Living a Healthy Lifestyle

The medical community is far more likely to prescribe an expensive medication to lower cholesterol than they are to suggest herbal or homeopathic measures

Once you are getting enough fiber, you can begin to look at other foods and herbs that can further reduce cholesterol. Foods containing pectin help lower cholesterol levels.  Carrots, apples and the white layer inside of citrus rinds can be especially helpful.

Avocado surprises people by reducing cholesterol. Avocado is very high in fat (monosaturated).  Women in one study had a choice of a high monounsaturated fats (olive oil) and avocado diet or a complex carbohydrate consisting of starches and sugars. The results were interesting. In six weeks, the group on the olive oil and avocado diet had achieved an 8.2 percent decrease in cholesterol.

Beans are winners!  They are high in fiber and low in cholesterol.  That is exactly what you want!  A cup and a half of beans, or the amount in a bowl of soup, may lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 19 percent!

Garlic returns! Use more garlic. It helps lower your cholesterol and reduces blood pressure. Those are good reasons to include generous amounts of garlic and onions every day. 

Cayenne pepper (Capsicum minimum) and other plants that with the phenolic compound capsaicin have a well demonstrated effect in lowering blood cholesterol levels. This is also true for fenugreek and caraway. Many Asian herbal remedies are assets in this field, though they are new to western medicine.

Cinnamon has blood-thinning properties that can help lower cholesterol levels. Vasant Lad, director of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico suggests this tea:  Mix 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of trikatu (a blend of ginger and two kinds of peppers) directly into a cup of hot water, then stir and steep for five minutes. Once the tea has cooled add a teaspoon of honey. Dr. Lad suggests drinking this tea twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening.  Trikatu is available from Ayurvedic practitioners and in some health food stores.       TRANSITION NEEDED and suggested.

Rectangular Callout: So if we are eating low-fat foods and watching our caloric intake and keeping up with a moderate exercise program we ought to be free from cholesterol and weight worries. Right?  Perhaps.      

Why are so many people still gaining weight after leaping into a pattern of low-fat diets? Many people live almost entirely on low-fat foods, like a baked potato without butter or sour cream.  Maybe you eat pasta, veggies and fat free desserts.  So why do people keep gaining?  Good question.

Researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics studied the eating habits of more than eight thousand (8260) American adults between 1988 and 1991.  They found that even though Americans have significantly reduced their fat intake, they still increased weight in recent years.   A nutrition survey of these people concludes that one third of the nation is overweight.

The obvious answer is so simple it was nearly overlooked. The concept of low-fat dieting was so convincing that many people responded as if low-fat food cannot make them fat.  Mistake!   We were so involved with the low fat concept that we stopped counting calories!

When you eat more calories than your body needs, whatever the source, the body stores the food as fat.  Period.  According to the National Institutes of Health study, by 1990 the average American was eating hundreds of more calories per day in the equivalent time period 10 years before.

Some researchers believe that eating small amounts of fat helps prevent overindulging on total calories.  Ohio State University nutrition scientist John Allred shows that dietary fat causes our bodies to produce a hormone that tells us are full. Our intestines slow down and we are less likely to overeat.  That little touch of peanut butter on your apple may help prevent you from binging later.

There is another trap to avoid.  Reducing fat has some limitations regarding its usefulness.  Tufts University scientists studied 11 middle-aged male and female volunteers on a variety of average, reduced and low fat diets.

The results were remarkable.  The very low fat diets provided only 15 percent of fat from calories and had a positive effect on blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  The diet is not realistic for routine use. However, a reduced fat diet is more realistic but it only benefited cholesterol and triglycerides if it was accompanied by weight loss.  They also concluded that reducing fat without losing weight actually increased triglyceride levels and decreased HDL (the good cholesterol). This is a small study but it has some interesting points.

Excess fat is not healthy but it is necessary to have some fat in our diets.  Without fat our bodies could not make nerve cells and hormones or absorb fat soluble vitamins.

If you are obese and have high cholesterol, try losing a pound each week with a 500 calorie solution. Look carefully. We are not suggesting a 500 calorie diet!   Reduce 500 calories each day from your diet.  You may find it easy to burn about 250 calories with 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, like walking, dancing or bicycling. Look carefully at your food intake to cut the other 250 calories. Try skipping donuts or candy, that afternoon soft drink or evening beer.

Men are particularly interested in this reason to control cholesterol. A recent study found that men with high cholesterol are twice as likely to be impotent as men whose cholesterol levels are normal or low.

Researchers recorded cholesterol levels of more than three thousand (3250) healthy men between the ages of 25 and 83.  Men with total cholesterol readings higher than 240 milligrams/dl were twice as likely to have trouble achieving or maintaining an erection than men who cholesterol levels were below 180 milligrams/dl.

Men with low levels of HDL were also twice as likely to suffer from impotence.  You need your arteries to be clear for blood to flow into your penis to create and maintain an erection. Those arteries get clogged by the same high-fat diet that narrows arteries and blocks blood flow to your heart. Take control now for improvements in this aspect of your life. That locker room conversation about high cholesterol may not sound so peculiar from this perspective.

A typical American diet consists of fatty meats, processed cold cuts, dairy products and fried foods.  Add to this commercially baked bread, rolls, cakes, chips and cookies.  This is a certain path to high cholesterol.

Eating cholesterol does not raise blood cholesterol nearly as much as eating “saturated fats.”   Saturated fat is found in animal products like cheese, butter, cream, whole milk, ice cream, lard and marbled meats.

Simply changing to vegetable oil will not eliminate this issue.  Some vegetable oils are also high in saturated fat.  Palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter are very high in saturated fat.  You may be surprised to learn that these are most often used in commercially baked goods, coffee creams and nondairy whipped toppings. Read labels. The chart below compares different oils showing how much of each kind of fat is present.







Canola Oil


0 mg



Safflower Oil


0 mg



Sunflower Oil


0 mg



Corn Oil


0 mg



Olive Oil


0 mg



Hydrogenated Sunflower Oil


0 mg



Sesame Oil


0 mg



Soybean Oil


0 mg



Margarine, bottled


0 mg



Margarine, tub


0 mg



Peanut Oil


0 mg



Margarine, stick


0 mg



Cocoa Butter


0 mg





31 mg



Palm Kernel Oil


0 mg



Coconut Oil


0 mg



Only butter on this list has some measure of dietary cholesterol. Nonetheless, to lower your own cholesterol level, you must use oils low in saturated fat.  Canola oil (7% saturated fat) is one of the best available cooking oils.  Olive oil (14% saturated fat) is also recommended.

One more fact makes this chart somewhat misleading.  Any fat that is hard at room temperature, such as stick margarine, is not good for your cholesterol.  Margarine has been hydrogenated (hardened). The process of hardening the margarine adds trans fatty acids. 

Trans fatty acids may be as bad for you as saturated fat. Some researchers believe it is worse for you. In this case stick margarine is equal to butter as far as your cholesterol is concerned.  Diet and soft margarines are a better bet.  Look for brands of margarine or shortening with the first ingredient that is rich in monosaturated fats, like canola oil.

Why not substitute butter or margarine with a fruit puree? Prune pureed is popular. Applesauce and apricots and marmalades are also acceptable alternatives in moderate amounts.

Chefs who specialize in nutrition are excited about using prune puree because of the significant difference in calories and fat grams. One cup of prune puree has 407 calories and one gram of fat.  One cup of butter has 1,600 calories and 182 grams of fat.  One cup of oil has 1,944 calories and 218 grams of fat.  Now you can understand why nutritionists recommend prunes.

Prunes also have a lot of pectin. That helps hold in air bubbles that make baked products rise. Prunes also have large amounts of sorbitol. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that helps keep baked goods moist and gives them the flaky, tender taste of shortening or butter.

One disadvantage to using fruits like applesauce and apricots as fat substitutes is that baked goods are likely to become soggy and moldy within a day or two. Plan your quantities carefully. When you are baking with fat substitutes you should use cake flour instead of all purpose flour.  That will help keep the baked product tender. Be careful not to over bake your reduced fat recipes because they dry out faster than traditional recipes using butter or oil.

Suppose you are really having a hard time giving up your favorite high fat cheese. Try turning it into a low fat version. Zap it in the microwave for a minute or two.  Remove it and drain off the oil.  It significantly reduces the fat content of the cheese.  This works well for cheese sandwiches, toppings and other recipes that call for your favorite cheese.

Researchers have discovered that water mixed with fructose suppresses the appetite better than glucose with water or diet drinks.  Fructose is the type of sugar found in fruits.  Drink a glass of fructose rich orange juice about 30 minutes prior to a meal.   You are likely to eat fewer calories and still feel comfortably full.

Just because we are discussing “fat free” regimens does not mean you must cut beef completely out of your diet.  Too much red meat is not wise. We suggest you select a cut that is relatively low in fat and cholesterol. We also advise not adding fat in the preparation process. When shopping for beef, select grade eye of the round is a good choice.   A 3 ½ ounce serving has approximately four grams of fat, which is less than half of the amount in a 1 ounce serving of cheddar cheese.  It also contains 69 milligrams of cholesterol (fifth lowest for meats) and is a good source of zinc, iron and other nutrients.  Tip round, bottom round and top sirloin cuts are also relatively lean selections that are high in these nutrients.

Remove the skin from turkey or chicken breast and you have an excellent selection.  Turkey has less than 1 gram of fat and 83 milligrams of cholesterol.  Chicken has 3.6 grams of fat and 85 milligrams of cholesterol. With pork, tenderloin is the recommended type. Leg shank is the leanest choice among lamb cuts. NEED A TRANSITION   Suggested transition

Rectangular Callout: So what else do we need to do to become free from cholesterol worries?


Vary your veggies. Eat more dark green veggies, such as kale, broccoli, and other dark leafy greens; orange veggies, such as , pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash; and beans and peas, such as kidney beans,  pinto beans,  garbanzo beans, split peas, black beans, and lentils.

Know your fats. Seek and use foods that are low in saturated fats and cholesterol (5% DV or less is low, 20% DV or more is high). That helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Eat polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats when you do consume fats. Avoid trans fats. Keep total fat intake no more than 20% to 35% of calories.

Reduce sodium (salt), increase potassium. Studies show you may decrease the risk of high blood pressure by limiting your sodium intake to less than less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (about 1 tsp of salt) each day. Be alert. Most of the sodium you eat is from processed foods.  You decide whether to use the salt shaker. Select foods with a high potassium content to counteract some of damage done by sodium to your blood pressure.

Know the facts about what you are buying.  Read labels carefully.  Packaged foods usually have a Nutrition Facts label. Read the labels. For a healthier you, use this label as a guide to make smart food choices. Pay attention.

  • Avoid trans fats
  • Use only small amounts of saturated fats, sodium or cholesterol
  • Maintain a diverse vitamin intake: potassium, iron, fiber, calcium and vitamins A and C
  • Use the % Daily Value (DV) column to help you decide: 5% DV or less is low, 20% DV or more is high.
  • Watch your serving sizes. If you double the servings you eat, both the nutrients and calories are doubled too.  Make your calories count. Compare the calories with the nutrients in the product before you decide whether to buy it or eat it.  When one piece has more than 400 calories per serving, it has a lot of calories.

    Since sugars contribute calories with few nutrients, look for foods and beverages low in added sugars. Read the ingredient list to be sure the first few ingredients are not: caloric sweeteners, sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose.

    By eating more calories each day than you burn you will gain weight. An additional 100 calories daily yields a weight gain of about one pound each month. That would be about ten pounds each year.  But that is not your goal. What you want to do is either maintain or lose weight instead of gaining it. To do that requires increased physical activity and reduced calories.

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