Maintaining a healthy heart is essential for living a long and happy life. High cholesterol levels can be a significant risk factor for serious health problems like stroke and heart attack.
Heart disease is the main cause of death in the United States, causing around 700,000 deaths annually. Almost half of American adults have at least one significant risk factor for heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. This means nearly every family in the nation is affected by the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Fortunately, there are several natural drinks that you can easily incorporate into your diet to help reduce your cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy.
Why is it Important to Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels?
All animal cells contain a type of fat called cholesterol, which plays a vital role in various metabolic processes. This includes the production of hormones, bile, and vitamin D.
The liver produces cholesterol, while most cells in the body also make it. Lipoproteins are responsible for carrying cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is crucial because it helps build cell membranes, produces hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and adrenal hormones, aid in efficient metabolism, and produce bile acids that aid in digesting fats and absorbing essential nutrients.
However, having too much cholesterol in the body can cause health problems. High cholesterol levels are usually caused by poor diet and lifestyle, leading to excess fat deposits in the arteries or vessels. This increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, heart attack, and chronic kidney disease.
How can Diet and Lifestyle Help Manage Cholesterol?
To maintain a healthy heart, it is advisable to make certain lifestyle changes, like following a diet that helps reduce cholesterol, such as the DASH eating plan or the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet. The latter recommends limiting the intake of both total fat and saturated fat. Not more than 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from dietary fats, and less than 7 percent of your daily calorie intake should be from saturated fat.
Low Cholesterol Food and More Soluble Fiber
Avoid cholesterol foods like liver, egg yolks, shrimp, and whole milk dairy products to lower cholesterol. Keep cholesterol intake below 200 mg per day. Consume more foods with soluble fiber like oatmeal, oat bran, fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, prunes, and pears, and legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and lima beans as they can help prevent cholesterol absorption in your digestive tract.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Fish
Incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet to improve cholesterol levels. These foods are rich in plant stanols or sterols, which act like soluble fiber to lower cholesterol. Additionally, choose fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, which can protect your heart from blood clots and inflammation. Aim to eat these types of fish twice weekly to reap their benefits for your heart health.
Regular exercise can increase HDL cholesterol levels in your body while lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Aim to work out moderately to vigorously for 30 minutes four to six times a week to achieve this. Before starting an exercise regimen, it’s essential to talk to your doctor.
What are LDL (Bad) and HDL (Good) Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is transported in the blood by proteins known as “lipoproteins.” There are two types of lipoproteins that transport cholesterol in the body.
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
Most of the cholesterol in your body is made up of LDL cholesterol, often called “bad” cholesterol. If you have high LDL cholesterol levels, you have an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
HDL cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol, can soak up cholesterol in the blood and transport it to the liver for elimination from the body. Increased HDL cholesterol levels can decrease the likelihood of developing heart disease and stroke.
If the amount of LDL cholesterol in your body is high, it can accumulate plaque on the walls of your blood vessels. This can result in health issues such as heart disease and stroke.
Recommended Cholesterol Levels for a Healthy Heart
The appropriate level of cholesterol depends on your age and gender. If you have heart disease or multiple risk factors, your LDL goal may be lower than the standard. Your doctor may recommend keeping your LDL level under 70 mg/dL. Aiming for a low LDL and high HDL, with an ideal HDL level of 60 or higher, is essential. High levels of HDL can protect you from heart disease.
Regardless of gender, most normal cholesterol levels are similar. However, there is a notable distinction among adults concerning the HDL number. Individuals assigned to females should aim for a higher HDL level (a minimum of 50) than males at birth (a minimum of 40).
How Do Your Dietary Choices Affect Cholesterol?
Eating certain foods can impact your blood cholesterol levels. Although your body requires cholesterol to function, your liver produces enough for your needs, so you don’t need to obtain it from your diet. Any cholesterol gained through food is surplus, similar to adding sand to a beach. However, it’s important to note that your diet affects only about 20 percent to 30 percent of the cholesterol in your bloodstream.
Decrease Bad Cholesterol
Certain foods can increase your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels, while others can help decrease them. Understanding which foods to include in your diet can help manage your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. A dietitian can assist you in making these dietary changes to lower your cholesterol.
Animal products such as meats, cheeses, and dairy products are the main dietary sources of cholesterol. However, research has shown that when trying to reduce cholesterol levels, people should focus on avoiding saturated and trans fats rather than dietary cholesterol. It is worth noting that many foods with high levels of dietary cholesterol also tend to be high in these unhealthy fats.
To lower your cholesterol through diet, try these steps: Increase your intake of soluble fiber, reduce saturated fats, avoid trans fats, and maintain balanced meals.
Lifestyle Factors that Contribute to High Cholesterol
In addition to an unhealthy diet, certain lifestyle factors can contribute to high cholesterol. These include smoking, lack of exercise, being overweight or obese, and excessive alcohol consumption. To lower your cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy, reduce these risk factors by quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. Stress can also cause your cholesterol levels to go up, so be mindful of how you manage and reduce stress.
Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol
Certain drinks can be beneficial if looking for natural ways to help lower your cholesterol. Certain herbal teas, fruit juices, and other beverages contain healthy nutrients that have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels in the body.
High-Fiber Foods in Reducing Cholesterol
Foods high in fiber can help reduce cholesterol levels by binding with bile acids produced by the liver. The body then eliminates these bile acids, which force the liver to produce more, requiring additional use of cholesterol from the bloodstream. High-fiber foods include vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acid-Rich Foods
Eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can have health benefits. These fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat and can help lower triglyceride levels, improve blood pressure, and reduce plaque buildup in the arteries. Some omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods include salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola oil.
Antioxidant-Rich Foods for Heart Health
Antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Eating foods high in antioxidants like vitamins C and E can help protect your arteries from damage by preventing inflammation. Fruits, vegetables, tea, and dark chocolate are some of the best sources of antioxidants for a healthy heart.
Natural Drinks as Effective Cholesterol-Lowering Options
Natural drinks can help reduce cholesterol levels by containing beneficial ingredients such as antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids to promote heart health. For instance, green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants and can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, pomegranate juice effectively lowers total and LDL cholesterol levels. Similarly, beetroot juice is packed with nutrients like dietary nitrate that help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by improving blood flow and reducing inflammation.
Scientific Evidence Supporting the Cholesterol-Lowering Effects of Natural Drinks
Studies suggest certain natural drinks can help reduce cholesterol levels and improve heart health. For instance, laboratory studies revealed the health impacts of green tea. Eating pomegranates may lower the risk of developing health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, oxidative stress, hyperglycemia, and inflammation.
Why Choose Natural Drinks Over Processed Alternatives?
Processed drinks are often packed with added sugars and unhealthy fats, increasing your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease. On the other hand, natural drinks contain beneficial nutrients like fiber and antioxidants that can help protect against inflammation and improve blood flow to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, natural drinks taste great without any added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Natural Drinks to Lower Cholesterol
Incorporating natural drinks into your diet can help reduce cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy. Here are some delicious drinks that you can incorporate into your daily routine to support a healthy heart:
A 2015 study found that green tea contains antioxidant compounds like catechins and epigallocatechin gallate, which may help lower “bad” LDL and total cholesterol levels. Rats given drinking water infused with these antioxidants for 56 days saw a reduction of around 14.4 percent and 30.4 percent in cholesterol and “bad” LDL levels, respectively, while on a high-cholesterol diet. However, more research on humans is needed to confirm these findings.
Lycopene is a compound in tomatoes that could help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and enhance lipid levels. Processing tomatoes into juice can increase the lycopene content, and tomato juice has both niacin and cholesterol-reducing fiber. According to a 2015 study, 25 women aged 20-30 with a BMI of 20 or more saw a drop in blood cholesterol levels after drinking 280 ml of tomato juice daily for two months.
You could try incorporating beet juice into your diet if you have high cholesterol. According to a study conducted on rats in 2011, the extract from beetroot can decrease total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL, which is considered good cholesterol. Additionally, it appears to decrease oxidative stress on the liver. Researchers suggest that the cholesterol-lowering benefits of beetroot may be thanks to phytonutrients like flavonoids.
Citrus Fruit Juices
Drinking citrus fruit juices like orange and lemon can improve heart health since they contain antioxidants that help to lower cholesterol levels. To get the most out of these juices, consider adding freshly squeezed juice to your water or using a slice of the fruit (including the rind). Recent studies show that 100% orange juice at home can decrease total and LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels. Remember to choose a sugar-free option to maximize the health benefits.
Berries are a great source of antioxidants and fiber to help lower cholesterol levels. Anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant found in berries, can benefit from this. Berries are also low in calories and fat. You can make a berry smoothie by blending 80g of any type of berry with 1/2 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt and 1/2 cup of cold water.
You can make a fibrous smoothie with oats, chia seeds, and almond milk high in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol-containing bile acids in your gut before reabsorbing them into the bloodstream. This induces your liver to produce more bile acid, which requires additional use of cholesterol from the blood.
Green smoothies contain healthful greens like spinach, kale, and other leafy vegetables. These greens contain soluble fiber as well as phytonutrients that have antioxidant properties. A study found that consuming green smoothie beverages for 12 weeks helped reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels in people with metabolic syndrome.
Oats have beta-glucans that form a gel-like substance in the gut and interact with bile salts. This process might lead to reduced cholesterol levels by inhibiting cholesterol absorption. According to a 2018 review, oat drinks such as oat milk are more effective in lowering cholesterol consistently than solid oat products. An average 250 ml glass of oat milk contains one gram of beta-glucans. When purchasing oat drinks, it is vital to check the label and ensure they have beta-glucans, which may be listed under the fiber information. Additionally, the label should specify the amount of beta-glucans per serving.
Dark chocolate’s main ingredient is cocoa, which has antioxidants called flavanols that can potentially improve cholesterol levels. In a 2015 study, participants who consumed a 450 mg drink with cocoa flavanols twice daily for a month experienced lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Additionally, cocoa is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which can also aid in improving cholesterol levels.
To manage your cholesterol levels, consider substituting high-fat dairy products for low-fat soy milk or creamers since soy is low in saturated fat. The FDA suggests consuming 25g of soy protein daily as part of a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet to decrease your risk of heart disease. Consuming soy unprocessed with minimal added sugars, salts, and fats is best.
Plant Milk Smoothies
Including plant-based milk in your diet can aid in lowering or controlling cholesterol. Create a healthy smoothie using soy milk or oat milk as a base. Blend one cup (250 ml) of soy or oat milk with cholesterol-reducing fruits or vegetables like one banana, one handful of grapes or prunes, one slice of mango or melon, two small plums, one cup of kale or Swiss chard, and 2/3 cup pumpkin puree for a nutritious and tasty treat.
Herbs are rich in polyphenols, which can help reduce cholesterol levels. Consuming natural drinks can help lower cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy. Not all natural drinks will work for everyone, so it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before making any drastic changes in your diet.
Drinks Containing Sterols and Stanols
Sterols and stanols, plant chemicals similar to cholesterol, can help to lower cholesterol levels by blocking cholesterol absorption. However, the low levels of sterols and stanols found in vegetables and nuts are insufficient to impact cholesterol levels significantly. Many companies are adding sterols and stanols to various foods and drinks, such as fruit juices, milk, yogurt drinks, and fortified plant-based spreads, to address this.
Drinks to Avoid When you have High Cholesterol
If you want to improve or maintain healthy cholesterol levels, avoiding beverages high in saturated fats is best. These include coffee or tea with added cream, whipped cream, high-fat milk or creamer, smoothies with coconut or palm oils, pressed coconut drinks, and ice-cream-based drinks. Consuming more than 12 ounces of sugary beverages daily can also lower your HDL levels and increase the amount of fat in your bloodstream, called triglycerides. So, avoiding or limiting sugary drinks like regular soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks is best.
Other Lifestyle Considerations for Lowering Cholesterol
Aside from natural drinks that can help reduce cholesterol levels, it is also important to consider other lifestyle changes.
The role of regular physical activity in managing cholesterol levels
Regular physical activity helps to lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL cholesterol. It may also help reduce stress, which can cause cholesterol levels to go up. Therefore, make sure to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine.
Maintaining a healthy weight for optimal heart health
Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol, so it is crucial to maintain a healthy weight. Eating whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates is essential for managing cholesterol levels. Additionally, avoiding processed and fried foods can help you achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Managing stress and its impact on cholesterol levels
High levels of stress can lead to elevated cholesterol levels. Therefore, taking time each day to relax and practice stress-management techniques like yoga and deep breathing exercises is important. Additionally, ensuring you sleep well each night is vital to managing stress.
Why it’s Important to Consult with a Healthcare Professional Before Making Significant Dietary Changes
Before making significant dietary changes, you should consult a healthcare professional for several reasons.
Any allergies or sensitivities to ingredients in natural drinks
It’s important to discuss any allergies or sensitivities that you may have with a healthcare professional. This will ensure that you are consuming ingredients in natural drinks that your body can handle without causing an allergic reaction.
Potential interactions with medications or existing health conditions
Natural drinks may sometimes interact with certain medications or existing health conditions. Therefore, discussing the potential interactions with a healthcare professional before making any changes in your diet is essential.
Here are some frequently asked questions about natural drinks to lower cholesterol.
What is the fastest way to lower cholesterol naturally?
The fastest way to lower cholesterol naturally is to make lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy and balanced diet, controlling weight, and avoiding smoking.
Does drinking hot water reduce cholesterol?
Hot water can help reduce cholesterol levels by increasing the body’s metabolic rate and burning more calories. Additionally, it may also help to flush out toxins from your system.
Which fruit lowers cholesterol?
Fruits like apples, oranges, pears, and strawberries contain soluble fiber that can help reduce cholesterol levels. Additionally, pomegranates may also lower the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inflammation.
What are the five signs of high cholesterol?
The five signs of high cholesterol include chest pain, fatigue, frequent headaches, excessive sweating, and shortness of breath. If you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor immediately.
How can I lower my cholesterol without medication?
You can lower your cholesterol without medication by making lifestyle changes like eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking. Natural drinks like green tea and oat milk may also help reduce cholesterol levels.
Natural drinks are an excellent option for those looking to reduce their cholesterol levels and improve their overall heart health. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before making any drastic changes in your diet and to consider other lifestyle modifications such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet.