Lowering cholesterol on a Vegan Diet
A vegan lifestyle is trending in the United States, because of the cholesterol imbalance rising as a major health issue. Vegans include foods in their meals to keep their heart-healthy. The risk factors of saturated fat found in animal products and the high levels of cholesterol resulting from them, add to why one should consume a plant-based diet. A healthy lifestyle goes along with smooth blood flow. So, it is vital to check the total cholesterol levels before consumption. This article discusses several health benefits of a vegan diet, and how a plant-based diet shields vegans from a heart attack or stroke.
What is a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is free of animal products like eggs, milk, honey, meat, etc. that contain saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. A plant-based diet contains whole-wheat foods, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, soy products, tofu, avocados, etc. A vegan lifestyle keeps the heart healthy, balances blood sugar levels, and has many other health benefits.
All you need to know about cholesterol
Before digging further into how a vegan diet can help maintain cholesterol levels in the body, and what to include in a plant-based diet to avoid its deficiency, below is a brief on ‘cholesterol.’
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a wax-like substance generated by the liver that assists in building cell membranes and hormones. The three different cholesterol types are HDL, LDL, and VLDL. HDL is good cholesterol, which transports cholesterol throughout your body to your liver. It then recycles the waxy substance in bile form into the digestive tract. LDL is bad cholesterol leads to the building up of plaque in arteries as well as other risk factors. VLDL is different from LDL as the former contains triglycerides. This type of cholesterol takes the shape of body fat, and the body releases triglycerides when energy is needed. Saturated fat has high levels of VLDL, which leads to high blood cholesterol.
Ideal cholesterol levels for the human body
Heart attack or stroke can be prevented by regularly getting the cholesterol levels checked regularly (every four to six years). American Heart Association and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggest that you start getting the blood test done to avoid prolonged high cholesterol levels from age 20.
A health professional measures the total cholesterol level by a blood test. This number is determined from the HDL, LDL, and 20 percent of triglycerides in your body. The ideal cholesterol level through a blood test is below 200. Cholesterol levels can be measured by calculating the ratio between total cholesterol levels and HDL.
A study suggests that if the ratio reaches 5, it might cause a heart attack or stroke. Women generally have higher levels of good cholesterol. If the ratio reaches 4.4, the risk factors for heart attacks increase.
How is cholesterol good for the body?
Controlled cholesterol levels are essential in the body as they aid in the production of sex hormones. Cholesterol is a building block for human tissues. It also assists in bile production in the liver. Therefore, you must take foods with a small amount of cholesterol. Such a plant-based diet is given in the later sections.
Which foods have bad cholesterol?
Fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard and shortening, dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat milk, and saturated vegetable oils, such as coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil have bad cholesterol. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute agrees that the most effective dietary approach to reducing high blood cholesterol is choosing foods that do not contain saturated fats. The next section talks about the vegan diet that can lower high levels of cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Vegans and cholesterol levels
A vegan lifestyle helps lower cholesterol levels because they are low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol. Animal products increase the risk of heart attack or stroke because their saturated fat raises cholesterol levels. A plant-based diet includes oat, barley, whole grains, beans, and some fruits and vegetables. It is rich in soluble fiber that reduces cholesterol.
Vegans consume soluble fiber. It slows the absorption of cholesterol. Dark chocolates, vegetable oils, nuts, and legumes are parts of your plant-based diet that keep your heart healthy. The effect of animal products v/s vegan foods has also been scientifically tested on animals. The results prove a plant-based diet to be a healthy choice.
How to lower cholesterol levels being vegan?
It has been proved that plant-based diets lower cholesterol levels faster than other diets. Compared to animal products, a vegan diet decreased total cholesterol levels, LDL, and HDL levels. Adopting a low saturated fat, plant-based diet, and exercising reduces high blood cholesterol levels. Oats, beans, and barley are high in soluble fiber. Soy protein and nuts are good for healthy blood flow. Wheat germ, wheat bran, almonds, and Brussels sprouts keep your heart healthy.
How to get cholesterol from a vegan diet?
Some people think that no food other than animal products can be rich in healthy cholesterol. However, nuts, seeds, olive oil and coconut oil, purple fruits, and vegetables provide good cholesterol. Consuming red wine, exercising for 30 minutes every day, planning meals, and ceasing smoking can help the body intake healthy cholesterol, thereby either resulting in high levels or dropping below the normal total cholesterol levels. A person should start getting his cholesterol checked from age 20. The risk factors vary with gender, too, as men are at a higher risk of higher levels than women.
Lowering cholesterol on a vegan diet is one of the easiest ways to reduce higher blood cholesterol levels. A healthy lifestyle minimizes the risk of heart attack or stroke. Apart from that, vegans get many health benefits. When a plant-based diet was tested on animals with raised cholesterol levels, the high levels decreased considerably. The risk factors linked with saturated fat found in animal products include improper blood flow and heart diseases.
A heart-healthy diet comprises dark chocolates, vegetable oils, nuts, legumes, wheat germ, wheat bran, almonds, and Brussel’s sprouts. However, vegans have balanced total cholesterol levels because they intake nuts, seeds, olive oil and coconut oil, purple fruits, and vegetables, which provide good cholesterol. It is recommended that you start going for blood tests from age 20 to avoid problems, and adopt a healthy lifestyle or vegan lifestyle to balance cholesterol levels in the body and stay fit.