Alternatively Speaking: Cholesterol calling

Alternative health expert Natalie Marx answers your questions: Any herbs that can help lower cholesterol?

Garlic (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Due to an overwhelming number of readers inquiring about the natural way to treat high cholesterol, I have decided to dedicate this column to the common and potentially dangerous disease. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in almost every part of our bodies. We need some cholesterol to keep the body functioning at an optimal level, but excess amounts can stick to our arterial wall linings and prevent blood, oxygen and nutrients from reaching important organs and tissues. Having high cholesterol levels may increase your risk of heart disease and strokes.
Q. Dear Natalie, I am rather concerned; I am 35 years old and have recently been diagnosed with high cholesterol. Which vitamins and minerals do you recommend I take as a supplement to my diet?
A. There are a wide variety of vitamins and minerals which help prevent fatty deposits from sticking to artery walls and therefore help decrease high cholesterol levels.
Vitamin B-3, a water-soluble vitamin, repairs damaged blood vessels and removes fatty deposits from artery walls. It increases levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which is also known as "good" cholesterol, while it also decreases levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) known as "bad" cholesterol.
Homocysteines are naturally occurring amino acids that can damage artery walls, thereby increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It is vitamin B-3 that reduces high cholesterol levels by decreasing the amount of homocyteines in the body. To increase Vitamin B-3 intake include more whole grains, turkey, beef, fish, poultry, baked potatoes, peanuts, mangoes, peaches and almonds into your diet.
Vitamin B-9 also works to regulate cholesterol levels, repairs damaged blood vessels, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease and strokes. For Vitamin B-9 sources include more poultry, dates, cheese, oranges, beans, spinach and whole grains.
The vitamins C and E help lower cholesterol, as do the minerals copper and zinc. Vitamins C and E are the best antioxidants that prevent cholesterol from going through the oxidation process, preventing LDL from sticking to the artery lining. The Journal of Nutrition for the Elderly found in a study that LDL cholesterol was higher in those with low intakes of copper and zinc.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant reduces high cholesterol levels. Foods rich in Vitamin E include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, peppers and asparagus.
Finally, the mineral chromium picolinate also reduces high levels of cholesterol. One may be deficient in chromium if we have over consumption of refined sugar in our diets.
Q. Dear Natalie, my doctor has recommended dietary changes for my high cholesterol. In addition to this, I have heard some herbs are reputed to lower cholesterol levels as well. Can you suggest any particular herbs that might help?

A. Red yeast rice contains compounds that lower cholesterol. It is an herb that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine and contains monacolins which the pharmaceutical industry processes into cholesterol-lowering medications.
Start consuming the herb psyllium seed. Consuming between 5 to 10g daily can lower cholesterol. Simply sprinkle the seeds onto cereal or soup or make a drink out of the powdered form. Psyllium seed can be found in all good health food stores.
The herb turmeric contains the cholesterol-lowering component called curcumin. As well as improving your blood circulation, curcumin can lower your LDL levels.
Using garlic can have an amazing effect on lowering LDL cholesterol. It not only helps to lower the serum cholesterol level, it also raises the beneficial cholesterol. You can buy garlic in capsule form as a supplement or use fresh garlic when cooking.
Lastly I recommend switching your favorite drink to Green Tea.  Green Tea is an excellent antioxidant and can help remove harmful plaque from the body. Not only can it lower your harmful cholesterol level, your “good” cholesterol level will increase.
Q. Dear Natalie, I have heard so much conflicting advice regarding what to eat and what to avoid if one suffers from high cholesterol. Can you please clarify what kind of diet one should maintain to lower high cholesterol?

A: Changes in diet can certainly help improve cholesterol and also reduce the risk of heart disease. Begin by limiting three types of fat in your diet -- cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat. Include no more than 200 - 300 mg of cholesterol, between 16 - 22 g of saturated fat and 2 g or less of trans fat in your daily diet.
Try to avoid or limit organ meats. You also should avoid eating fatty cuts of beef, instead choose leaner cuts and keep portions small.
Try to avoid whole milk products. Per one cup serving, whole milk contains 33 mg, whereas non-fat milk instead contains just 4 mg of cholesterol per glass. Egg yolks contain a lot of cholesterol, so separating the yolk and using only the whites can limit cholesterol.
Avoid eating commercial baked foods and snacks, such as cakes, pies, packaged cookies, crackers and crisps.
When cooking, avoid using margarine; instead try the healthier olive oil or low-cholesterol margarine free of trans fat. Instead of using butter to flavor foods, try lemon juice or garlic and avoid eating fried foods.
By ensuring you have a serving of oily fish such as salmon regularly, containing omega-3 fatty acids, this can actually help reduce cholesterol levels. Eat plenty of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, low-salt canned vegetables and fruits.
Include whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice. Increasing the intake of fibre will help lower cholesterol levels; include oats, peas, Brussels sprouts, carrots, oranges and pears.
Most importantly, start reading food packaging labels more carefully. All packaging labels indicate how much cholesterol is in each serving. Remember to add the number of servings together to calculate accurate cholesterol values.

This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.

Natalie runs a clinic both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offering a wide range of natural treatment, including a women’s clinic every Wednesday. To make an appointment please email [email protected].
Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer, email Natalie with your question at [email protected]
Someone Once Said: ‘The human body heals itself and nutrition provides the resources to accomplish the task.’
– Roger Williams Ph.D. (1971)