You can use food to help you reduce your cholesterol levels
It’s all about choosing what you eat and eating foods like kidney beans that have lots of fiber in them is a good start. When you get to the nitty gritty of fibers, there’s debate about the definitions – because there are a few different types. Most fibers come from material that make up the cell walls of plants, and despite the different terms everyone agrees on where to get it which foods have good amounts of it. Fibers used to be just ‘soluble’ and ‘insoluble’ now there are new names for fiber and they called “viscous, non viscous, fermentable, non fermentable” as well as “soluble” and “insoluble” fibers.
Soluble fibers dissolve in water and form a thick gelatinous mass in the colon.
They are also known as “viscous fibers, fermentable fibers,” and are a prebiotic. This sounds disgusting but one seriously useful effect of having a thick gelatinous mass in your colon is that it traps bile. Bile is a digestive fluid that is released whenever you eat anything fatty. Its purpose is to allow the fats that you eat to mingle in with digestive fluids that are essentially very watery. You know the old saying: waters and oils don’t mix, well they do when bile is involved. Bile lets the enzymes that are needed to break fats down actually get to them, – otherwise you’d be missing all kinds of nutrients that are carried only in fats. The body makes about 800mg to 1000mg cholesterol per day, and roughly half of it is used to synthesize bile. Every day, 20 – 30 grams of bile is secreted into your intestines to do its job, and about 90% gets re-absorbed in your colon and recycled back through the liver and gallbladder.
But……when bile gets caught up in soluble fibers
it gets eliminated from your body via feces and we can use this knowledge to our advantage because bile is made from cholesterol. The body has to pull cholesterol from your blood stream in order to replenish your bile supplies and in the process your blood cholesterol is reduced.
Even though our liver produces cholesterol daily that’s not as much of a problem as it might seem
when you consider that it’s only a certain type of cholesterol – small dense LDL cholesterol – that causes damage to arteries. It gets oxidized pretty easily (this is a bad thing), and creating the conditions for your body to get rid of old cholesterol and constantly have a supply of new cholesterol that is not yet oxidized seems a really smart thing to do.
It’s true that some cholesterol lowering drugs
Do prevent the synthesis of cholesterol – and this is a decision you need to make with your doctor, but undamaged LDL cholesterol is not the problem. LDL is considered a marker of cardiac risk, but oxidized LDL has been found to be a much stronger predictor of heart attacks- even in apparently healthy people.
Choosing foods high in fiber on a daily basis will help bring your cholesterol levels down.
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains all contain both soluble and insoluble fiber; some contain more of one kind than the other kind. Oats for example are a great source of the soluble fiber beta glucan. Plenty of studies have confirmed the ability of oates to lower cholesterol, which is why the FDA allows oat products containing at least 0.75 gram of soluble fiber per serving to advertise this on their label. But just including oats once per day really isn’t going to cut it. Seriously – you can’t just expect to have bowl of quick oats and make all your cholesterol problems go away. If you are serious about using your diet to fix your cholesterol problems then eating soluble fiber foods several times per day – along with avoiding the foods that create problems for your cholesterol profile is the way to go.
OK so which foods are the ones we should be eating?
Foods that contain gums, pectins, mucilages, hemicelluloses and beta glucan – all of these are dietary fibers that help reduce cholesterol levels:
Beans and peas, lentils, chick peas, cereals, seeds and seaweed (try it as salad) for Gums
Apples currants, plums, peaches, and some citrus fruits for Pectins
Flax seeds (grind them first to allow adequate digestion) for Mucilages
Legumes, peas and beans contain aribinose which is a soluble fiber for hemicellulose
Oates mushrooms, barley and yeasts for Beta Glucan
And it’s not just how viscous they are
But how fermentable they are that helps. You’ve heard of prebiotics right? It means providing food for bacteria to live on – also called fermentation. Soluble fibers provide a lovely feast for healthy friendly gut bacteria to work their magic with your body. The colon is home to billions of bacteria, and you probably have heard of some of them in certain yogurt brands. These good bacteria include lactobacillus and bifidus. They’re called friendly bacteria because they compete with unfriendly bacteria and prevent illness (about 70% of immunity is in the gut), and, they feed on the fiber we eat. As a byproduct of this they produce short chain fatty acids. One in particular – proprionic acid has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in clinical studies.
Supplementation to support healthy cholesterol levels is an option you may like to try
Our medications originally came from plants, and supplements can be an excellent adjunct to a healthy diet but don’t think they can’t hurt you. While they have healing and helpful benefits, if you have other medical conditions or are pregnant or breastfeeding, or take other medications you need to consult your doctor or other qualified health provider to determine if the particular supplement is safe for you.
All supplements don’t work the same for all people.
What works very well for one person might not work nearly as well for another. Its in our genes you see…. this branch of nutrition science is called genomics and it is in its very early stages. Eventually we will be able to determine which medications, and supplements and therapies will work for a person based on their genes – but we can’t do that yet.
There are a lot of reasons that there are differences in the results of scientific studies, and genomics is just one.
But there is evidence for the benefits of some supplements for lowering cholesterol.
Strong scientific evidence supports the use of: Beta-glucan, Beta-sitosterol, Niacin (strong to good evidence), Omega-3 fatty acids(strong to good evidence) Psyllium, Red yeast rice, Soy
Good scientific evidence supports the use of: Arginine (mixed to good evidence) Avocado, Barley, Carob, Chia, Chiotsan, Gamma oryzanol, Garlic, Ginseng, Globe artichoke, Pantethine, Policosanol, Sweet Almond, Zinc
Putting the right things into your body is important but
Other things will help too. Keeping the wrong foods out of your body is every bit as important as putting the right foods in, and exercising regularly is a major part of it too. I’ll be talking about those matters soon.