My 15-year-old son had low HDL and a poor cholesterol profile at his checkup. (Total cholesterol was 146—HDL 29 and LDL 96). For ten months I have had him drink my version of the cholesterol-lowering smoothie I found on your website. He had the smoothie four or five days a week and loved it. I use frozen unsweetened strawberries, orange juice, ground flaxseed, and oat bran.
In June I asked the pediatrician if he would order blood work so I could see if the smoothie had helped raise my son’s HDL and improved his other blood work. It did. Now his HDL is 34, and his total cholesterol is 138, with LDL of 92. That makes the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol much better—under three. It would be great to get his HDL even higher. Do you have any ideas?
A surprising range of dietary choices can help improve cholesterol profiles, from beets to cinnamon to fish oil to a low-carb diet. The original smoothie recipe you found on our website is: Put orange juice (8 ounces) and a diced banana or peach into a 16-ounce jar, cap the jar tightly, and shake. Add one-third cup raw rolled oats and one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal. Cap once again, shake, and let sit for 15 or 20 minutes. The smoothie can be frozen and will stay cool for hours after coming out of the freezer.
Your column often covers high-cholesterol issues. Why don’t you mention the value of adding a daily dose of organic apple cider vinegar as a great way of reducing cholesterol? I add one to two teaspoons to my morning cranberry and orange juice, and my cholesterol has come down from 184 to 132. It’s tasty and a whole lot cheaper and safer than the medicines the pharmaceutical industry pushes on us.
Apple cider vinegar is a traditional remedy often suggested for lowering cholesterol. A study in Japan has shown that acetic acid (vinegar) added to the diet can lower cholesterol and triglycerides in rats.2 We have not seen clinical trials on the effects of vinegar in humans, however.
I have read that nuts are healthy even though they are high in fat. My husband and I are thinking of adding walnuts to our diet. If we do add them, how many should we eat? I presently eat seven almonds a day. Is that too many?
Walnuts contain healthful fat, primarily omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. The FDA now allows walnut packaging to carry a health claim based on research showing that one and half ounces of walnuts daily (about one-third cup) can help lower LDL cholesterol. Your overall diet has to be low in cholesterol and saturated fat, however. You might want to alternate eating walnuts one day and almonds the next. Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fat like that found in olive oil. They are also a good source of fiber, vitamin E, and protein. Seven almonds, less than an ounce (23 almonds), is the daily dose that has been shown to help lower bad LDL cholesterol by about four percent.
THE PEOPLE’S PHARMACY
Favorite Food #19: Walnuts
We are nuts about nuts. And while nearly all nuts offer great health benefits because of their monounsaturated fatty acids, walnuts are king.
Walnuts not only have the same fatty acids as other nuts but also contain omega-3 fatty acids, the magic ingredients in fish oil. In moderation, walnuts can do wonders for the heart. (Remember that like all other nuts, they’re calorie laden, so restraint is key.)
About one-third cup (1.5 ounces) of walnuts eaten daily can help cut LDL cholesterol and prevent heart disease. In fact, the research is so convincing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows walnut packagers to flaunt heart-healthy advantages. The omega-3s in walnuts may even stabilize heart rhythms. The Physicians Health Study, which followed 22,000 male doctors for nearly 20 years, showed that subjects who ate nuts were considerably less likely to drop dead of a sudden heart attack.1 In addition to benefiting the heart, walnuts also appear to cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In a major study published by nutritional expert Walter Willett and his colleagues, women who ate about five ounces of walnuts each week reduced their chances of getting type 2 diabetes by an impressive 27 percent.2
Readers tell us that walnuts have even helped bring back their natural hair color: “My husband and I have started eating more omega-3 fatty acids. We now take a spoonful of freshly ground flaxseed daily. We also eat salmon and English walnuts several times a week to improve our health.
As a result of these changes, my hair is regaining its original color. I was a redhead, but it had turned blond. It is now becoming red again. I am 85. My husband had black hair, but he has been getting gray. His hair is now showing more black. He is 86.”
We cannot promise that walnuts will restore hair color or act as a fountain of youth. But adding an ounce or so of walnuts to your daily diet will certainly be good for you and may act as a preventive for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic