If you have high cholesterol, you might want to pay close attention to what you eat. Diet plays a major role in treating chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There are many commercial products and herbal supplements that claim to lower blood cholesterol. Make sure you talk to your doctor before you start taking any herbal supplements because some may interact with the medications you are taking. On the other hand, there are some dietary supplements you can take to lower your cholesterol. Research studies have shown that fish oil or omega-3-fatty acid, fibers and some nuts have effects on cholesterol.
Fish oil or omega-3-fatty acid
Fish oil has been studied for many potential health benefits and some populations who eat a lot of fish products have lower rate for heart disease. You may hear that fish oil is good for many medical conditions but not all of them have been proven by scientific studies. However, we know for the fact fish oil or omega-3-fatty acids have effect on high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Many studies were done on laboratory animals and some were done on humans for high cholesterol. Studies concluded that fish oil reduces triglycerides (a type of cholesterol) level by large amount in patients with high triglycerides. It may also raise HDL (good cholesterol) level by small amount. It is recommended to consume at least one or two servings of oily fish a week. Fish with lots of omega-3 include tuna, salmon, mackerel, mullet, anchovy, trout, sardines, halibut and herring. You can also get omega-3-fatty acids from flaxseed oil, canola oil and soybean oil. If you do not like to eat fish, you can take fish oil supplement (1 gram daily). Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your daily dose of fish oil supplement along with your other medicines. Fish oil supplements may contain small amount of vitamin E. You should not take more than the recommended dosage.
We know that fibers are good for your intestines and it can help prevent colon cancer. Studies showed that soluble fibers in psyllium, wheat, celery, oatmeal and oat bran can reduce LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) level. You can also get fibers from eating fruits. Therefore, it is recommended to have 5-10 grams of fibers a day.
Studies showed that walnut has effect on lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Similar effects are found from almonds and pistachio as well. You should try to consume a handful of nuts a few times a week. Make sure to get the ones which are unsalted or not sugar-coated. Some studies indicated that people who consume nuts more than two times a week may benefit from lowering the risk of heart disease.
Others with small effect on cholesterol level
There are a few studies done on green tea on cholesterol level and researchers found that drinking unsweetened green tea can reduce LDL cholesterol in a small amount. In addition, soy products are rich in unsaturated fats and fibers compared to protein from meats. Studies showed that soy protein improves cholesterol level and blood pressure.
Contributed by Patricia Hsiao M.D.
Sources: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed, nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus, mayoclinic.com, uptodate.com