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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the best way for a Vegetarian to lower High Cholestoral?

    I thought I eat a relatively healthy diet. As a lacto-ovo vegetarian, I eat a diet filled with whole grains, fruit and veggies. I do indulge a sweet tooth and drink alcohol moderately. Test results revealed high levels of both cholestorals. Where do I start? Most advice reflects animal fat reductions.
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  • 1

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    Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    This is difficult to determine without being able to perform a full dietary and lifestyle assessment taking into account your family, medical and dietary history. I would recommend you have a chat to an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) who you can find at the Dietitians Association of Australia's website (www.daa.asn.au). From what you told me, you could try the following:

    • Swap your full fat dairy to low fat (as we know that saturated fat increases bad cholesterol levels)
    • Reduce your consumption of eggs to around 4 eggs per week.
    • Increase your intake of foods containing soluble fibre (e.g. oats, beans and legumes, psyllium)
    • Increase your intake of plant foods containing omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. chia seeds, flaxseeds/linseeds)
    • Include some daily exercise into your schedule

    Bad or LDL cholesterol we know is the type of cholesterol that we want to reduce, whereas, good or HDL cholesterol is what we want to increase (generally over 1.0mmol/L). I hope this helps. For more individualised advice as I said earlier, have a chat with an APD.

  • 1

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    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Many people go vegetarian to lower their high cholesterol. How can a vegetarian diet lower cholesterol? And does it really work?
    You can lower cholesterol and maintain healthy cholesterol levels by eliminating saturated and trans fats and replacing them with monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and adding whole grains, legumes, fruits vegetables and salads. High levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for coronary heart disease, the nation’s number one killer. Saturated fat comes primarily from foods of animal origin such as dairy products, meat, butter, cheeses, poultry, and luncheon meats. Saturated fats raise your total cholesterol, and trans fats, which are sometimes used to make store-bought biscuits, crackers and cakes, are particularly bad for your cholesterol levels because they raise the “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol.
     
    A plant based diet – fresh veggies and fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils – helps to lower cholesterol. And to confirm that, most studies indicate that vegetarians have lower cholesterol than non-vegetarians. Being a normal weight is also essential in the lowering of cholesterol. Abdominal fat can lead to high cholesterol. Exercise is also essential to lower the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol.
     
    Here are some facts about foods that make up a vegetarian diet AND lower cholesterol.
    1) Whole grains and oats,  are some of the best foods that lower cholesterol. A five-year Insulin Resistance Athersclerosis Study showed that people whose diets contain the most whole grains “had the thinnest carotid artery walls and showed the slowest progression in artery wall thickness.”
    2) The fats in an avocados and olive oil are heart-healthy, unsaturated fats that can increase your levels of good HDL cholesterol. These good fats also protect against heart disease and diabetes.
    3) Nuts keep blood vessels healthy and elastic. The best way to reap the health benefits of nuts is to eat them in replacement of foods that are high in saturated fats such as meat products..
     
    Also, try to limit the number of calories you eat daily to less than 10 percent from saturated fats, and eliminate as many trans fats from your diet as possible. And remember…it’s a lot easier to do this on a vegetarian diet! I highly recmmend you reduce your alcohol intake - these are empty calories that are unnecessary in your diet.



  • 2

    Thanks

    Kate Marsh

    Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE), Diabetes Educator, Dietitian

    Kate works with clients with type 1 and gestational diabetes, PCOS, and those following a plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet. As a diabetes educator, she … View Profile

    It sounds like you are doing many of the right things and if both your ‘good’ (HDL) and ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol are high this may not be so much of a problem as it is the ratio between them that is important.

    However to lower levels of LDL you can
    * include nuts daily  - these have been shown to significantly lower cholesterol and heart disease risk
    * eat more soluble fibre from oats, barley, legumes and psyllium husks (which can be added to cereal, yoghurt or smoothies)
    * include more soy products such as soy milks, soybeans and tofu - soy protien can help to lower cholesterol
    * avoid foods containing palm oil and hydrogenated vegetable oil such as biscuits and vegetarian pies and pastries

    If your triglycerides are also high then limiting sugar and alcohol, choosing lower GI (more slowly digested carbs) and includling more omega-3 fats from plant foods (eg linseeds, chia seeds, flaxseed oil) will also help.


  • 1

    Thanks

    Angela Jackson

    Exercise Scientist

    I have qualifications as an Exercise Scientist, Herbalist and Health Coach, with over 10 years experience in the preventative health industry helping people to improve … View Profile

    Being a vegetarian with high cholesterol can be very frustrating as you may feel that you are already doing a lot of things that Dietitians recommend to reduce LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. There is actually some new thinking emerging regarding cholesterol, and that is that an underlying chronic low level of inflammation in the body is causing the cholesterol to enter the blood stream and act as a bit of a bandaid to inflamed areas. While this theory is still quite new it's worth considering and is being widely discussed in the US.
     
    There are foods that are thought to be anti-inflammatory and if we can use these foods to reverse inflammation in the body then its possible that cholesterol may go down. Anti-inflammatory foods are things like fish, olive oil, nuts, seeds (as mentioned above), but also ginger, garlic, onion and turmeric. Inflammatory foods are those high in saturated fats, but also grains (particularly refined grains) and sugar.
     
    As a vegetarian myself I know that vegos often have very high levels of carbohydrates in their diet, so I'd work on looking at ways that you can replace refined grains for low GI quality options (like oats mentioned above) and include healthy fats in as many ways as possible. Try to think of ways you can balance out inflammation (for example using lots of vegetables with eggs instead of toast).
     
    I’ve also written a blog post about how olive oil and nuts can reduce Cardiovascular Disease risk. You can find it at www.teapothealthcoaching.com/jamie-oliver-olive-oil.
     
    There are also herbal medicines which are anti-inflammatory, and I combine these with dietary and lifestyle modification to help my clients reduce cholesterol. Good luck!!

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