Image Credit: Russ / flickr

What can I do to lower my cholesterol? It seems I’ve tried everything!

Help! I went vegan for 4 months with no statins. My cholesterol shot up to 280. (From 180). On statins and a diet with rare “tastes” of meat and dairy, I am at 170-180. I would hate to take more statins, any suggestions?

Carolynn / Originally posted in Everything in Moderation? Even Heart Disease?

Answer:

For those who have tried eating a whole food plant-based diet and still have high LDL, you should make sure you’re not eating plant sources of saturated fat, such as palm kernal oil, palm oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter (found in chocolate). Of course if you were you wouldn’t be eating a whole food plant-based diet, but you’d be surprised how many people tell me they are and they’re like “Yeah, and I eat a spoonful of coconut oil a day.” I’d also cut out unfiltered coffee. Then once you have gotten rid of the things that increase your cholesterol you need to pack your diet with foods that actively lower your choleserol. So, for example, the components of the portfolio diet for lowering cholesterol. I’ll highlight some of the diet tips found in Dr. Jenkins protocol using Dr. Greger’s videos as reference. 

1) Load up on foods high in soluble fiber. This means tons of beans (see what kind are best: canned or cooked), vegetables like okra, plenty of whole fruit, oatmeal, and flax/chia seed. Find ways to use beans. Lentil stew, dal, curries, bean burritos, bean soup. If you don’t like beans whole, like in a salad, maybe try them as a spread or as hummus? 

2) Take about 2 Tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily and 4 Brazil nuts monthly. Sprinkling ground flax on oatmeal in the morning is an easy way to get enough. Or add it to a smoothie. If you buy the flax whole just add it in the blender first, grind it, and then add the rest of your ingredients. 

3) Focus on several cups of greens daily to help keep nitric oxide flowing. Vegetables loaded with nitrates have been shown to improve heart health. Beets and arugula have tons! (See video on where other vegetables rank on nitrate levels). Yes, green smoothies count if you’re adding the right foods like berries and dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, even parsley). What’s better? Raw or cooked vegetables? Well, it may depend on what veggies are cooked. Lastly, a word of caution for those going wild on greens is that overdosing on raw greens can happen.

Dr. Greger says to get thyroid function tested, too. A low-functioning thyroid can contribute to high cholesterol so it’s good to rule that out. Weight loss is also important if there is too much abdominal fat. Is your height more than twice your waist circumference? So  there are a lot of factors to consider, but if folks are practicing heathy eating and managing body weight and still find their LDL is not coming down they should definitely consider a statin. As I always say make sure to check with your doctor about all of this. It’s important to be transparent and communicate with everyone. 

Lastly, here are some of the best videos to help understand more about diet and cholesterol. Sometimes folks will ask questions like does cholesterol have a lower limit, or, what about the size of LDL particles does that matter? ​Thankfully Dr. Greger addresses this in his video: Does LDL size matter? and Cholesterol does not appear to have a lower limit. A few concerns with dietary cholesterol is that there’s a plateau effect issue and the postprandial (after eating) issue. These videos explain the issues further: When Low Risk Means High Risk and Eggs and Arterial Function. Find out what’s an Optimal Cholesterol Level to shoot for. 

 Image Credit Russ / flickr

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