How Atherosclerosis Plaque Build
The plaques that form in artery walls are not stable. They can rupture, and if they do, a blood clot forms to heal the rupture 1. This clot could grow in size and block blood flow at the rupture site, or break off from the rupture site and get caught in an area of plaque build-up further along the artery, causing a blockage there 1.
Either way, artery blockage stops blood flow to whatever organ or tissue the artery flows to. The event of having a blocked artery is called many different things, and depends on the organ that the blood flow was going to. The two most common organs this happens to are the heart and brain we call these events heart attacks and strokes respectively.
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!
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.
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Can A Vegan Diet Prevent High Cholesterol
This article is about cholesterol levels and a vegan diet so its important to note that veganism isnt about the health of an individual . So, when talking about making dietary changes in relation to health, I prefer to use the term plant-based diet as that more accurately represents the fact that a plant-based diet is about the health of an individual.
It also helps clear up the fact that a vegan diet isnt necessarily filled with health promoting foods whereas a plant-based diet is often focused around more whole foods.
Given what we know about plant-based diets and dietary factors related to increasing or decreasing cholesterol levels, it makes sense that a plant-based diet is one that could prevent high cholesterol.
However, for some people, high cholesterol is purely genetic and no amount of lifestyle changes can make an impact. This is one of the many reasons why its always recommended to listen to a doctor when making decisions about medications and dietary changes .
How Does A Vegan Diet Help To Lower Cholesterol
A vegan diet means a healthier fat intake because most plants contain very little saturated fat, more fibre and antioxidants. It usually also contains more fruit and vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds compared to an animal-based diet6.
All these characteristics help to keep your blood vessels healthy, prevent high cholesterol and plaque formation, and help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Its why people who eat vegan or mostly plant-based diets have lower cholesterol levels than all other diet groups and a 25-57 per cent lower risk of heart disease7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14.
If you already have heart disease, atherosclerosis or high cholesterol, a vegan diet can work better than any drug or treatment. Dr Esselstyn15 says: it is unconscionable not to inform the cardiovascular disease patient of this option for disease resolution. To begin to eliminate chronic illness, the public needs to be made aware that a pathway to this goal is through WFPBN .
And another expert review12 agrees: Plant-based diets are the only dietary pattern to have shown reversal of CHD .
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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.
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.
All these dietary patterns have a common focus towards plant-based foods. Plant-based diets are often associated with lower cholesterol levels 12, 13.
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What Causes High Cholesterol Levels
Many different factors can contribute to high cholesterol, including genetics, age, gender and diseases such as type 2 diabetes, liver or kidney disease.
However, the biggest contributors to high cholesterol levels by far are diet and lifestyle.
Eating too much saturated fat greatly contributes to high cholesterol levels. This is found mostly in meat, eggs, butter, cheese, pies, pastries, processed foods, fatty spreads, coconut oil and palm fat.
High intake of animal protein, which usually goes hand in hand with excessive saturated fat intake, and too much sugar in the diet also increase cholesterol levels3.
When you eat animal products, theres one more substance making things worse a compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide .
Human gut bacteria produce TMAO parent molecule from foods rich in L-carnitine and choline and the liver then finishes the last step in TMAO formation3,4.
This compound increases the stickiness of cholesterol particles, contributing to atherosclerosis. Thats why its a substantial risk factor for heart disease and stroke5.
What Is The Ideal Cholesterol Level
The ideal blood cholesterol level is below 150 milligrams per deciliter , based on the results of the Framingham Heart Study and other research. At that level, heart disease is very unlikely. Unfortunately, nearly 107 million Americans have cholesterol levels that are greater than 200 mg/dL, which is dangerously close to 225 mg/dLthe average cholesterol level of coronary artery disease victims.
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What Vegan Foods Cause High Cholesterol
Highly processed vegan foods are often high in added sugar, sodium, and artificial ingredients and may increase your cholesterol levels. Here are some foods you should limit to reduce your cholesterol levels on a vegan diet: Salty snacks: chips, crackers, pretzels, microwave popcorn.
How To Choose Healthy Fats
Even though a vegetarian diet eliminates animal foods as a source of saturated fat, if you have high cholesterol, you’ll 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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What Diet Is Best For Lowering Cholesterol
Studies have found that plant-based diets lower cholesterol levels more effectively than other diets. In 2017, researchers reviewed 49 studies that compared plant-based diets with omnivorous diets to test their effects on cholesterol. Plant-based diets lowered total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL levels when compared to omnivorous diets. Low-fat, plant-based regimens typically reduce LDL levels by about 15 to 30 percent.
Some recommendations for lowering cholesterol still include consuming chicken and fish. However, a number of studies have shown that heart disease patients who continue to eat these foods still tend to get worse over time. Those who adopt a low-fat, plant-based diet, get daily exercise, avoid tobacco, and manage stress have the best chance of reversing heart disease.
What About The Cholesterol Myth
I wrote about the cholesterol skeptics in my book Carbophobia .
I think the issue was best summarized in a medical journal editorial entitled Cholesterol Myth Club on Par with Flat Earth Society that read: as mixed up as Flat Earth Society members obviously are, at least you can laugh their dumb idea off, and if you want to believe the Earth is flat, this view is not going to cause serious problems like coronary artery disease.
Lastly, here are some of the best videos to help understand more about diet and cholesterol. Sometimes folks will ask questions like does cholesterol have a lower limit, or, what about the size of LDL particles does that matter? Thankfully Dr. Greger addresses this in his video: Does LDL size matter? and Cholesterol does not appear to have a lower limit. A few concerns with dietary cholesterol is that theres a plateau effect issue and the postprandial issue. These videos explain the issues further: When Low Risk Means High Risk and Eggs and Arterial Function. Find out whats an Optimal Cholesterol Level to shoot for.
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Will A Vegan Diet Lower Cholesterol
Not necessarily. You can include all of the “right” things and still see your cholesterol raise due to genetic factors. In some cases, you may still end up with no choice but to resort to a cholesterol-lowering medication check in with your doctor and have them monitor any changes you make closely to see how your body progresses.
If need be, there are plenty of drug options, from statins that lower LDL and slightly raise HDL to cholesterol absorption inhibitors, citrate lyase inhibitors, bile acid sequestrants, fibrates, niacin, and combination pills. There are also prescription omega-3 fatty acids, though many come from non-vegan sources like fish.
We hope you find these simple tools helpful in your mission to keep your vegan cholesterol down!
What Causes High Cholesterol
Lifestyle factors that affect cholesterol levels include consuming too much saturated fat the unhealthy type found in meat, eggs, dairy, pies, pastries, processed foods, fatty spreads, coconut oil, and palm fat. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and not being physically active can also increase cholesterol. Being overweight, particularly carrying excess weight around your middle, can increase the risk. So can an underactive thyroid, type-2 diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and certain medications can also increase the risk.
You cant change genetic risks, but you can change what you eat and the amount you exercise.
Anyone can have high cholesterol even if youre young, slim, eat well, and exercise. Thats because lifestyle factors arent the only causes. You can also inherit high cholesterol, so be sure to discuss your family history with your primary care physician. The best way to find out is to get a test from a health care professional. There are cholesterol-lowering treatments available such as statins, but it may be possible to lower it naturally with healthy lifestyle changes.
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How Do Vegetarian Diets Affect Cholesterol Levels
A new review of almost 50 studies related to nutrition suggests that plant-based diets are associated with lower total cholesterol levels. The authors believe that these findings will have an impact on preventive care for cardiovascular diseases.
Researchers from three institutions have recently put together a comprehensive review and meta-analysis looking at the effects that consuming a plant-based diet has on the level of plasma lipids , or the lipids, cholesterol, and triglycerides, found in blood.
High levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is also known as bad cholesterol, have been associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease .
Total cholesterol, which is also known as good cholesterol, is thought to play a protective role in the system.
The team suggests that hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol, can often go undiagnosed and kept under control through an appropriate diet and physical exercise.
The review was conducted by Dr. Yoko Yokoyama, from Keio University in Fujisawa, Japan, in collaboration with Susan Levin, who is director of nutrition education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Neal Barnard, from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, also in Washington, D.C.
The scientists findings were published yesterday in the journal Nutrition Reviews.
All the findings were recorded in comparison with an omnivorous, or meat-inclusive, diet.
Body Mass Index Over Time As A Vegan
A 1996 letter to the editor of the British Medical Journal from the authors of the EPIC-Oxford study reported BMI according to the time on current diet . The number in each group were:
- 1,652 Vegan
- 3,776 Pesco
- 6,850 Non-Veg
The actual BMIs were not given, but a graph was provided . The graph shows that those on a vegan diet for more than 5 years had the lowest BMI, followed by those on a vegan diet for less than 5 years, for both men and women. This is impressive, as most weight loss is not sustained for more than one year. Of course, weight loss can sometimes be difficult even for vegans, and some people actually gain weight after becoming vegan. But, on average, the evidence supports the notion that becoming vegan is conducive to permanent weight loss.
In 2006, a report from EPIC-Oxford showed that over a 5 year period, vegans had the lowest weight-gain compared to meat-eaters, fish-eaters, and lacto-ovo vegetarians. The group who had switched to a diet of eating less animal products had the lowest weight gain of all. The group of people who reverted to a diet of more animal products had the most weight-gain, but this was not statistically significant. All groups had some weight gain over the 5 year period.
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Not All Fats Are Created Equal
Government guidelines recommend reducing saturated fat by avoiding or cutting down on fatty foods. Replacing meat and dairy with polyunsaturated fat found in nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils, lowers cholesterol more than reducing the total amount of fat you eat.
You dont need to buy expensive foods, though. You can lower and maintain healthy cholesterol levels by eating a varied, wholegrain, vegan diet. A 2013 EPIC-Oxford study found that British vegetarians and vegans have a 32 per cent lower risk of heart disease than meat-eaters. This includes people who consume fish. The lower risk, according to the study, was likely a result of differences in cholesterol and blood pressure levels as animal-based foods increase both .
All major health organisations agree that saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease. The message is simple to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease, eat plant-based. And dont forget to exercise regularly, too!
The Cardiovasular Effects Of Cholesterol
The junk-food vegan is not immune to the cardiovascular effects of cholesterol. Elevated cholesterol levels can lead to cardiovascular disease, which opens the door to many ailments, including heart attacks and strokes.
Heart disease is the number one killer in our country. It is referred to by medical professionals, including the renowned Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, as a disease of affluence because it is a condition that exists predominately in Westernized cultures where the hamburgers are plentiful, and the expanding waist sizes show it.
Thousands of invasive medical procedures are performed every day in hospitals from LA to NYC to repair the cardiac damage caused by the disease. Many will need to be done again, as they are only bandages to the underlying problem for most patients a nutrient-deficient diet.
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Can Vegans Get High Cholesterol
In other words, even people who are vegan can experience high cholesterol even when they are eating strictly vegan food. Research has shown that vegans also are highly vulnerable to developing high levels of homocysteine, are not as good at controlling homocysteine levels, and have low HDL cholesterol levels and increased triglyceride levels.
Which Foods Lower Cholesterol
A healthy vegan diet low in saturated fats is excellent for lowering cholesterol in general. But there are a few foods that can be extra helpful:
- Oats and other sources of beta-glucans, such as barley and mushrooms. Beta-glucans are a specific type of fibre that is very effective at lowering cholesterol levels16.
- Wholegrains Wholemeal bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa or muesli are excellent sources of fibre helping to keep your cholesterol in check.
- Fruit and vegetables at least five portions a day. They provide essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants important for healthy blood vessels, healthy energy and are also great sources of fibre.
- Nuts and seeds especially those high in omega-3 fats, such as walnuts, hempseed, flaxseed, chia seeds.
- Soya Soya protein actually helps to actively lower your cholesterol levels. The intake of around 25 grams of soya protein daily has been identified as an effective dose17. A couple of servings of soya foods is enough to provide this amount tofu, tempeh, soya-based mock meats, soya milk or yoghurts, etc.
- Beans, lentils and chickpeas These low-fat, high-fibre sources of protein are excellent for your heart. They take a while for the body to digest, preventing over-eating while providing healthy energy, fibre and a number of essential minerals.
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