We all know bad cholesterol comes from an indulgent diet rich in fats and sugars... Alcohols, rich cheeses, greasy meats, heavy foods.
In Ayurveda, these foods, if consumed regularly for years will create toxins aka Ama in Sanskrit. In essence, it accumulates and takes the heavy, immobile, sticky or slimy qualities of the Kapha dosha. When everything works well, Vata in charge of movement and circulation in the body, manages to expulse Ama out of the system. When on the other end, Ama has managed to pile up for years, it doesn't get dislodged so easily, it creates inflammation through the Pitta dosha trying to burn away the problem and often ends with a life saving stent...
The good news is, Cholesterol is totally reversible just by changing what you eat.
I often quote Mimi Guarneri, an American heart surgeon who’s placed stents in patients with coronary diseases for 30 years, notes: “I was placing more than 750 stents a year. For many of my patients, this meant the difference between life and death, as a stent restore the blood flow in a matter of minutes (…) But each year, 800,000 people in America are experiencing a new or recurrent stroke.
I realized I wasn’t healing people. Rather my job was to mop the floor while the tap was still running”.
This first means, that if you want to heal, you can, but not by taking Statin meds the rest of your life but by making the effort to eat well and treat yourself well. Adapting your diet, will change your life quite literally. The 2nd point, a stent will save your life, but temporarily. Until you have removed the root cause, the problem will remain and often return. 2 issues: cholesterol often targets people with high intensity and stressful lifestyles who feel they can't add to their existing stress load with a diet and more constraints. The 2nd issue is the Statin's side effects the' ve been prescribed: headache, dizziness, feeling sick, unusually tired or physically weak, digestive system problems, such as constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion or farting, muscle pain, sleep problems and low blood platelet count. Statin decreases your immunity and has a real bad effect on the liver too, depleting your red cell blood count. So rather than counting on a pill, that helps on one side and makes it worth on the other, Here is a list of simple things to do, that will help you heal:
Astringent and pungent tastes: will help you fight cholesterol.
The astringent taste is always difficult to grasp: but in essence, astringent foods help cells contract and retain or absorb: pomegranate, alfalfa sprouts, avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots (raw), Cauliflower, green beans, peas or even potatoes are examples. (If you are chronically bloated, these foods are not recommended. See an Ayurvedic practitioner to first restore the digestive fire).
The pungent/ spicy taste help lower cholesterol: For example, black pepper is pungent and excellent against cholesterol, but if consumed in great quantities, the Pitta dosha triggers inflammations. So include pepper as a few pinches when cooking but not in excess.
Fenugreek (Methi in Sanskrit) is a miracle plant when it comes to slowing down the absorption of fats and sugars by the body. You'll find it in any supermarket in powder or as seeds. If as seeds: dry fry the seeds for 2 or 3 minutes (without burning them but to dry them out) until you can smell their scent and then reduce them to powder with a coffee grinder or else. It can be cooked with spinach in a dhal curry. It is a good idea to add it to any fatty dishes, starches or fatty meat / fish dishes. It is a great herb for diabetic patients too. Include fenugreek in your meals, it will help absorb the extra fat and sugars.
Cinnamon is a "hot" spice that won't aggravate Pitta. It has "scrapping" qualities which will eliminate excess toxins and promote circulation. Like Fenugreek, it also has the karma (action) "Grahi" which absorbs fats and sugars. The best cinnamon ("Real Cinnamon") comes from Sri Lanka. It is twice as effective as other cinnamon (called "false cinnamon"). It's a good digestive powder in general, it strengthens uterine muscles, purifies the blood and is a heart stimulant (do not use if you have arrhythmia, tachycardia, etc.). You can add a few pinches of cinnamon to your dishes, your teas and when cooking. You can sprinkle it on an oven-roasted apple with a little brown sugar.
Cumin: the Arabs call it "Seeds of blessings". Like cinnamon, it has these "scrapping" properties which will help get rid of cholesterol. It is used for weight loss and as a digestive. To be used often in cooking but in moderation. Sprinkle during cooking or take as a tea (see recipes below).
The good herbs to use in small quantities
Nigella seeds (Black cumin - do not use if pregnant)
Black Pepper: Use only a pinch of black pepper to avoid aggravation of Pitta and potential inflammation.
Foods to use
Ghee or clarified butter for cooking
If you have reasonable levels of Cholesterol or if you know your constitution is Vata, then Ghee is the perfect cooking oil. It creates good cholesterol rather than bad one Ghee is a saturated fat, but a good fat that withstands high cooking temperatures without changing its molecular composition. Coconut Oil id also appropriate as a cooking oil
Rock salt / Himalayan salt
Recommended for daily use in the Charaka Samhita, rock salt balances the 3 doshas. It will not increase your blood pressure. In hypo or hypertension, rock salt in reasonable quantities can be used rather than sea salt which aggravates the condition
Avoid fried foods, fatty foods
Avoid spicy and acidic foods: mustard, vinegar, tomatoes, horseradish, excess black pepper (only a pinch when cooking)
Avoid tuna, salmon, beef, mutton, veal, duck and prefer white meats (chicken, pork, turkey) and white fish.
Avoid cow's milk / yogurts (which are sour) / cheeses and replace them with fresh goat cheese, almond or coconut milk /yogurt
Eat slow release light Kapha sugars: like sweet potatoes, potatoes, basmati rice, mung beans, lentils, honey. (Make sure you always soak the beans overnight before cooking them)
Raw vegetables should be limited to 2 or 3 times a week. Completely avoid fruit / vegetable juices. But eat plenty of cooked greens.
Some recipes to include some of these spices in your diet
Recipe: Fenugreek tea
1 teaspoon of fenugreek powder in a cup to which you add hot water. Have 1 every day anytime.
Recipe: Cold Fenugreek Infusion
2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds soaked in 1 glass of water (200ml) overnight.
Eat the seeds and drink the water on an empty stomach the next morning (it's important to eat the seeds!). It's also a great recipe for constipation and diabetes (fenugreek absorbs sugars and fats).
Will reduce cholesterol and blood lipid levels. You can have a Ginger Lime and Honey tea up to 2 times a day after meals. See the recipe here
It is said that half a teaspoon per day lowers cholesterol levels.
Cinnamon and Fenugreek tea
1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon + 1 teaspoon of powdered fenugreek
Prepare a tea with 1 cup of boiling water - once a day
Dates once a day
They are high in potassium and lower cholesterol levels as well as the risk of stroke / heart attack. They are especially good for Vata type patients. But be careful, do not exceed one a day especially if you have a high cholesterol level.
You can find the recipe in the Blog Post called Recipe For Immunity In Corona Time - Coriander water is a diuretic (don't drink in the evening or you might wake up to urinate at night), it also is an anti-inflammatory and regulates blood sugars and cholesterol levels. Have a glass a day all summer on an empty stomach. Avoid making it a habit, especially in the winter. As it is very cooling, it will aggravate Kapha and Vata in winter.
These are home remedies to help lower your cholesterol levels on a daily basis. Using any of these in excess might have consequences depending on your dosha. It is therefore not a substitute to seeing a doctor. In case of severe ailment, diabetes or heart disease, be sure to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner who will adapt the treatment to your own constitution avoiding potential inflammation for example.
The bottom line is that high cholesterol patients often have to question their life style and what make them happy. Often indulgence of rich foods and alcohol consumption is associated with pleasure and social fun, as a way to compensate for the stresses of urban life. Undergoing a "diet" is not an option they think. But comes a time when one has to decide to "extract" pleasure from health rather than self-destruction: in this case, it's just about cleaning up the body of the accumulated Ama. Ayurveda will teach you about your own body and where the limit is. The good news is, you can heal and quickly.