Cholesterol, when in excess, is bad, this is a known fact, but within the right limits it is essential for life, being involved in various biological processes necessary for life. In fact, cholesterol is present in cell membranes, ensuring their stability, participates in the synthesis of some hormones and vitamin D, digestive processes and cellular metabolism. However, as mentioned, high cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (Pownall et al, Methodist Debakey Cardiovasc J., 2019). Instead, being able to reduce the values, if too high, of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol, has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (Ongtanasup et al, Plants, 2022). But how do you proceed to decrease cholesterol? The diet has its importance, since a part of the circulating cholesterol, about 30%, comes from what we eat. But other interventions, such as supplements, spices or herbs can also help reduce the cholesterol that is produced by the organism. Let's try to understand better on the basis, as always, of scientific studies.
Good fats are better against cholesterol
You don't have to completely eliminate fat from your diet to see cholesterol drop, but you need some small tricks. For example, it has been observed that replacing saturated and trans fats, found in butter, lard, cured meats, cheeses, red meats and margarine, with unsaturated fatty acids, such as those found in extra virgin olive oil and in fish, can lead to a reduction of up to 22% of bad LDL cholesterol and a reduction of more than 40% in the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases (Bruckert et al, Curr Opin Lipidol, 2011).
Food choices that save the heart and reduce cholesterol
In addition to preferring good fats, there are other food choices that can be used against hypercholesterolemia. For example, it is essential to ensure a daily intake of fibers, such as those contained in fruit and vegetables, but also the beta glucans of barley and oats. In fact, a high-fiber diet can help reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 10%. Don't forget to eat nuts, such as walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. In fact, it has been calculated that each portion of dried fruit reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by more than 8% (Bruckert et al, Curr Opin Lipidol, 2011). Tomatoes, flaxseeds, avocados and legumes are also considered foods that can reduce cholesterol. Among beverages, green tea has been shown to help lower cholesterol (Schoeneck et al, NMCD, 2021). Finally, sugar added to foods and sugary drinks should be limited as they increase cholesterol (Schoeneck et al, NMCD, 2021).
Supplements for the heart health
Some supplements help against cholesterol. For example, taking chicory root powder, generally added in the morning to breakfast yoghurt, has been shown to reduce cholesterol, by acting both on dietary cholesterol, reducing its absorption in the intestine, and on endogenous cholesterol, by modulating its synthesis (Kim et al, J Nutr, 1998). When it comes to reducing cholesterol, the supplement par excellence is certainly red yeast rice. Red yeast rice, thanks to a substance it contains called monacolin K, can reduce cholesterol levels by up to 25% in a month and a half of intake. In addition, red yeast rice has been shown to improve the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of blood vessels and the heart, and to counteract the stiffness of the arteries. Added to this is the fact that supplements based on red yeast rice are generally very well tolerated (Cicero et al, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2021).
Herbs and spices not to be missed to reduce cholesterol
Ginger and garlic are spices to take into consideration when you want to counteract the increase in cholesterol and blood sugar. Indeed, these spices are cholesterol-lowering and hypoglycemic (Ongtanasup et al, Plants, 2022). Turmeric is cholesterol-lowering and basil also protects the heart, since it helps reduce total cholesterol and bad cholesterol while increasing good HDL cholesterol. Celery, dandelion and fenugreek, in addition to reducing total cholesterol and bad cholesterol, also help to reduce triglycerides (Rouhi-Boroujeni et al, ARYA Atheroscler, 2015).