by | Sep 11, 2018 | 2 comments

Dozens of times each year, I celebrate with clients who are living healthy, statin-free lives after being told they have “high cholesterol.”  Sometimes, the client has been on statins for many years, and other times, they come to my office after a scary appointment with a doctor warning that statins are “inevitable” if something doesn’t change.  With hard work and diet and lifestyle changes, though, it is almost always possible to achieve health with real food!

A few caveats … Of course, I am not a doctor and cannot advise you to come off of your prescription medications (I can only help you change your diet and lifestyle through my health coaching programs and then you can talk to your doctor about your medications).  Also, the tips I include here are the most basic of all tips.  Working with individuals is often more complicated than this, and involves a lot of customization, monitoring, and accountability, which I can only provide through one-to-one coaching!

But in today’s post, I’m going to share a few basic tips about how to lower your cholesterol naturally … or, rather, how to optimize your cholesterol levels, because lower isn’t always better!

What is cholesterol, anyway?

Did you know that cholesterol is found in every single cell of your body?  It’s actually essential for human life, and we need it to manufacture hormones (like estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol), bile (which helps us digest fat), and vitamin D.  It helps each cell in your body maintain its structure, and has dozens of other functions.

Less than 20% of the cholesterol in your body comes from the foods you ingest, which is why we know that eating things like eggs (with the yolk!) is actually healthy.  80% of the cholesterol in your body is produced by your liver, and this is actually a great thing! lower cholesterol naturally

To understand this, you have to know about things called “lipoproteins.”  Think of lipoproteins as taxi cabs that help carry passengers where they need to go.  Lipoproteins carry cholesterol (and triglycerides, vitamins, and other things) where it needs to go in the body.

The things we frequently measure (HDL and LDL) are actually not cholesterol themselves, but they are lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around the body.  LDL carries cholesterol to parts of the body that need it, and HDL picks up stray cholesterol and brings it back to the liver for excretion.

So when we say we have “high LDL,” this just means that there are a lot of damaged parts of the body, so your body manufactures a lot of “taxicabs” to bring cholesterol to fix the damage.  The LDL itself isn’t bad, it’s just an indication that there’s a problem going on.  When we say we want higher HDL, we just mean that we want more “taxicabs” to carry away the stray cholesterol and bring it back to the liver.

Is lower cholesterol better?

We’ve often heard that we should have total cholesterol under 200, and that high cholesterol is “bad.”  But saying that your total cholesterol is high or low is like saying the total score of a baseball game was 25 … it tells you nothing!  Was the score 13-12, a nailbiter?  Or was it 25-0, a boring game?  (By the way, I got this analogy from the book Cholesterol Clarity, which I recommend!).  I personally pay no attention to my total cholesterol levels.

Instead, I encourage you to pay attention to the breakdown of your cholesterol.  (Did you know that total cholesterol = HDL + LDL + (Triglycerides / 5)) ?

  • HDL: traditional recommendations say that HDL should be higher than 39, but I like to see mine higher than 60. I once had an HDL level of 102 (and I was thrilled, even though my “total cholesterol” was over 200!), and my most recent reading was 94.
  • LDL: traditional recommendations say that LDL should be lower than 100, and I think this is a good guideline. Honestly, though, I think measuring V-LDL (which most standard blood tests don’t do) is more important than a basic LDL reading.  My most recent LDL reading was 69.
  • Triglycerides: traditional recommendations say that triglycerides should be lower than 150, but I like to see mine lower than 100. My most recent reading was 39, and I was thrilled!  I believe that this is the most important metric to look at if you are concerned with your overall health, risk of heart disease, and longevity.

How to raise HDL

Note: as I said, these are very basic tips, and should not be considered medical advice.  If you need help optimizing your cholesterol, seek 1-to-1 care from someone like me!

  • Exercise. Many forms of exercise (including circuit training, high intensity, aerobic, low-intensity, and strength training) have been linked to higher HDL levels.
  • Eat plenty of healthy fats. Consuming adequate healthy fats, like olive oil, olives, avocados, high-quality fish, high-quality oils, nuts, seeds, and coconut, can help raise HDL.lower cholesterol naturally
  • Stop smoking. Smoking lowers HDL, so quitting smoking can help optimize HDL levels.
  • Optimize weight. Carrying excess weight can lower HDL.

How to lower LDL

Note: as I said, these are very basic tips, and should not be considered medical advice.  If you need help optimizing your cholesterol, seek 1-to-1 care from someone like me!

  • Eat more vegetables. Vegetables are high in antioxidants and fiber, both of which can help lower LDL. I always recommend 8-12 servings per day!
  • Drink more water. Being adequately hydrated is one of the simplest things you can do to optimize your LDL!
  • Reduce saturated fat intake. Saturated fat is not (even close to!) the demon we once thought it was.  That said, for those with high LDL, I recommend reducing intake of saturated fat like fried foods, hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils, and red meat (especially low-quality processed red meat).
  • Manage stress. Did you know that stress can be closely linked to adverse cholesterol outcomes, particularly LDL?  Studies like this one , this one, and this one have directly made that link.  See this post for more on how stress can impact your health.

How to lower triglycerides

Note: as I said, these are very basic tips, and should not be considered medical advice.  If you need help optimizing your cholesterol, seek 1-to-1 care from someone like me!

  • Reduce consumption of sugar. Sugar is everywhere, and too much sugar intake raises triglyceride levels. Start by cutting out obvious sources of sugar, then move on to removing hidden added sugars (which are in 72% of products in supermarkets these days!). Need some help?  Check out this post on added sugar, or my book, Start Here.lower cholesterol naturally
  • Reduce consumption of refined carbs. Refined carbohydrates, like bread, baked goods, and pasta, turn to sugar quickly in our bodies, so reducing our intake can help optimize triglyceride levels.
  • Reduce alcohol intake. High alcohol intake is associated with high triglycerides, so cutting back can help optimize your levels.

Now it’s your turn … Which part of this is most surprising to you?  Do you have any cholesterol “success stories” to share?



  1. Betsy LaPaglia

    This was a great article. Thank you. I’ve been resisting taking a statin for years. I’ve read too much about them. They have made the drug companies very wealthy. My HDL is 62. Because I have diabetes, the new standard for total cholesterol is below 100, which I think is ridiculous and unhealthy. Like you state, our bodies need the right kind of cholesterol to function properly.

    • Megan Lyons

      So glad you are in control of your health, Betsy! And hope you’re doing well!


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Hi! I'm Megan Lyons,

the voice behind The Lyons’ Share. I love all things health, wellness, and fitness-related, and I hope to share some of my passion with you. Thanks for stopping by!
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