Approximately 102 million Americans have high cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL and higher, with 35 million of this group having very high cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL and more. It’s no surprise that statins, which are prescribed to lower cholesterol, are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the US.
While medication can and does lower cholesterol, the interest in naturally lowering cholesterol without medication is growing. Thankfully there are natural healthy drinks that may help lower cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat in the blood. Our bodies produce cholesterol in the liver but it can also be found in foods such as meat, dairy products, and fast food. Fruit, vegetables, and oats are naturally free from any cholesterol.
High cholesterol becomes a health issue when it binds with other products in the blood and turns into plaque, which can build up and cause a blockage in arteries and result in heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes.
All Cholesterol Is Not Created Equal
Not all cholesterol is bad.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as HDL is considered good cholesterol. HDL helps to combat bad cholesterol by removing it from the blood and preventing build-up in your arteries, by taking bad cholesterol to the liver to be broken down. HDL is found in foods high in heart healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, and fatty fish.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, more commonly referred to as LDL, is the bad cholesterol and the one to keep an eye on. . This is the kind of cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease and often results in a build-up of plaque.
When talking about lowering cholesterol, people are generally referring to lowering their level of LDL cholesterol. Although rare, low levels of HDL cholesterol below 40 milligrams per deciliter of blood can have negative side effects of their own, causing anxiety, depression, and cancer. Ideal cholesterol levels are less than 100mg of LDL cholesterol per deciliter of blood and 50 mg or more of HLD per deciliter; the total amount of cholesterol in the blood should be less than 200 mg per dL.
People with high cholesterol are often put on medication, but there are natural ways to lower cholesterol such as trying some natural healthy drinks alongside adopting a generally healthier diet and lifestyle.
Ginger Tea To Lower Cholesterol
Studies have shown that ginger can lower lipid levels in the blood, which lowers LDL cholesterol levels while improving the amount of HDL cholesterol in the blood. Ginger can also improve insulin sensitivity which is good news for diabetics, as people with diabetes have an increased risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes.
Ginger root can be grated down into little pieces or you can simply purchase ginger powder to add to tea. Ginger tea can be enjoyed on its own but if you’re not a fan of the flavor, you can add it to a chai blend or even a chai latte. Alternatively, you can skip the tea and add a dash of ginger to a smoothie.
Cranberry Juice & Cholesterol
Although cranberry juice is often associated with treating urinary tract infections, it can also be good for heart health.
Participants in one study were given one glass of cranberry juice per day for one month, which was then increased to two for the next month, and finally to three glasses of cranberry juice per day for the third month. The participants had high cholesterol before beginning the study and were not taking any medication to lower their cholesterol.
The results showed that while the overall levels of cholesterol of the 19 participants had not changed, their levels of HDL cholesterol improved significantly, while LDL was decreased.
The conclusion was that two servings of cranberry juice, which should contain at least 27% pure cranberry juice as seen in many commercially available drinks, can help to decrease the risk of heart disease.
Tart Cherry Juice & Cholesterol
A study conducted by the University of Delaware found that Montmorency tart cherry juice lowered systolic blood pressure and LDL cholesterol in older adults.
Over a 12-week period, those participants drinking two cups of tart cherry juice a day had lower cholesterol levels overall but had high levels of blood sugar and triglycerides when compared to the placebo group who were drinking a cherry-flavored drink. However, despite the increases in blood sugar, they did not experience insulin sensitivity which is associated with diabetes. HDL cholesterol levels and diastolic blood pressure were not affected by the cherry juice consumption during the study.
Green Tea & Cholesterol
Green tea is known as one of the healthiest drinks in the world for very good reasons; it’s rich in antioxidants, boosts the metabolism, and has less caffeine than coffee. Green tea is also another natural drink to lower cholesterol.
Green tea and green tea extract lowered the LDL cholesterol in participants without affecting HDL cholesterol. A Japanese study of 40,000 people found that those who drank at least 2 cups of green tea a day during a 10 year period had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. These results are believed to be because of the high amount of catechins in green tea which can affect the lipid profile of the blood. Animal studies have also suggested that green tea can inhibit the absorption of cholesterol which, as a result , helps keep levels low.
Soy Milk & Cholesterol
Soy products such as soy milk and tofu can reduce levels of cholesterol. Soy is naturally free from cholesterol, compared to one cup of 1% milk which contains 12.2 grams of cholesterol.
The Journal of Nutrition reported that eating 25 grams of soy protein per day over 6-weeks lowered LDL cholesterol by 3-4%. Although this is not a drastic drop, a small change is a good start and, when combined with other dietary changes, could lead to a larger change. . Most soy is genetically modified in some way, so if you want this to be a natural drink to lower cholesterol, then opt for organic soy milk. 25 grams of soy milk works out at around 3 and a half cups of soy milk per day. A soy ginger-chai latte can be a yummy way to combine two of these natural drinks to lower cholesterol.
Fiber-rich Smoothies & Cholesterol
Soluble fiber can reduce LDL levels of cholesterol by reducing the absorption of it into the bloodstream.
Soluble fiber is found in oats, seeds, some fruit, and lentils, and is broken down by the body into a gel. It gets its name from the fact that it dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber is found in brown rice, couscous, and whole-wheat bread; although it doesn’t reduce cholesterol like soluble fiber does, it can help maintain blood sugar levels and good bowel health.
Fiber also has health benefits, such as maintaining good digestive health, but 5-10 grams of soluble fiber a day can decrease LDL cholesterol. Oats, apples, strawberries, and seeds such as flax seeds and chia seeds are good sources of soluble fiber. Although blending can strip some of the fiber from fruit and veg, adding oat flour, milled flax seeds, or a scoop of chia seeds can help bulk up the fiber content of a smoothie.
Other Natural Ways To Lower Cholesterol
While these natural drinks to help lower cholesterol are beneficial, one of the best ways to lower cholesterol in a natural way is to follow a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. Diet is the number one approach; limiting saturated fats and trans fats while increasing intake of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats is a natural way to lower cholesterol, as well as incorporating colorful fruit and vegetables. Aerobic exercise is also beneficial as it enhances the benefits of a healthy diet and maintains good heart health.
Another easy way to lower cholesterol in a natural way is to replace cooking oil with olive oil. Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet which is considered to be one of the healthiest diets in the world. Studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil decreased the measure of coronary heart disease in participants over a 6-week period.
The Bottom Line
While these natural healthy drinks to lower cholesterol can be beneficial, consult your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle or medication regime if you are experiencing high cholesterol levels.