A recent meta-study published in the European Heart Journal found that plant-based diets helped in a 7% reduction in total cholesterol and a 14% reduction in all artery-blocking lipoproteins and hence reduced the risk of heart diseases in people by 5 years. For the study, the results of 30 different randomized trials published between 1980 and 2022 investigating the effect of plant-based diets on cholesterol were analyzed.
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“Certain foods derived from animal sources like meat, dairy products, and eggs are high in saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol which have the tendency to increase the cholesterol levels in the body, increasing the risk of heart attacks. Food high in saturated fats is dangerous because it can trigger the body to produce extra cholesterol, says Dr. Neeti Sharma, Sr. Consultant – Nutrition & Dietetics at Marengo Asia Hospitals, Gurugram.
“Plant-based diets are high in soluble fiber and thus help in reducing cholesterol levels, arterial blockages, and lipoprotein. A diet including oatmeal, apple, beans which are a good source of soluble fibre, prevents the body from absorbing cholesterol and even various studies and research have shown that consuming at least 10 grams of fibre a day can drastically decrease the total cholesterol levels, in the long run and almost eliminate the chances of cardiovascular diseases, Dr. Sharma adds.
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Some of the commonly available high-fiber foods include – oatmeal, barley flour, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seed, chia seeds, garlic, onion and soya products, organic tofu and soya milk, soya bean, and high protein diet. These products when consumed, not only rapidly lowers cholesterol levels but also prevent the body from absorbing further cholesterol., the expert adds.
Few health tips
“It is advised to consume some mixed seeds with lukewarm water, early in the morning. Adding coconut water can also help in maintaining the electrolyte balance in the body. Breakfast may include whole grains, and barley chappati, which is one of the best sources to reduce cholesterol,” advises Dr. Sharma.
“Adding raw fruits, cucumber, onion tomatoes, in the salad plate, and consuming it twice a day can work wonders for cholesterol management. Even though any oil is not recommended for cooking (due to its high triglyceride levels), it is best to use mustard oil for cooking,” she adds.
“Animal fats are not always hazardous to cholesterol levels. Some contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that can actually help lower cholesterol levels, such those found in foods like fatty fish. Red meat and full-fat dairy products include saturated fats, which are typically less healthy and can increase cholesterol levels,” the expert concludes.