Your doctor told you that you have high cholesterol, so now what? Well, you know that diet and exercise can go a long way in reducing cholesterol, but it can be difficult to navigate the world of healthy eating.
However, there is good news. Lately, more and more research suggests that a vegetarian diet is a good choice for those who want to lower their cholesterol.
The latest findings come from a review of nearly 50 studies—all confirming that the vegetarian diet reigns supreme when it comes to lowering cholesterol. The researchers defined vegetarian as consuming meat less than once a month.
The researchers found that vegetarians had 29.2 mg less cholesterol per deciliter compared to meat eaters. Furthermore, following a plant-based diet could lower cholesterol by 12.5 mg per deciliter among those who consume meat.
How exactly does a vegetarian diet promote healthy cholesterol? Well, vegetarian diets are low in saturated fat and high in soluble fiber, soy protein, and plant sterols, which all work to reduce cholesterol.
The researchers explained, “Those [individuals] who have followed vegetarian dietary patterns for longer periods may have healthier body compositions as well as better adherence to a vegetarian diet, both of which may have an effect on blood lipids.”
Co-author of the study, Susan Levin, added, “The first place to start is by building meals around nutrient-packed, plant-based foods, which fit into nearly every cultural template, taste preference, and budget.”
Even if you eat meat now, you don’t have to give it up completely to achieve healthy cholesterol. Simply look at how much meat you are eating in a day, week, and month, and even what kind of meat you are eating. By evaluating your consumption of meat, you can begin to take necessary steps in the right direction.
For example, you can start swapping out meat meals with other sources of protein a few times a week. You can also substitute meat that is high in saturated fat, like beef, with healthier and leaner meat options like chicken or even fish like salmon. Starting off with small changes will make it easier to transition to a more plant-based diet.
And, don’t forget to reduce those cholesterol numbers. It is also a good idea to pair your healthy diet with a regular workout routine. Similar to changing your diet, integrate a workout program slowly into your daily routine to help you stick with it better.