The diet you follow has a significant impact on the cholesterol levels in your body that can influence the risk of various health conditions including heart disease. Together with higher levels of “bad” LDL, lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol are also closely associated with the surged threat of heart disease. In this article, we focus on the effectiveness of well-planned plant-based diets on regulating blood cholesterol levels.
What Is The Ideal Cholesterol Level?
50 mg/dL and higher are considered as the ideal levels of HDL while LDL levels should be ideally maintained below 100 mg/dL. If the cholesterol levels are maintained at normal levels, you do not have to worry about heart disease caused by high cholesterol levels.
Foods And Cholesterol Level
The foods that people eat play key roles in regulating their cholesterol levels. All those diets that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and as well as trans fats, can elevate cholesterol levels. Foods like meat, dairy, and eggs are examples of foods that can raise blood cholesterol levels. Foods with higher levels of saturated fats trigger the extra production of cholesterol in our bodies.
Plant foods are seen to be low in cholesterol and saturated fats. Many plant foods are rich in fiber that is effective in bringing down the levels of cholesterol in our blood by slowing down the absorption of cholesterol and reducing the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver.
Plant Foods That Are Effective In Regulating Cholesterol Levels
Here are some plant foods that are effective in regulating your blood cholesterol levels.
Avocados are well-known for their high nutrient-density. They are rich in monosaturated fats and fibers, the nutrients that are effective in lowering the bad LDL and increasing the good HDL levels. Several clinical studies suggest that avocados are effective in lowering blood cholesterol.
In one such study involving overweight and obese adult participants, some were asked to eat one avocado every day. It was observed that people who ate avocados had lower LDL levels than people who didn’t.
Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids that can improve heart health by increasing the levels of good HDL cholesterol and reducing the risk of inflammation and stroke. In a 25 year study in adults, it was found that the people who ate non-fried fish the most had the lowest likelihood for developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms including low good HDL levels and high blood pressure.
Another study that observed older adults revealed that the consumers of tuna or any other broiled or baked fishes at least once a week were at a lower risk of experiencing a stroke. That said the healthiest way of cooking fish is by stewing or steaming it. The risk of heart disease and stroke multiplies in the case of fried fish.
Extensive research has linked whole-grain foods to a lowered risk of heart disease. A review of 45 studies has suggested that if a person consumed 3 servings of whole grains on a daily basis, then he can lower the risk of heart disease by 20%. Simply put, if you consume more servings, then you will reap greater benefits. Two whole grains that help regulate blood cholesterol levels include:
- Oats: The soluble fiber – beta-glucan, helps in lowering cholesterol levels. Additionally, oats have the potential to reduce total cholesterol by 5%.
- Barley: It can help with shrinking the “bad” LDL cholesterol as barley is a rich source of beta-glucan.
The scope of legumes extends to plant foods, beans, peas, lentils, and more. These are rich sources of minerals, proteins, and fiber. Eating legumes instead of refined grains and processed meats is effective in lowering the risk of heart disease. When 26 controlled studies were randomly reviewed, it was found that consuming at least 100 grams of legumes every day is far better than not eating legumes at all.
The nutrient-rich profile of nuts can never go unnoticed. Almonds and walnuts are especially important to regulate blood cholesterol levels. Walnuts are treasuries of omega-3 fatty acids which is closely linked with heart health. The L-arginine content of the almonds plays a crucial role in regulating the production of nitric acid in the body. Nitric acid plays a key role in modulating blood pressure.
Nuts are abundant sources of phytosterols – plant compounds that bear a resemblance to the structure of cholesterol. It impedes the penetration of cholesterol in the intestines; thereby lowering its levels in the body. Nuts also contain nutrients like calcium potassium and magnesium that can reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. An analysis of 25 studies suggested that consuming 2-3 servings of nuts daily can reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Following a plant-based diet by including the right foods that have the potential to reduce cholesterol levels can ensure your heart health.