Cholesterol plays many important roles in the proper functioning of our healthy bodies, but too much of it can be harmful. Cholesterol is beneficial in how it keeps the walls of our cells flexible and how it compromises several necessary hormones. On the flip-side, cholesterol can build up as clots and plaques in blood vessels, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Lots of people take medications to lower their for high cholesterol, but there are also plenty of things we can do to naturally reduce the bad cholesterol on our own.

Although there are some genetic causes for high cholesterol, the main culprit is a poor diet with minimal exercise. Poor eating habits and obesity are the leading causes of poor health in most first world countries. We let convenience and the abundance of tasty choices led us astray from natural healthy foods. Here are some quick dietary changes that you can make today to start lowering your cholesterol naturally.

#1. Eat the “Right” Kinds of Fat

The American diet is very high in fat. According to the food pyramid you should be eating very little fat and latest guidelines suggest less than 10% of your calories should be from saturated fats. So, what is the difference between good and bad fats? The fats to avoid are trans fats (hydrogenated oils used for frying food or extending the shelf life of processed foods) and saturated fats (fats from animal products). If you eat animal products make sure to go for lower fat choices like poultry and fish. Better fats are those that are naturally occurring in nuts, seeds, avocados, soybeans and healthy fatty fish like salmon.

#2. Eat a Diet High in Clean Natural Foods with Bright Colors

If the majority of the food you eat in a day is unprocessed then you’re going in the right direction. Go for colorful fruits and vegetables, leafy greens and high fiber foods like beans and whole grains. Avoid highly processed foods, added sugars, fast food, refined carbs and fried foods. Goodbye McDonalds. Hello Salad Bar.

#3. Make Time for Cardio

Aerobic exercise that elevates your heart rate can naturally lower your cholesterol and fight obesity at the same time. Based on a review of 13 different studies, a mere 30 minutes of activity five days a week is enough to improve cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. You can walk, jog, swim, bike or dance your way to good health!