. Also, try cooking with coconut oil, as this too has some amazing health properties.
3) Pack your Plate with Colour
Eat plenty of vegetables, packed with nutrients, including phytonutrients and antioxidants and fill your plate with colour in every meal. This gives your body the tools it needs to fight infection and promote overall good health. One of the best food sources to lower cholesterol is the humble tomato. Tomatoes contain lycopene which has shown to be as, if not more effective at reducing cholesterol than statins. To ensure you get adequate amounts of lycopene into your diet, I would recommend CardioMato (£18, Boots), a new supplement which is clinically proven to lower bad cholesterol in just six weeks.
4) Embrace the Outdoors
An active lifestyle can really help to lower your cholesterol levels, so try to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. If you’re new to exercise, a gentle walk, jog or cycle can really help. The more vigorous the exercise you choose, the more benefits you will see, but start slowly to ease yourself in and build your fitness levels to avoid injury.
5) Cook from Scratch
This may sound like common sense, but cooking food from scratch will help you to eliminate hidden sugars and trans fats which can be damaging to your health. Processed, tinned and food in jars contain countless numbers of additives so opt for honest, real food to improve your health. Exciting research shows that a low carb, high fat diet could help reverse diabetes, combat obesity, lower high blood pressure and even stabilise cholesterol. The high fat theory is certainly worth exploring, but a word of warning – high fat with high carbohydrates diets will be detrimental to your health so if you are going to increase your fats, you need to reduce your carbs, and by this, you really need to go sugar free, grain free and low carb.