We're glad to see you're still with us and you made the right choice. Lowering cholesterol is actually quite simple, and doesn't require surgery or drugs or incantations. The changes you have to make in your lifestyle boil down to the same thing that any doctor, nutritionist, or health professional would tell you: exercise more, and eat a low fat, high fiber diet.

  • You want to eat foods that are low in total fat, but especially low in saturated fats or hydrogenated oils. It's okay to have food with monounsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil; or foods with polyunsaturated fats, such as safflower, sunflower, corn or soybean oil. Foods to cut down on are foods with animal fats, which are all saturated (yes, this means meat, eggs, and whole milk products).

  • Cut out foods that are high in cholesterol, and keep in mind that this is only found in animal products, as covered earlier. This will make it easy to remember.

  • And get up off the couch and move that body around.

(Click here to learn more about the technical-ish, biological-ish definitions of saturated fat and hydrogenated fat.)

Even if your levels are in the desirable or safe range, this is the healthiest diet around. You can keep your cholesterol levels in check before they become a problem, and have more energy, feel healthier, and not have to eat at McDonald's ever again.

A low fat, high fiber diet has:

Lots of…

  • Fruits and vegetables (especially the leafy ones)
  • Legumes (peas, beans, soy products)
  • Whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, etc.)
  • Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils
  • Flaxseed oil (tbsp. per day)
  • Non-fat or skim milk products
  • Exercise (especially aerobic, even just a walk per day)

So cut out…

  • Meats (especially the fat, and the skin)
  • Nuts (especially cashews, pistachios, brazil, and macadamia)
  • Saturated fats (butter, cheese, lard)
  • Hydrogenated fats (margarine, shortening, tropical oils)
  • Whole milk products
  • Eggs
  • Fatty desserts, including sweets with lots of refined sugar
  • Fried foods and fast food
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine

Start reading the labels on the food you buy and watch the fat and cholesterol content, as well as the kinds of fat. The vast majority of people will be fine with an improved diet and exercise regime, as per the above.

A word is now necessary about different drugs that can lower your cholesterol. We believe that you should try to take a more natural approach to lowering your cholesterol (diet and exercise), because people who take medicine often think that the medicine will take care of the problem. This is untrue. Drugs should only be a supplement to your lifestyle changes, not a replacement for those changes. There are many drugs that can aid your body in the lowering of bad cholesterol (many of these drugs are completely natural, for all you out there who don't like the idea of ingesting chemicals). Lipitor is often referred to as an effective supplement, as are Questor and Niasin (is it just us, or do these all sound like the archenemies of He-Man?…). However, the proper way to use drugs to lower your cholesterol is to: 1- Do all of the lifestyle changes first, 2- Talk to your doctor about the possibility of drugs and whether you really need them, and 3- Consider the side effects. Niasin, one drug, can help lower your cholesterol, but it also can turn your skin to a nice sun-burny red. To become more knowledgeable about the drug options out there, check out American Heart Association. It lists many high-cholesterol drugs, as well as their potential side effects.