High cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease, heart attack or stroke. While many people use medications to improve their cholesterol levels, there are also be nutrition-based ways to help bring cholesterol down. In fact, certain juices -- including those rich in polyphenols or featuring plant sterols -- may be an effective alternative to traditional cholesterol management.
Cholesterol -- or blood cholesterol, as it is sometimes called -- is a waxy, fatlike substance carried in the bloodstream. While cholesterol is crucial for some bodily functions, including the production of certain hormones, cholesterol levels that are out of normal range can pose a serious health risk. High amounts of low-density lipoproteins, or LDL cholesterol, are associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease. In contrast, low amounts of high-density lipoproteins, or HDL cholesterol, make it more difficult for your body to process and excrete cholesterol from the body.
Polyphenol-rich juices -- including pomegranate juice -- may be effective for improving cholesterol levels. In fact, research by Batya Kristal, M.D., of the Western Galilee Hospital in Israel found that dialysis patients who consumed 100 milliliters of pomegranate juice three times per week for one year experienced decreases in LDL and total cholesterol and improvements in HDL cholesterol. Similarly, a 2006 study published in "American Society for Nutrition" suggests that red grape juice -- another rich source of polyphenols -- is also effective when it comes to lowering cholesterol levels. Other juices that offer high amounts of polyphenols include those made from purple grapes cherries, blueberries and cranberries.
Plant Sterol-Rich Juices
Juices that are fortified with plant sterols and stanols may also prove beneficial when it comes to lowering cholesterol levels. According to a study published in 2012 in "Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology," individuals who consumed plant sterol-fortified orange juice for eight weeks experienced a 7.2 percent decrease in their total cholesterol and a 12.4 percent decrease in their LDL cholesterol levels. To achieve this result, adults may need to drink as much as 1 cup of plant sterol-fortified orange juice twice per day -- the equivalent of 16 ounces total.
Making Smart Choices
When it comes polyphenol-rich or plant sterol-fortified juices, not all products are created equal. In fact, some juices feature high amounts of added sugar -- which can increase triglycerides, another type of fat found in the bloodstream. Look for products that are made with 100 percent pure fruit juice. While all fruit contains natural sugar, these juices will at least be free from added sweeteners.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: What Is Cholesterol?
- Medscape: Pomegranate Juice Lowers Cardiovascular Risk Factors
- American Society for Nutrition: Red Grape Juice Polyphenols Alter Cholesterol Homeostasis and Increase LDL-Receptor Activity in Human Cells In Vitro
- American Society for Clinical Nutrition: Polyphenols: Food Sources and Bioavailability
- Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: Plant Sterol-Fortified Orange Juice Effectively Lowers Cholesterol Levels in Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Healthy Individuals
- Metric Conversions: Milliliters to U.S. Fluid Ounces
- The Ohio State University Extension: Sugar Intake Can Affect Triglycerides
- American Heart Association: Why Cholesterol Matters