Unfortunately, the medical community is quick to prescribe another expensive medication to lower cholesterol but they are far less likely to suggest herbal or homeopathic measures.

Along with getting plenty of fiber there are foods that will help in promoting the lowering of cholesterol as well as herbs that can further reduce cholesterol.

Foods containing pectin are advantageous to lowering cholesterol levels. Carrots, apples and the white layer inside of citrus rinds are particularly beneficial.

Avocado, which is very high in fat, has unexpectedly become a cholesterol reducer. A study of women who were given a choice of a high monounsaturated fats (olive oil) along with avocado diet or a complex carbohydrate consisting of starches and sugars reported interesting results. In six weeks, the former group on the olive oil and avocado diet showed an 8.2 percent reduction in cholesterol.

Beans. Gotta love ‘em. They are high in fiber and low in cholesterol. What more could you ask for! A cup and a half of beans, or the amount in a bowl of soup, can lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 19 percent!

Garlic. We discussed garlic earlier but it is well worth repeating here. Use it liberally in your diet. Not only will it help to lower your cholesterol it is also credited with lowering blood pressure. Be sure you include generous amounts of garlic as well as onions in your daily diet.

Cayenne pepper (Capsicum minimum) and other plants that contain the phenolic compound capsaicin have a well demonstrated effect in lowering blood cholesterol levels, as does the widely used spice Fenugreek.

Caraway is another aromatic spice with demonstrable cholesterol lowering properties.

A whole range of Asian herbal remedies new to western medicine are proving to be valuable in this field.

Remember when the “low-fat” mantra began? We all jumped in with both feet and some of us still live on low fat foods, like having a baked potato but no butter or sour cream. Maybe you eat pasta, veggies and fat free desserts. So how come you still gain weight?

Good question. Researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics studied the eating habits of 8.260 adult Americans between 1988 and 1991. They found that Americans have significantly reduced their fat intake but still packed on extra pounds in recent years.

In fact, a national health and nutrition survey of over 8,000 American adults concludes that one third of the population is overweight.

The answer is very simple and right in front of us. So many of us jumped on the low fat diet and assumed that if it’s low fat it can’t make us fat. Right? Wrong. We were so involved with the low fat concept that we forgot to count calories!

If you are eating more calories that your body needs, whether from fat or carbohydrates, the body will store them as fat. Period. According to a National Institutes of Health study, by 1990 the average American was consuming hundreds more calories a day than he was consuming 10 years before.

There are researchers who believe that eating small amounts of fat can keep you from overindulging on total calories. Ohio State University nutrition scientist John Allred points out that dietary fat causes our bodies to produce a hormone that tells our intestines to slow down the emptying process. We feel full and are less likely to overeat.

Add a little bit of peanut butter to your piece of fruit and it can help to keep you from a binge later.

Here is another trap to avoid. Reducing fat might not be as smart as it sounds. Tufts University scientists recently put 11 middle-aged men and women volunteers on a variety of average reduced and low fat diets.

The results were astounding. Very low fat diets which provided only 15 percent of fat from calories did have a positive effect on blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. By the way, that diet is so strict there is no way it could be duplicated in real life. But a reduced fat diet, which is more realistic, only affected those levels if accompanied by weight loss.

Not only that, they concluded that cutting fat without losing weight actually increased triglyceride levels and decreased HDL!

So while excess fat is not healthy, it isn’t a dirty word either. Without some fat in our diets, our bodies could not make nerve cells and hormones or absorb fat soluble vitamins.

If obesity is one of your high cholesterol causes, try losing a pound a week with a 500 calorie solution. No, we aren’t going to ask you to only eat 500 calories a week!

What you can do is easily lose a pound a week just by cutting 500 calories a day out of your diet. You can easily burn 250 of them just be spending about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, like bicycling, dancing or just walking. To get rid of the other 250 try cutting out mayonnaise, doughnuts and alcohol.

If there were no other reason to take control of cholesterol, here’s one that certainly has merit.

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 3,250 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 83. Men with total cholesterol 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 who had low levels of HDL were also twice as likely to suffer from impotence. The same high-fat diet that narrows arteries and blocks blood flow to your heart also narrows the arteries that carry blood to your penis. Blood has to be able to get to your penis in order for you to have an erection. Take control now and you’ll find yourself improving in this area of your life as well.

The typical American diet consists of fatty meats, processed cold cuts, dairy products and fried foods. As if that weren’t enough, throw in commercially baked breads, roles, cakes, chips and cookies. This is a surefire path to high cholesterol.

Oddly, ingesting cholesterol will not raise the blood cholesterol nearly as much as eating a type of fat called “saturated fat.” Like cholesterol, saturated fat is primarily found in animal products like cheese, butter, cream, whole milk, ice cream, lard and marbled meats.

Don’t believe that if you just change to vegetable oil you can eliminate the problem. Some vegetable oils are also high in saturated fat. Palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter are also very high in saturated fat. Unfortunately, these are also most often used in commercially baked goods, coffee creams and nondairy whipped toppings, so make sure you read labels.

Trans fatty acids may be as bad for you as saturated fat, so stick margarine is equal to butter as far as your cholesterol is concerned. Diet and soft margarines are a better bet. Also look for brands of margarine or shortening that top the ingredient list with oils rich in monounsaturated fat, like canola oil.
Try substituting butter and margarine with a fruit puree. Prune puree is one particularly popular alternative but try using applesauce and apricots as substitutes.

What has the chefs who specialize in nutrition so excited about using prune puree is the significant difference in fat grams as well as calories. 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. You can see now why bakers are excited about prunes!

Prunes also contain large amounts of pectin which helps hold in the air bubbles that make baked good rise. They also have large amounts of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, which helps keep baked goods moist and gives them the flaky, tender taste of shortening or butter.

The only drawback to using fruits like applesauce and apricots as fat substitutes is that baked goods tend to become soggy and moldy within a day or two so plan quantities accordingly. Also, when baking with substitutes for fat, use cake flour instead of regular all purpose flour. It will keep the baked good tender. Don’t over bake your fat reduced recipes as they do tend to dry out quicker than traditional recipes that call for butter or oil.

Here’s another healthy living tip for you. If you really have trouble giving up your favorite high fat cheese, try this. Turn it into a low fat version. Just zap it in the microwave for a minute or two. Pull it out and drain off the oil. It will significantly reduce the fat content of the cheese. This will work well for cheese sandwiches, toppings and other recipes that call for your favorite cheese.

Scientists have discovered that water mixed with fructose suppresses the appetite better than glucose with water or even diet drinks. Fructose is the kind of sugar found in fruits. Drink a glass of fructose rich orange juice a half hour to an hour before a meal. You will eat fewer calories during the next meal and still feel comfortably full.

Don’t think that just because we are discussing “fat free” regimens that you must cut beef completely out of your diet. Too much of this “good thing” won’t do you any favors. However, you can have your steak and eat it too, provided it’s a cut that is relatively low in fat and cholesterol and you do not add fat in the cooking and serving process.

When shopping for beef, select grade eye of the round is considered by some to be just that. A 3 ½ ounce serving has approximately four grams of fat, less than half of the amount in a 1 ounce serving of cheddar cheese. It also contains 69 milligrams of cholesterol, among 5the lowest for meats, and it is a good soruce of zinc, iron and other nutrients.

Tip round, bottom round and top sirloin are also relatively lean and high in these nutrients.

Turkey breast and chicken breast are prizes as soon as you remove the skin. 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.

Pork tenderloin is the top choice for the “other white meat,” while leg shank is the leanest choice among lamb cuts.

Cinnamon has blood-thinning properties that can help lower cholesterol levels, says Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S., M.A.Sc, director of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He suggests this tea: Mix 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of trikatu (a lend of ginger and two kinds of peppers) directly into a cup of hot water, then stir and steep for five minutes.

Add a teaspoon of honey once the tea has cooled. Dr. Lad says to drink this beverage twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. Trikatu is available from Ayurvedic practitioners and in some health food stores.

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