The lower your low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol, the lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, reports the American Heart Association. In fact, LDL cholesterol can be used to determine your risk for heart attack even better than total cholesterol. By lowering your bad cholesterol through a healthy diet rich in fiber, fruits and vegetables, you can help keep your heart healthy and free of disease.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables
A study published in 2004 in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" collected data from 4,466 subjects in the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Family Heart Study to determine the relationship between LDL cholesterol levels and a high fruit and vegetable intake. The researchers found an inverse relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and LDL in both men and women.
Obesity is commonly linked to high cholesterol levels. A study published in 2007 in "Diabetes Care" concluded that, in obese men with metabolic syndrome, weight loss was able to reduce LDL concentrations.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, regular physical activity can both lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while simultaneously increasing high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol. Benefits can be observed from as few as 60 minutes of medium-intensity aerobic exercise per week, although more active individuals will experience greater results.
Eat a Fiber-Rich Diet
A 2008 paper published in "Current Atherosclerosis Report" notes that different types of soluble fiber, including fiber from vegetables and legumes, has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol.
Choose Foods High in Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy fats that are present in many types of seafood. A 2004 study published in "Metabolism" found that omega-3 fatty acids combined with exercise were able to improve cholesterol levels more than either treatment alone.
Use Fiber Supplements
Soluble fiber supplements can be a great source of fiber for individuals who may lack a fiber-rich diet. Fiber supplements including beta-glucan, pectin and guar gum can help lower bad cholesterol.
Limit Saturated Fat
Regularly consuming foods high in saturated fats can negatively affect your cholesterol levels. In addition, many foods high in saturated fats are also high in cholesterol, which can boost cholesterol levels even higher. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products such as beef, lamb, pork and dairy products such as butter, cheese and cream. By limiting these foods, you can help bring your LDL cholesterol back to a healthy level.
Avoid Trans Fats
Trans fatty acids can be produced through commercial hydrogenation or naturally in the stomach of ruminant animals. A 2010 study published in the "Public Library of Science" found that all trans fats increased the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol. By avoiding foods that contain trans fats or use hydrogenated oils, you can lower your LDL levels.
Of all fiber supplements, psyllium husk in particular is known for its potential to lower cholesterol. MedlinePlus has given psyllium a rating of "likely effective" for reducing cholesterol levels in people with mild to moderately high cholesterol. A dose of 10 to 12 grams daily can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 5 percent to 10 percent after seven weeks, according to MedlinePlus.
According to bestselling author and herbal product formulator Dr. Ray Sahelian, there are several natural supplements, other than fiber, that can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. These include niacin, artichoke leaf, mangosteen and beta sitosterol.
- Current Atherosclerosis Reports: Effects of Soluble Dietary Fiber on Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Coronary Heart Disease Risk
- MedlinePlus: Blond psyllium
- Public Library of Science: Effect of Animal and Industrial Trans Fatty Acids on HDL and LDL Cholesterol Levels in Humans -- A Quantitative Review
- Diabetes Care: Effect of Weight Loss on LDL and HDL Kinetics in the Metabolic Syndrome: Associations with Changes in Plasma Retinol-Binding Protein-4 and Adiponectin Levels
- Metabolism: Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Exercise on Low-Density Lipoprotein and High-Density Lipoprotein Subfractions
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: How Is High Blood Cholesterol Treated?
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and LDL Cholesterol: The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Family Heart Study
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fats
- Ray Sahelian M.D: Cholesterol Lowering Supplements, Natural Ways Using Vitamin, Herbs, Diet and Foods - Natural Therapy for Healthy Blood Cholesterol Level Management
- American Heart Association: What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean