Before you learn about the 4 kinds of plant-based foods known to lower bad cholesterol, it’s important to make a distinction to what kinds of cholesterol are out there.
When it comes to cholesterol, most people have it all wrong and believe all cholesterol is bad for us.
The reason for this? Health authorities have repeatedly told us that all of it is bad for your health.
When that’s not true.
Only half of cholesterol is bad.
There are two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol is the kind of cholesterol you should be wary of. This is because LDL cholesterol is the kind of cholesterol that sets up in the arteries and can lead to later heart problems.
HDL cholesterol is actually a good kind of cholesterol. HDL cholesterol actually helps grab LDL cholesterol and then take it out of the body where it belongs. In addition to that, HDL cholesterol is used in many bodily functions, including the all-important process of helping to build certain kinds of hormones essential for health.
Now that this is out of the way, it’s time to get into the meat of this article.
The #1 way to help lower LDL cholesterol levels while simultaneously increasing HDL levels is to modify your diet.
Since cholesterol always comes from external sources, it stands to reason that diet is the best place to start for improving cholesterol levels. I.e. drugs are a last resort.
Most integrative physicians will agree that if your diet swing towards a balance of whole foods, your cholesterol levels will fall.
That’s because many of these foods have the ability to increase blood flow which helps to lower blood pressure and prevent the accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries.
Byt 4 main kinds of foods, known as “The Portfolio” do it better than the rest.
And These foods are:
Plant protein obtained either from soy-based foods such as tofu, soy milk, or other soy-based meat substitutes, or from pulses such as beans, peas, chickpeas, or lentils
soluble fiber, such as “oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant, okra, apples, oranges, or berries”
Margarine enhanced with plant sterols, or “cholesterol-like” compounds that can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and cereals
Now there is a strong caveat that should be made about this list.
Two of those foods, while having been shown to lower cholesterol, aren’t necessarily great for total health.
These include soy and margarine.
Soy has been shown to negatively affect hormone function and is not recommended by many integrative physicians and artificial butter substitutes are also linked to many health problems.
That being said, the rest of “The Portfolio” will not only form a substantive diet, but will also help protect your heart.
In a study written by Laura Chiavaroli at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto in Canada, Chiavaroli proves this portfolio of foods really can alter health.
As Medical News Today writes:
The Portfolio diet recommends a daily intake of 42 grams of nuts, 20 grams of soluble fiber, 2 grams of plant sterols, and 50 grams of plant protein. The amounts are based on a daily consumption of 2,000 calories.
Chiavaroli and colleagues examined randomized and non-randomized controlled trials that studied the effect of this dietary pattern “in comparison to any energy-matched diet that did not provide components of the Portfolio [diet].”
Overall, the analysis found that sticking to the Portfolio diet lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as triglycerides (which are the most common fat types in the human body), blood pressure, and C-reactive protein (which is a marker of inflammation).
In fact, the Portfolio diet decreased LDL cholesterol by 17 percent and the risk of developing coronary heart disease over the course of a decade by 13 percent.
The authors conclude, “Current evidence demonstrates that the Portfolio dietary pattern leads to clinically meaningful improvements in [LDL cholesterol] as well as other established cardiometabolic risk factors and estimated 10-year [coronary heart disease] risk.”
Study co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova, Ph.D. — the director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine — comments on the findings.
She says, “Previous clinical trials and observational studies have found strong evidence that a plant-based diet can improve heart health.”
“This study demonstrates that certain plant foods are especially effective for lowering cholesterol and boosting our overall cardiovascular health.”
So what does that mean for you?
Well, it’s simple really.
If you’re a person whose diet does not contain some of these foods (minus soy and margarine) then I suggest adding them.
Do this in combination with cutting out processed/refined sugars as well and you should see bad cholesterol go down, and other important biomarkers improve as well.