4 Ways to Lower Cholesterol – Naturally

These days with obesity levels soaring & processed foods abound, it’s no surprise when you hear so many people struggling with high cholesterol levels.  Doctors are dispensing statin drugs at an increasing rate, but if your doctor tries to prescribe one of these for you – tell him/her to hold the pills because there are other, natural, options!

Cholesterol1

The trouble with statins

Most often when people go to the doctor & find out they have high cholesterol the first thing their doctor wants to do is put them on a statin drug.  Statins are a type of drug that lowers cholesterol by inhibiting the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme, which plays a large role in the production of cholesterol in the liver.

Unfortunately, it’s not as cut & dry as simply taking a statin drug & lowering your cholesterol – there are side affects, as with any drug.  Some noted side affects are:

  • muscle pain & damage
  • depletion of CoQ10
  • liver damage
  • digestive problems
  • rash or flushing
  • increased blood sugar or Type II Diabetes
  • neurological side affects

The statins don’t only affect your body’s production of cholesterol in the liver, but they also affect several other enzymes in muscle cells(1).

Instead of putting your body at risk with taking a medication & potentially enduring side affects, why not try & lower your cholesterol naturally?  I have FOUR suggestions (proven, researched methods) for lowering your cholesterol NATURALLY, without the use of statin drugs.

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#1. Guggul

Extracts of the resin of the guggul tree can lower LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) levels.  The active plant sterol guggulsterone acts as an antagonist ligand to farnesoid X receptor (FXR) & lowers cholesterol levels(2).

Guggul extract capsules available HERE.

#2. Chinese Red Yeast Rice

“Red yeast rice significantly reduces total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and total triacylglycerol concentrations compared with placebo and provides a new, novel, food-based approach to lowering cholesterol in the general population.”(3)

Red yeast rice supplement available HERE.

#3. Berberine

Berberine is a compound that is isolated from an ancient Chinese herb & is a proven cholesterol lowering compound.

“Oral administration of BBR [berberine] in 32 hypercholesterolemic patients for 3 months reduced serum cholesterol by 29%, triglycerides by 35% and LDL-cholesterol by 25%.” (4)

Berberine supplement available HERE.

#4.  A Low-Carbohydrate (high fat) Diet 

In a study comparing the effects of both a low-carb & a high-carb diet on dietary triglycerides & cholesterol, the low-carb diet results in lower blood lipid levels & higher HDL, whereas higher carbohydrate typically seems to be associated with increased blood lipids & lower HDL levels(5).

Often times besides just looking at the LDL particle number you need to look at the particle type/SIZE.  There are two types of LDL particles – small dense LDL; or large fluffy LDL.  The small dense particles are the dangerous ones, whereas the large fluffy ones are showing to not prove any increased risk(6).

The bottom line…

Sometimes drugs are the only viable option, but in the case of cholesterol I think there are so many natural, alternative solutions.  Food is powerful & when possible, I always like to default to using food as medicine.  Hopefully one of the above choices (along with a healthy diet & exercise) will make a difference for you if you’re looking to lower your cholesterol without statin drugs.

 

Sources:

  1. Mayo Clinic.  High Cholesterol. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/statin-side-effects/art-20046013
  2. Science.  A Natural Product That Lowers Cholesterol As an Antagonist Ligand for FXR. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/296/5573/1703.short
  3. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  Cholesterol-lowering effects of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement.  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/2/231.short
  4. Nature Medicine.  Berberine is a novel cholesterol-lowering drug working through a unique mechanism distinct from statins. http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v10/n12/full/nm1135.html
  5. Journal of Lipid Research. Effects of dietary carbohydrate and fat on plasma lipoproteins and apolipoproteins C-ll and C-Ill in healthy men. http://www.jlr.org/content/23/6/877.full.pdf+html
  6. Lab Tests Online.  LDL Particle Testing.  The Test.  http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/lipoprotein-subfractions/tab/test/

Creamy Crock Pot Spiced Chicken

Hello, & Happy Memorial Day to all of my U.S. friends!  In case you’re in the mood for some recipe pinning and/or cooking, I thought I’d share my latest low-carb food recipe.  This is a great, easy, & healthy crock pot one, too!!

CreamyCrockPotChikn

If you love Indian food & the creaminess, but also a bit of spice… this is perfect!  It’s low-carb & keto friendly as well.

I love having it over some steamed broccoli, rather than rice, but you could easily do that or make some cauliflower rice too!

Creamy Crock Pot Spiced Chicken
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
An easy, low-carb & versatile chicken dish that can be made in your crock pot, reminiscent of creamy Indian dishes. Pairs perfectly with steamed broccoli, or other veggies of your choosing.
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch/Dinner
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1-1/4lb Chicken thighs, boneless & skinless
  • 1 Plum tomato, sliced
  • ½c Sour cream
  • 3T Tomato sauce (no added sugar)
  • 2T Heavy whipping cream
  • 1T Butter
  • ½tsp Cumin, ground
  • ¼tsp Nutmeg, ground
  • ½tsp Red pepper, ground
  • ½tsp White pepper, ground
  • 1tsp Parsley, dried
Instructions
  1. Place chicken at the bottom of the crock pot, then add all the wet ingredients, tomato, & following with the dry spices.
  2. Place cover on crock pot & cook on low about 6-8 hours.
  3. Stir to break up & evenly distribute chicken. Let cool slightly & serve.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ¾ cup Calories: 344 Fat: 23g Saturated fat: 11g Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 3.6g Sugar: 1.7g Sodium: 198mg Fiber: 0.7g Protein: 27.8g Cholesterol: 167g

How are you spending your Memorial Day?

The Week In Fitness #80

Hey there friends!!  Happy Sunday & Memorial Day Weekend for those of us in the US!  It’s that time of week where we take a look at this past week’s fitness & workouts!  Let’s see how I did, shall we?

WeekInFitness

Monday 5.18.15

50 to 50 Cardio & Strength Workout – 2x’s (via Pinterest)

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Tuesday 5.19.15

40 mins elliptical

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Wednesday 5.20.15

Living Room Workout – 3x’s (via Pinterest)

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Thursday 5.21.15

Stair Sprints!!  12 times up & down (floors 3-7)

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Friday 5.22.15

30 Minute “KILLER” At-Home Cardio Workout – 2x’s (via Pinterest)

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Saturday 5.23.15

Upper Body & Core Strength Circuit Workout – 3x’s (via Pinterest)

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Sunday 5.24.15

Rest day

 

Workout summary: 3 days of strength-style circuit workouts, 1 day of sprints, 2 cardio days, & 1 rest day.  A pretty nice variety.

My Pinterest Workouts board is great for workout inspiration – check it out!  

Remember, if you don’t start, you’ll never know how great you can be!! 😉

Happy Sunday friends!!

•How did you get active this week?  
•Do you have a favorite Pinterest workout?

Frankenfood Friday #19: Coca-Cola Life

Hello friends & happy Friday!!  It’s that time again… time were I crush your dreams put the spotlight on some foods that are less-than-optimal food choices.  These are items I like to call Frankenfood – aka not REAL food, but sometimes these “foods” tend to fly under the health halo radar & we think they might be healthy, but in reality… they are not.

FrankenFoodFriday

Today’s item isn’t exactly a frankenFOOD per say, more like a frankenDRINK.  I first heard about this product a while back & I have to admit, it sounded intriguing, especially since they made a big deal about it being sweetened with Stevia, a natural, plant-derived sweetener.  The product I speak of is Coca-Cola Life, the new stevia-sweetened soda from Coca-Cola.

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I was under the impression that this would be a strictly stevia-sweetened soda without any added sugar or other additives, but when I had a chance to see it in the store recently – that’s not quite the case.  Let’s see what’s actually in it…

CokeSteviaIngred

If you take a look at the ingredients & the order of them (first is most plentiful, etc) you’ll see CANE SUGAR as the second ingredient.  Hmm… stevia-sweetened, huh?  Call me crazy, but I don’t even see stevia listed until the very LAST ingredient, meaning it’s the smallest amount in there.  Interesting.

The next ingredients are CARAMEL COLOR and NATURAL FLAVORS.  So, in other words… fake coloring added & who knows what kind of natural flavors – beaver glands?  Hard to say, but at least they are NATURAL. 😉

I don’t know about you, but I find this new soda geared toward being more “natural” not quite… so natural & great.  Kind of a disappointment & still a wolf trying to parade around in sheep’s clothing.

CocaColaLife

I really don’t recommend drinking soda & consider it a very healthy choice, but if you’re going to drink some & looking for a somewhat better alternative, check out the Zevia sodas that really are sweetened with stevia, along with a bit of erythritol.

• Are you a soda lover?  Ever tried this product?
• What food would you like to see featured next week?

Fructose: It’s natural, but how much is TOO much?

Hey there, friends!  Let’s talk about fructose.  It’s been a hot topic floating around in the health world lately & has been rumored to not be so great – especially in large amounts.  Is there any truth to that?  Well, let’s dig into the whole fructose debate a bit & see if we can get to the bottom of it & what the research says!

Fructose1

What is fructose?

Fructose is a simple sugar (monosaccharide) that is naturally occurring in mainly fruits, some vegetables, & honey, which gives them their sweet taste.  It’s sweeter than either glucose or sucrose.  Besides being naturally in fruits, there is a crystalline fructose form, which is fructose that is made from processing corn or sugar & is 100% fructose, but in crystals.  It’s often added to processed foods as a sweeter & sometimes confused with HFCS.  The difference between this & high fructose corn syrup is that HFCS is composed of 50% fructose & 50% glucose (1).

Fructose is metabolized by the body differently than glucose (the other half of a sugar molecule), by needing to go through the liver first, while glucose can simply be transported into the cells via insulin & glut-4 cellular transporters.  Fructose needs glut-5 transporters, which most cells lack, which is why it instead goes into the liver.  The liver prefers lipogenesis, which is the generation of fat – so instead of that fructose going directly to fuel the cells, it’s going to most likely be stored as fat – triglycerides (2).

fructose2

Why is fructose now a potential health concern?

“Before the European encounter with the New World 500 y ago and the development of the worldwide sugar industry, fructose in the human diet was limited to a few items. For example, honey, dates, raisins, molasses, and figs have a content of >10% of this sugar, whereas a fructose content of 5–10% by weight is found in grapes, raw apples, apple juice, persimmons, and blueberries. Milk, the main nourishment for infants, has essentially no fructose, and neither do most vegetables and meats, which indicates that human beings had little dietary exposure to fructose before the mass production of sugar. (2)”

 

Basically, back in the days of old, fructose consumption was basically limited to a bit of fruit in the diet, & maybe some honey here & there.  Keep in mind, our ancestors didn’t always have access to this year-round either.  Fast forward to modern days… fructose is in just about everything!  Take a look at the ingredients label of any juice, soft drink, or very sweet food… & you’re likely to see some sort of fructose in there.

 

“Most fructose in the American diet comes not from fresh fruit, but from HFCS or sucrose (sugar) that is found in soft drinks and sweets, which typically have few other nutrients. Soft drink consumption, which provides most of this fructose, has increased dramatically in the past 6 decades (2).”

 

Yet another reason to be concerned about fructose consumption, especially if you have issues with gout & inflammation:

“The metabolism of fructose in the liver drives the production of uric acid, which utilizes nitric oxide, a key modulator of vascular function (2).”

High fructose consumption has also been linked as a risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (3).

According to a 2008 study, besides contributing to the afore mentioned increased de novo lipogenesis in the liver & increased plasma triglycerides (fat storage), high fructose intake is also associated with higher obesity rates, & insulin resistance (4).  The study concluded that that highest consumption of fructose was in adolescents (12-18 years of age) at 72.8g/day, for a total of about 12% of their daily calories.  The larges sources of the fructose consumption were sugar-sweetened beverages (30%), grains (22%), fruit or fruit juice (19%) (4).

fructose3

Bottom line:

More research still needs to be done on fructose.  Most of the studies are using high amounts of fructose, which isn’t quite in line with the average American diet, although fructose levels in the diet have been increasing steadily.

I think the things to be most concerned about in regards to fructose are the ADDED sugars, not so much the consumption of REAL, whole foods like fruit.  Eliminate, or limit your consumption of sugar sweetened beverages & soda.  As for fruit, as with most things, I think moderation should still apply, as some fruit is healthy.   There are some people that tend to overdo it though (thinking more fruit is better), & maybe we should refrain from “juicing all the things” (read HERE why I don’t like juicing) & stick with a couple pieces of whole fruits per day, focusing primarily on increasing our vegetable intake.  😉

References:

  1. Nutrition Fact Sheet. Facts About Fructose: http://www.fructose.org/pdf/ADAFructosefactsheetfinal.pdf
  2. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  How bad is fructose?1’2: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/895.full
  3. Journal of Hepatology.  Fructose consumption as a risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: http://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(08)00164-5/abstract
  4. The Medscape Journal of Medicine. Dietary fructose consumption among US children and adults: the third national health & nutrition examination survey: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2525476/