Food Items To Eat And Avoid
To maintain cholesterol levels in a vegan diet, it is essential to reduce the consumption of processed foods. If you have been facing high cholesterol issues on a vegan diet, you can include unsaturated fatty acids in your diet to maintain your cholesterol. There are various food items that vegans must eat and avoid to keep their cholesterol levels balanced.
What Are The Cholesterol Benefits Of A Vegetarian Diet
A 2015 analysis published in the Journal of American Heart Association looked at whether a strict vegetarian diet could help lower cholesterol levels. The study included people from around the world, ranging in age from 20s to 50s, some of whom had tried medication to treat high cholesterol.
The most common type of vegetarian diet tried by the participants in the study was a vegan diet that excluded meat, eggs, and dairy products. The second most common diet was a lacto-ovo diet in which the participants avoided meats but ate dairy and eggs. Cholesterol levels were followed in these individuals for more than 6 years and compared to those who ate omnivorous diets.
The researchers found that those on a vegetarian diet significantly reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol . However, there was no significant change in triglyceride levels regardless of diet. The vegetarians also had a reduction in HDL . Interestingly, the people who ate a vegan or vegetarian diet were more likely to lose weight .
Vegans And Lower Cholesterol
Various studies show that this diet has links to lower cholesterol, including one that showed vegan and vegetarian diets are more likely to have lower LDL cholesterol levels compared to meat-eaters.
It is believed that a lower BMI contributes to this, and other studies have backed this up, finding that vegans tend to have lower triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure than meat-eaters.
Any healthy diet that focuses on nutrition and high levels of fiber from whole grains, fruits, etc is thought to be able to help decrease cholesterol, so this is not unique to veganism alone.
However, a well-planned vegan diet will help, as long as highly processed foods are avoided.
Studies show that high levels of processed foods are linked to higher LDL cholesterol , as well as higher blood pressure.
Since many vegan alternatives are processed, it is important to limit these in any healthy diet.
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Heres Why Diet Isnt The Only Possible Reason For High Cholesterol
Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on Feb 6, 2019. Written by Caitlin Boyd. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
âWhy is my cholesterol high?â If you find yourself asking that, you arenât alone. High cholesterol, a well-known risk factor for heart disease and stroke, affects about 1 in every 3 American adults. Thatâs arguably a pretty large proportion of adults who have high cholesterol â and it raises the question: why is high blood cholesterol so common?
Dietary habits, as many people know, are often responsible for high levels of cholesterol: eat a lot of foods high in saturated fat â cheeseburgers, for instance â and your blood cholesterol level might swing upwards.
While a diet high in saturated and trans fat can increase your total cholesterol level and cause high LDL and triglyceride numbers, this isnât always the whole picture when it comes to cholesterol levels: high blood cholesterol can make an unwelcome appearance even if youâre very careful about eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Hereâs why: there are other potential drivers of high cholesterol, such as a lack of exercise and oneâs genetics.
So read on to take a closer look at both of these non-dietary reasons for high cholesterol if youâre wondering âWhy is my cholesterol high when I eat healthy foods?â
What Diet Decreases Risk Of High Cholesterol
Research shows that certain dietary patterns can help lower cholesterol. One diet in particular, the Portfolio diet, was pitted against a low saturated fat diet with cholesterol lowering medication and was found to be almost just as effective 6. The Portfolio diets name comes from the fact that it contains a portfolio of foods, each of which have been shown to decrease cholesterol, and together can have an even more powerful effect 6, 7, 8.
Another diet that may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol is the DASH diet . The DASH diet was designed to lower blood pressure and to improve cardiovascular health. Some evidence suggests DASH is also helpful for lowering cholesterol 9, 10.
A third dietary pattern that can improve cardiovascular health is the Mediterranean diet. Quality evidence shows that the Mediterranean diet can decrease risk of heart disease one of the ways it does this is through improving cholesterol levels 11.
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Will A Vegetarian Diet Lower Cholesterol
Dietary vegetarianism may be both heart-healthy and nutritionally dense. Low in total fat and saturated fat, and high in fiber, vegetarian diets can help you lose weight while also lowering your blood cholesterol levels. A well designed vegetarian diet is beneficial to your heart and may provide you with all of the essential nutrients you require.
How To Choose Healthy Fats
Even though a vegetarian diet eliminates animal foods as a source of saturated fat, if you have high cholesterol, youâll still need to watch out for sources of fat and cooking methods that can affect your cholesterol levels. As a rule of thumb, avoid fried foods and cut back on processed foods when possible.
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Foods To Eliminate In Vegan Diet
- Sugary Drinks and Beverages: You must not include soda, soft drinks, fruit juice, and sweet tea in your diet
- Salty Snacks: Salty snacks like chips, crackers, and popcorn contain saturated fats that can increase the risk of cholesterol
- Sweet Items: Even though cakes, cupcakes, and candies taste delicious, you must avoid sweet items to regulate your cholesterol and sugar levels in the body
- Processed Meat Alternatives: Soy burgers and vegan meat must be avoided because of their saturated fat and less nutritional value
Vegan diets offer unmatched health benefits to individuals. However, it is essential to pick a proper diet to regulate cholesterol levels and keep other health problems under control. It is advised that you must limit the consumption of processed food in your vegan diet to control your high cholesterol levels.
Lowering High Cholesterol Levels With A Vegan Diet
A well-planned and nutrient balanced vegan diet can help in lowering your high cholesterol levels. Since vegan products are plant-derived products, they are supposedly more heart-friendly qualities and fit well with the guidelines of having LDL cholesterol levels between 70 and 189 mg/dL. You can collaborate with certain vegan diets, which can further reduce your increased cholesterol.
Vegan trends are generally treated as heart-healthy trends since it tends to encourage and enjoy the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, and nuts. You are further encouraged to replace high saturated fats with plant-derived unsaturated fats. These include foods such as peanuts, nuts, seeds, avocados, small quantities of vegetables such as rapeseed. You can also inculcate olive oil in your diet and opt for vegan vegetable spreads and dips.
Vegan diets also make the most room for optimizing plant foods, and through backed-up research, they can help to a certain level for people to be more diet conscious and good well-being. Additionally, Vegans are said to be consuming more fiber and nutrients from plenty of fruit and vegetables in replacement with a high amount of saturated fats.
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Lifestyle Changes Vs Medication For Cholesterol Management
Firstly, do not stop taking medications or make changes to your diet without consulting your doctor first. Cholesterol lowering medications can be life-saving.
Rather than questioning your doctor about the need for cholesterol medications, I think a better question would be to ask about the lifestyle changes that have been shown to improve cholesterol levels. In particular, a request to be referred to a Registered Dietitian could be a great way to go about safely implementing dietary changes.
Unfortunately doctors dont have a lot of time to spend with patients. Lifestyle changes are hard and require specialized support. If possible, work with a Registered Dietitian to make sustainable lifestyle changes.
Again, let me be clear, while the lifestyle and dietary changes noted above are backed by research, they are not intended to replace cholesterol lowering medications unless youve explicitly discussed it with your doctor first.
The Problem With Too Much Cholesterol
Dietary cholesterol comes primarily from sources of saturated fats, like meat and other animal-based products.
The double-whammy with cholesterol is that by eating a diet high in saturated fat intake, you consume more cholesterol, and these foods make your liver produce more cholesterol, too! This increased production and consumption turns into high cholesterol levels in the body pretty quickly.
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Do Vegans Have Cholesterol Issues
In short, yes. Even though vegans do not have to worry about the cholesterol found in animal products, other sources can increase cholesterol labels. Some are dietary and others are non-dietary.
These can include what we eat, but also age, genes, lifestyle, and family background.
Vegans have more access to foods high in saturated fat, increasing triglyceride levels. These include coconut and palm oils that are found in vegan alternatives, especially convenience foods and faux cheese. These foods add salt, and sugar levels despite claiming to be healthier.
When looking into heart health, there is also the matter of vitamin B12. This nutrient is important because low levels can result in high homocysteine labels. This has links to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Because vitamin B12 is a common deficiency in the vegan diet, it is important to supplement it and consume foods fortified with B12 to make up for the deficit. The daily recommended dosage is around 2.4 mcg. However, this is the recommended absorbed amount, so higher levels may be required.
Its Time To Be Honest With You
110 Pounds of Lean Amelia
Amelia and I eat pretty much the same things. We rarely eat apart. We cook together and we eat at restaurants together.
She does more intense cardio than I am able to, she has more lean muscle mass than I do, and she is at her ideal weightshe doesnt have 10 pounds to lose like I do. But for the most part, our diet and lifestyle are very similar.
She had her cholesterol checked a year ago and it was in the 150s.
I think its pretty obvious at this point that I have a genetic predisposition to elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. In addition to my moms current condition, I also had a grandma and great-grandma who died from strokes. Not a good sign.
However, I think its time to be honest with you and with myself. While we eat a WFPBNO diet at home most of the time, we dont always eat at home. In fact, we eat out at restaurants quite a bitprobably 3 to 5 times per week.
French Fries & Beer
While we only eat vegan food, thats still a lot of oil, sugar, refined grains, french fries, cheese-less pizza, bread, desserts, etc. We also drink beer and wine several times per week.
We know the owners and the employees of our favorite vegan restaurants so we really enjoy frequenting them and supporting them. Its more than food its a social outing and its helping the vegan cause.
But even worse, we eat out roughly 15% of the time. That means were only eating WFPBNO about 80% of the time.
Mic the Vegan would probably say: YES, DUMMY!
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How Could The Vegan Diet Be Uniquely Beneficial
Inquiry into the potential role of plant-based dietaryprotocols in controlling lipid levels of adults with hyperlipidemia began witha bit of simple deduction
However, initial efforts to modify diet to achieve desired outcomes focused on avoiding deleterious food components such as saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.4-6 Results from such efforts showed these interventions to be effective, but modest.7
Unlike diets traditionally used in studies of this nature, the vegan diet shines in two respects: by virtue of what it excludes and by what a well planned, whole-food, plant-based vegan diet includesample amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
In recent times, researchers have begun to take a secondlook at the oversimplified focus on avoiding certain dietary components andstarted to look to what may need to be included in an effective dietarystrategy in the prevention of heart disease.
It just so happens that beneficial dietary components thought to improve many cardiovascular parameters are entirely of plant origin. Gee, what a coincidence.
The plant kingdom includes a vast range of food groups and constituents established as beneficial to ones lipid profile: 7-13
- Soy proteins
Real World Results
What Foods Decrease Risk Of High Cholesterol
Randomized clinical trials have shown specific foods that lower cholesterol levels. The Portfolio diet combined four of these foods, each with a different mechanism of action, to get maximum cholesterol lowering results 7. The four cholesterol-lowering food components of the Portfolio diet are:
A fifth food, legumes, are not specifically included in the Portfolio diet but legumes have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels 14.
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Can A Vegan Diet Lower Cholesterol
Switching to a vegan diet, which prioritizes whole plant foods and minimizes ultra-processed, sugar-sweetened, and packaged foods can help support normal cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
Choose a wide variety of plant foods that contribute fiber, vitamins, minerals, unsaturated omega-3 fats, protein, and antioxidants. Pair with regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits for the best results.
Factors Other Than Food Can Raise Cholesterol Levels
If you dont eat much of those foods above, its probably not food causing your high cholesterol levels.
There are many other factors that can affect cholesterol production drastically. To make things worse, most of them increase LDL the most.
Heres a list of the most common non-food causes of high cholesterol:
- Genetic factors Inherited conditions like familial hypercholesterolemia can lead to very high LDL levels.
- Obesity Excess fat can almost double the amount of cholesterol you produce.
- Diabetes Strongly associated with high LDL levels.
- Liver or kidney disease Certain diseases are intertwined with high cholesterol. Although in many cases the high cholesterol is the one affecting the disease.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome People with this syndrome often have low HDL cholesterol.
- Pregnancy Many hormone levels change, and that often leads to higher cholesterol production than usual. It also often causes pregnancy insomnia.
- Underactive thyroid gland Another issue linked to increased cholesterol.
- Drugs Certain drugs like steroids and progestins can increase LDL and lower HDL.
As you can see there are many factors other than diet that can affect cholesterol levels.
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Do Plant Foods Contain Cholesterol
While a plant-based diet tends to maintain lower cholesterol levels than an omnivorous one, there are still plenty of vegan cholesterol sources to watch for, especially if you’re someone genetically prone to high cholesterol levels.
Read more about the plant sources of cholesterol below and how to quickly implement a lower cholesterol diet full of healthy and delicious plant-based foods.
Summary: Cholesterol And A Vegan Diet
High cholesterol is both preventable and manageable through lifestyle changes . Medication may still be required for some people . Lowering intake of trans fats and saturated fats while increasing intake of soluble fiber, soy protein, nuts, plant sterols and legumes is demonstrated in research studies to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels. Vegan diets are commonly high in these health-promoting foods and a transition to focusing on eating these plant-based foods could be helpful for cholesterol management.
Dietary changes are challenging so working with a Registered Dietitian can be extremely helpful in making and sustaining lifestyle changes for long-term health.
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So Do Vegans Not Have To Worry About High Cholesterol
A vegan diet doesnt automatically guarantee healthy cholesterol levels.
Its true that vegans tend to have healthier diets in general. But if you mostly eat processed, fatty foods, white bread, potatoes and sweets, you can easily have high levels.
If, on the other hand, your diet consists of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds, your levels are probably super healthy and shouldnt be an issue.
Some people may have a wholefood vegan diet, without coconut and palm oil, avoiding hydrogenated fats, doing everything right and still have high cholesterol.
In those cases its often because theres an underlying cause, such as a disease altering cholesterol metabolism, which requires medical attention.
Vegan Foods With Trans Fats
While saturated fats are fairly complex, its pretty clear that trans fats are bad.
They come hydrogenated oils, which used to be very common in margarines. Some still have them today, but most margarines dont.
For the most part, just be on the lookout for hydrogenated oil on the ingredients list of a product. It still might say 0 trans fats, but thats just because they rounded down on the nutritional facts .
The other source of trans fats is cooking oil. If oil is used for frying for a long period of time , trans fats will start to form. Still not as much as in margarine, but significant amounts.
The following types of foods most commonly have trans fats in them:
- Baked goods Cakes, pies, cookies, biscuits
- Deep-fried foods
- Frozen pizza
Most vegan diets wont contain much in the way of trans fats, but you should be aware of foods that have them.
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