July 22, 2014
Last Updated:
March 4, 2021

Dr. Neal Barnard on How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally

Here’s to the power of food as medicine!

Niacin, a type of B vitamin, has long been prescribed to help lower cholesterol. However, two new studies suggest that it may actually do more harm than good.

The startling studies from New England Journal of Medicine showed that niacin can cause serious side effects and, what’s more, neither study showed any significant benefits to the drugs.

This once again proves that when it comes to your health, there’s no magic pill or quick fix. The good news is that there are plenty of lifestyle changes that are incredibly powerful for those struggling with high cholesterol. Students at Integrative Nutrition’s Health Coach Training Program learn that it’s often possible to heal chronic conditions simply through food and lifestyle changes. Don’t underestimate the power of healthy eating, regular exercise, loving relationships, a fulfilling career, and a meaningful spiritual practice!

Neal Barnard, MD, an Integrative Nutrition guest speaker, has some great recommendations on ways to lower your cholesterol naturally by making simple changes to your diet.

Dr. Barnard is an advocate for the vegan diet, so it makes sense that he suggests opting for plant-based foods rather than animal proteins. Animal proteins like meat, dairy, and eggs contain high levels of saturated fat, which cause your body to produce cholesterol. Plant-based foods, on the other hand, provide essential nutrients that can combat cholesterol in other ways.

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Great choices include foods that are rich in soluble fiber, which helps your body eliminate cholesterol. Some soluble fiber-rich choices include oats, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, okra, and barley. Dr. Barnard points out the particular power of oyster mushrooms, which contain lovastatin and beta-glucans, both of which can help the body eliminate cholesterol.

It’s also important to remember that not all fats are created equal! While saturated fat can increase levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats help reduce LDL levels and promote healthy blood vessels. For polyunsaturated fats, add some chopped walnuts or slivered almonds to your bowl of oatmeal, or have a handful as an afternoon snack. To get a dose of monounsaturated fats—plus beta-sitosterol, a plant-based fat that reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed into the bloodstream—throw some creamy avocado into your salad or morning smoothie.

If you’re not ready to go totally vegan, fear not—fatty fishes like salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel have omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and help prevent abnormal heart rhythms. The vegan diet isn’t right for everybody, and many people need animal foods to feel their healthiest. That’s the core of bio-individuality—there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, so find the foods that are best for you!

Have you naturally treated high cholesterol or another condition? Tell us about it in the comments below!

If you want to learn more about Integrative Nutrition’s incredible curriculum, just download our program guide!

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