An old Sanskrit saying- “Ati Sarvatra Varjayet” implies that everything in excess is bad. Cholesterol plays an integral role in the formation of healthy cells. It is a fat-like substance that is present in the body and it helps produce hormones, vitamin D, and digestive juices.
While cholesterol helps perform integral bodily functions, excess cholesterol accumulates in the blood vessels and can lead to chronic heart conditions. It is a commonly known fact that Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of deaths around the world and hence it is important to take precautions to prevent them.
Diet is a factor with the highest influence on your body and your health. Making changes in your everyday diet will help you effectively reduce the amount of cholesterol you consume and hence improve your heart health.
What Can you do?
Several factors can accelerate the harmful effects cholesterol has on your body or increase the accumulation of cholesterol in your blood vessels. One of these factors is an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
A whole food plant-based diet is the only scientifically proven way to prevent and reverse heart disease. Since cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease and a plant-based diet contains no cholesterol, it is the logical choice for someone who wants to lower their cholesterol levels and dramatically reduce their risk of heart disease. In fact, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, who was one of the first researchers (along with Dr Dean Ornish) to prove that heart disease can be reversed, suggested that having a total cholesterol score of 150 mg/dl (3.9 mmol) or lower can make you heart attack proof!
Addictions are Added Friction-
While cigarette packs highlight its correlation to cancer, it also has direct effects on your heart health. Similarly, while drinking in moderation has been linked to an increase in good cholesterol in the body, the benefits are not enough to overpower the harmful effects. Drinking alcohol regularly is known to increase the risk of heart failures and strokes.
A healthy plant-based diet is one of the most effective ways to make a difference in your health. Increasing intake of soluble fibres, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole plant-foods (which all contain zero cholesterol) in your diet can help curb high levels of cholesterol. Reducing the number of saturated fats and trans fats you consume can improve your heart health drastically as well.
Another important thing to note is that cholesterol is present in most animal-based products and hence eliminating or reducing animal-based products or switching to a plant-based diet helps to bring down the cholesterol levels.
Avoidance is Bliss-
Red meat, dairy products and seafood are proven to be one of the biggest contributors to high cholesterol. One of the first steps to take when you are trying to curb the amount of cholesterol in your body is to reduce the consumption of red meats, seafood and dairy products such as cheese, cream, milk, and yoghurt. It is also important to avoid fatty foods such as deep-fried dishes, fast food such as burgers and pizzas as well as processed food such as pastries and biscuits. Butter and coconut oil also impact heart health negatively.
Soluble fibres are your best friend when you are trying to curb high cholesterol. Many different food items such as oats are one of the richest sources of soluble fibres that can be easily incorporated in your diet, whether you are a lazy student or a busy stay at home mom, making a bowl of oatmeal or cereal with a few berries and strawberries is a great breakfast meal for all those who suffer from bad heart health.
Barley is another ingredient that can help you achieve your desired soluble fibre intake. Beans are also a rich source of soluble fibres and while oats and barley are quickly digested, beans take longer for the body to process and hence leave people feeling full for longer periods, and can help all those aiming to reduce their weight.
Fruits such as apples, grapes, strawberries, and other citrus food such as lemons and oranges contain pectin, a soluble fibre that is specifically known to reduce bad cholesterol in the body. Like they say an apple a day keeps the doctor away!
If you are worried about your daily protein intake when you quit consuming red meat and dairy products in your meals, you can be sure to find healthy alternatives in plant products, which are also beneficial for your heart health in particular. In fact, all plant foods contain the 9 essential amino acids humans require to form complete proteins in the body. All starchy tubers, whole grains and legumes will provide more than enough protein for daily requirements.
For example, soybeans and their products such as tofu and soy milk are a great source of protein, they are also extremely effective in increasing omega-3 fatty acids in your body, which in turn are beneficial for your heart health.
While red meat and other animal-based products are advertised to be the richest sources of protein, oftentimes being promoted as the only sources that can meet your daily protein requirement, the truth is far from it. Plant-based products can easily make up for the amount of protein you gain from meat and dairy products. The added advantage of switching to a plant-based diet is that it protects from heart diseases by reducing the amount of cholesterol you ingest.
While having high cholesterol seems like a chronic or hereditary condition, it isn’t and nothing should prevent you from making dietary changes that cushion you from ill effects that the consumption of cholesterol from food has on your heart. As long as you are alive and well, it is never too late. Make changes in your diet today! Eat plant-based food and lots of it!