Can you really reduce your cholesterol naturally through diet and exercise changes over three months? One of our writers put it to the test.
I am healthy female, early forties, on the lower end of the healthy weight range. I exercise every day, don’t smoke and eat very little meat. But I have stubbornly higher cholesterol that won’t budge. After a recent blood test with my doctor she explained that if we couldn’t lower it naturally we would need to consider a prescription drug option.
Taking a regular tablet wasn’t something I was comfortable with until I knew I had explored all other options, so after a lengthy chat to my doctor and a little research (thanks google!) I made some tweaks to my diet and exercise regime and gave myself a three month window to reduce my cholesterol naturally.
But first things first let’s find out a little more about what cholesterol is.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy like substance that is present in every cell of our bodies, it is essential to assist in producing vitamin C, hormones and digesting food. Our bodies need a small amount of cholesterol to function properly. There is good and bad cholesterol.
Why is too much cholesterol bad?
Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can harden arteries and promote fatty deposits within arteries, potentially leading to dangerous blockages and narrowing over time which could potentially cause a heart attack or other heart related problems.
I decided to tackle my high cholesterol in two ways, through diet and exercise. It is important to note (as you’ll see below) that my diet was already quite healthy and exercise better than average, but with a few additional tweaks I wanted to see if I could smash this cholesterol problem.
I have named some food products that I included in my trial diet below, but note that this trial is not sponsored by any food company or brand and these were just the products that were available from my local food store. Any alternative product with the same ingredients would, I imagine, work in exactly the same way.
My Pre-Trial Cholesterol Results
Total cholesterol: 7.4 mml/L
LDL: 5.3 mml/L
HDL: 1.5 mml/L
Typical Day’s Diet (pre-trial)
My pre-trial diet was pretty healthy. I’ve always eaten well, I’m not much of a junk food or fast food eater and I love healthy food.
Breakfast (one of these options)
– 1 cup of full fat Greek yoghurt, fresh raspberries and granola
-Two poached eggs on grainy toast with butter and avocado
– Wholemeal toast with butter, avocado, cherry tomatoes and feta
Lunch (one of these options)
– Brown rice, tuna or salmon, salad greens with lemon juice and olive oil dressing
– Sushi/Sashimi and seaweed salad, miso soup
-Vietnamese Pho Noodle soup
-Wholemeal roll with salad, cheese and mayonnaise
Dinner (one of these options)
– Pasta with Veggie Bolognese Sauce with Parmesan cheese and olive oil
– Roast salmon fillet with fresh steamed greens and baked potatoes
– Homemade Basil Pesto with Parmesan cheese and cherry tomatoes
-Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
-Chocolate (twice a day usually milk or dark)
-Vita-weet or rice crackers with full fat cheddar cheese and hummus
– Bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese
Herbal tea (licorice, peppermint, chamomile) green tea, 2 litres of water, red wine (9 units per week total), high fat milk.
Typical Day’s Diet (during trial)
During the trial I kept my breakfast pretty much the same each day (with a heart healthy smoothie every single day) and about once every two weeks I would have 2 poached eggs on grainy toast with avocado (no butter). The yoghurt I used in smoothies was a high protein, low fat yoghurt.
I made a few tweaks to my lunches for the trial but my dinners pretty much remained the same as pre-trial with a few exceptions. If I was adding Parmesan cheese to pasta I halved the amount I usually added and any meals cooked with cream (ie curries) I switched to a light cream or replaced with a low fat yoghurt.
Heart Healthy Smoothie (1 tbsp of oats, LSA and psyllium husk, 1 banana, 1 tbsp of organic cacao, 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries, 250ml of oat milk, 1 tbsp low fat, high protein yoghurt, 1 tsp Manuka honey, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon – blended until fully combined).
1 teaspoon of almond butter
2 Cholesterol Lowering Weet-Bix spread with Nuttelex Pulse Spread and drizzled with Manuka Honey
Lunch (one of below options)
– Brown rice and avocado sushi & sashimi with miso soup
– Tuna salad with avocado, chopped almonds and lemon juice olive oil dressing
-Food Bowl with shredded chicken, avocado, quinoa, edamame and salad and tahini dressing
Dinner (one of below options)
– Pasta with Veggie Bolognese Sauce with Parmesan Cheese & olive oil
– Roasted vegetable pasta with pine nuts, olive oil and baby spinach
– Grilled white fish or salmon with steamed greens and mashed sweet potato
– Nuts (almonds, cashews and walnuts)
– Chocolate (twice a day usually milk or dark)
– Hummus with crackers
-Fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
Herbal tea (licorice, peppermint, chamomile) green tea, 2 litres water, red wine (9 units per week total), low fat milk.
You can see that the only change I made to my exercise regime was to increase the amount of steps I was taking each day considerably. (Read our tips on walking more here).
Pilates/yoga four times a week
Walking 8000-10000 steps a day
Pilates/yoga four times a week
Walking 12000-16000 steps a day
Post-Trial Cholesterol Test Results
Total Cholesterol: 5.9 mml/L
LDL: 3.5 mml/L
HDL: 1.9 mml/L
I was a little nervous waiting for my results and very pleasantly surprised when I received them, I had reduced my cholesterol naturally in three months with a few lifestyle tweaks. When I reflect on the three months I think these are the changes that had the biggest impact.
– My morning smoothie, packed full of oats, physillium husk, LSA, blueberries and oat milk
– Switching most dairy to a low-fat version or dairy alternative and reducing the amount I consumed
– Walking considerably more steps each day
– Adding more good fats with avocado, salmon, olive oil and nuts
It will be interesting to track progress in another three months to see whether sustaining the regime is the key to keeping my cholesterol lower, but for now I’m happy to have made good progress and avoided having to go straight in to taking a daily tablet.
All information contained in this article is the personal account of our writer’s experience with the cholesterol trial. As always you should talk to you doctor about your own personal experience, requirements, background and family history before embarking on any diet or exercise regime.