How to Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides Naturally

High triglycerides and cholesterol don't always require cholesterol-lowering medications and can sometimes be treated with diet, exercise, and changes in lifestyles. Even if medications are needed, these natural remedies can ensure that your cholesterol and triglyceride levels remain at healthy levels, helping you avoid heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.

This article offers tips on how to better control your cholesterol and triglyceride levels by eating right, exercising regularly, and stopping unhealthy habits like smoking.

Healthy woman touching phone screen on armband before exercising outdoors

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Lowering Cholesterol and Triglycerides With Lifestyle Changes

High cholesterol and triglycerides are mainly due to lifestyle factors like smoking, being physically inactive, being overweight, or drinking too much alcohol. They can also run in families and be worsened by these unhealthy lifestyle choices.

There are several lifestyle changes that are known to help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels:

Quitting Cigarettes

Smoking tobacco makes "bad" LDL cholesterol "stickier" and better able to cling to the walls of your arteries and form plaques. Smoking also lowers the production of "good" HDL cholesterol which normally takes cholesterol away from artery walls.

There is no "good" level of smoking. Smoking cessation can be difficult but, with the right tools, most people can quit after several attempts. This includes cessation tools like nicotine patches, sprays, gums, inhalers, and lozenges as well as drugs like Zyban (bupropion) and Chantix (varenicline).

Exercising Routinely

Exercise helps reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol by increasing "good" HDL cholesterol. Studies have shown that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise performed five days a week for 30 minutes or more can raise HDL to levels where it can counter the harmful effects of LDL.

Even so, it can take six months to a year to achieve beneficial results, which is why it is important to make exercise a habit you can sustain. You can do so by choosing aerobic activities you enjoy and that are appropriate for your age, like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing.

Exercising, along with the appropriate diet, can also help you manage your weight and shed excess pounds. This is especially important if you have obesity (defined as a body mass index over 30). People with obesity may require an hour of physical activity on most days to achieve sustainable weight loss.

Reducing Your Alcohol Intake

If you are male and drinking more than two alcoholic drinks each day or are female and drinking more than one drink per day, you are at risk of many health problems. Drinking in excess is linked to high triglycerides which can damage the liver and cause cholesterol levels to rise.

If you have high cholesterol, you need to limit your intake of alcohol to the abovelisted levels or less. If you can't, speak with your healthcare provider about alcohol treatment options.

Lowering Cholesterol and Triglycerides With Diet

The types of food you eat—and how much you eat—have a direct impact on your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This is evidenced by diets, like the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol with heart-healthy foods like fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil.

As with exercise, it can take up to a year or more before the benefits of diets are seen in blood cholesterol tests.

The following dietary tips and guidelines may help you lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels in conjunction with exercise and weight loss:

Portion Control

When you eat more calories than your body needs, those calories are stored as fat and increase your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

The simple rule is that you should only consume as many calories as you can burn off each day. If you aren't doing any physical activity, you are only burning around 1,800 calories per day and would need to restrict your calorie intake to lose weight.

A calorie-counter app can help you figure out how much food you can eat to achieve your weight loss or weight management goals. You can then adjust your portion sizes to avoid overeating.

Avoid Excess Sugar

Simple carbohydrates are sugars that can increase triglyceride levels. These are found in things like table sugar, sweetened drinks, baked goods, candies, soft drinks, and other sweet treats.

You should limit your intake of added sugar to no more than 10% of your total daily calories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For a 2,000-calorie diet, that is 200 calories or roughly 12 teaspoons.

Limit Unhealthy Fats

Saturated fats are found mostly in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry, processed meats, full-fat dairy, eggs, and butter. Coconut oil is also high in saturated fat. Excess saturated fat increases your risk for heart disease and increases both your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from saturated fats to less than 10% of your total calories each day. That's 200 calories or roughly 15 grams of saturated fat per day for a 2,000-calorie diet.

Eat Healthy Fats in Moderation

Unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy fats. Unsaturated fats are found in fish, olives, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Omega-3s found in fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseed have anti-inflammatory effects and may help lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

You should limit your intake of monounsaturated fats to 15% to 20% of your total calories, or roughly 33 to 44 grams of a 2000-calorie diet. Polyunsaturated fats should be limited to 5% to 10% of your daily calories, or roughly 11 to 22 grams of a 2000-calorie diet.

Eat High-Fiber Foods

Research has shown that soluble fiber can lower LDL cholesterol by grabbing onto fats and cholesterol in the small intestine so that they are excreted in your stool rather than being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Soluble fiber, the type that absorbs water in the intestines, is found in beans, oats, barley, oranges, apples, strawberries, peas, and potatoes, among other things.

Although there is no recommended intake for insoluble or soluble fiber, many experts recommend a total intake of 25 to 30 grams per day with about one-fourth (6 to 8 grams) coming from soluble fiber.

Best Foods for High Cholesterol

The National Institutes of Health recommend the following foods to help manage triglyceride and cholesterol levels:

  • Whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal and oat bran
  • Fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, and prunes
  • Legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans
  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna (canned or fresh), and mackerel

These foods should be incorporated into a balanced diet with the right mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

When Medical Treatment Is Necessary

If these lifestyle measures aren't helping enough or you are at high risk of heart disease, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to bring your cholesterol and triglyceride levels back under control.

Common choices include:

  • Statins drugs like Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Crestor (rosuvastatin)
  • Zetia (ezetimibe), a cholesterol absorption inhibitor
  • Nexletol (bempedoic acid), a newer drug similar to statins
  • Bile acid binders like Welchol (colesevelam) and Colestid (colestipol) 
  • PCSK9 inhibitors like Praluent (alirocumab) and Repatha (evolocumab)

These drugs should not be considered replacements for diet, exercise, weight loss, or smoking cessation, but rather part of an overall treatment plan to reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ashley Braun, MPH, RD
Ashley Braun, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and public health professional with over 5 years of experience educating people on health-related topics using evidence-based information. Her experience includes educating on a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, HIV, neurological conditions, and more.