There are several reasons for high cholesterol. It can be genetic. Your blood doesn't produce enough HDL. Obesity due to diet/lifestyle is another common cause, as are liver, gallbladder and intestinal issues, thyroid issues and no exercise. Drugs like Anabolic steroids, and corticosteroids raise LDL and lower HDL. Pregnancy can cause temporary high levels due to an increase in female hormones. Diabetics also usually have high cholesterol.
So unless you have a genetic issue, it's relatively easy to lower your cholesterol levels. But even if you're issue is genetic, you can mitigate it with life style change.
We are usually lead to think there are two types of cholesterol. LDL and HDL. Not exactly.
LDL is Low Density lipoprotein. HDL is High Density lipoprotein. So they are not cholesterol itself. They are proteins that carry/transport cholesterol. HDL removes excess cholesterol from blood and cells, bringing it to the liver for removal. LDL transports cholesterol to the cells from the liver and intestines.
LDL isn't bad cholesterol; too much LDL is bad, because it means too much cholesterol is being moved around instead of being removed. Not only that, it can stick to veins and artery walls clogging arteries and causing low to no blood flow in certain areas. This can destroy limbs, cause heart attacks and strokes. Sadly, it's has no symptoms until something goes wrong.
We need cholesterol in our cells. Every cell has some. It is essential for digestion, making certain hormones, as well as making vitamin D from sun light and counter intuitively: making digestive bile acids. But we don't need it in the blood. It doesn't mix with blood as it's fat soluble and blood is water based. Too much LDL in the blood means there's too much cholesterol in total for the cells, and not enough HDL protein to remove it. HDL is made in the blood. LDL is made by the liver and intestines.
The Liver and intestines make our natural cholesterol as well. But we also ingest it in food. The liver and intestines also make bile salts with the aid of cholesterol.. Yet bile controls cholesterol. Your gallbladder makes, stores and distributes bile. You need enough to control cholesterol, along with the HDL the blood makes.
So if your liver isn't working perfectly it may not be able to get rid of all the extra cholesterol and toxins in the body. Similarly a good working gallbladder is also essential.
Foods for a healthy liver and gallbladder are: coffee, tea, beets, healthy whole grains/fiber, Almonds, spinach and leafy greens, turmeric, garlic, walnuts, carrots, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
So how do you lower LDL? First off: lose weight if you're obese. Excess fat around the liver can lower its function. "fatty liver" Being overweight also raises blood pressure and shrinks arteries decreasing circulation. Stay active.
Sugar can mix with LDL cholesterol in the arteries increasing the risk of it sticking to the walls. Hence why diabetics have it. Tobacco has a similar effect, and nicotine also shrinks arteries. So to lower LDL, limit sugar and quit tobacco.
Avoid processed foods and fast food take outs, trans fats, saturated fats, deep fried foods, chips, cookies, candy etc. Limit dairy products with saturated fats, as well as most fatty animal products..
Foods that lower LDL: First off is Oats for soluble fiber. You need 5 to 10 grams of soluble fibers per day and up 30 grams fiber total.. Oats are the best, but barley and whole grains also have soluble fiber as do Psyllium husks. But grains can also have high omega 6.
Nuts: You need about 30 per day or 2 ounces. Not more. They contain monounsaturated fatty acids which are good for you.. Peanuts too, but they have high omega 6 and no omega 3. We need omega 6 but get too much already. The right ratio is between 1 to 1 and 1 to 4. Western diets give us as much as 1 omega 3 to 26 omega 6. This can/does cause inflammation.
Olives, olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil are also a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Recommended intake of olive oil is 1 to 4 tablespoons per day. Avocados themselves are high in monounsaturated fatty acids as well as being rich in vitamins and minerals..
Seeds like Hemp, chi, flax, etc. have omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. So do fish like salmon mackerel, .and tuna, etc. Recommended for two to three meals per week. Grass fed meat, as opposed to grain fed also have omega 3. So grass fed low fat meat is good for you in moderation. Omega 3 is essential for lowering LDL. Supplements are acceptable.
Kael has omega 3. So do other plants/vegetables. Carrots are high in fiber. Egg plant is also recommended as are Beans (soluble fiber)
Apples, citrus fruits, grapes, strawberries, blue berries, tart cherries, and black berries are great for lowering cholesterol.
Dark chocolate: over 70 percent cocoa, is also a must for lowering LDL.
Herbs and spices: Garlic, 2 or more cloves per day.
Turmeric : one tea spoon or 500 mg a day with 1 eighth spoon of black pepper for absorption.
Ginger. One gram a day, but not more than 4 grams a day
Pro biotic yogurt. Pro biotics in general.
Drinks: tea and Green tea:( for antioxidants.) Tart Cherrie juice, ginger tea. A glass of Red wine.
Yes, small amounts of alcohol are ok. But red wine is best.
One last thing. If you are on medication make sure none of the food you eat interferes with or reacts with your medication. Check on line.
For example, I take a low dose high blood pressure pill. I started eating limes every day. My blood pressure went from 130 over 80 to 100 over 60. Scared the hell out of me till I discovered why. My heart rate also dropped to between 40 and 55 beats per minute.
Apparently grapefruit and limes either enhance or stop the effects of some high blood pressure meds, depending on the individual, and the effects last for 24 hours.
Just by looking up my drug and the foods that react with it saved my life. Shouldn't doctors warn us?
Ron Hooft (author) from Ottawa on January 29, 2021:
Thanks for the nice comments. I just hope the information helps people.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 29, 2021:
Th is is a very well-written article that explins cholesterol very clearly, Ron. We can all learn about which foods are the healthiest.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 28, 2021: