Cholesterol has been the subject of debate and concern for several years, ever since cooking oils were brought under fire for raising cholesterol levels and various new “low cholesterol oils” were introduced. Since animal sourced foods are some of the highest sources of cholesterol, people that follow plant-based diets are generally believed to have lower cholesterol levels. However, this isn’t always true.
If you’re vegan and suffering from high cholesterol levels, then this can be due to many non-dietary factors that are, mainly, out of our control, such as genes or age. Of course, we can’t do anything about our age or genetics, but there are certain foods you can eat to raise your ‘good’ cholesterol and decrease your ‘bad’ cholesterol. That’s right, there’s a good kind too! This brings us to…
Good Cholesterol, Bad Cholesterol
Analogous to how no villain can exist without a superhero, ‘bad’ cholesterol has a formidable counterpart in the form of ‘good’ cholesterol.
‘Bad’ cholesterol goes by the scientific name of ‘low-density lipoprotein’ (LDL), and in excess, deposits cholesterol into your arteries causing them to narrow and increasing the risk of heart disease. In contrast, ‘high-density lipoprotein’ (HDL) removes the excess cholesterol, keeping your heart healthy!
If you’re suffering from high LDL levels, then fret not! There are many vegan foods that lower LDL levels and increase your HDL production. So, if you’re looking to raise your ‘good cholesterol’, here are some popular vegan choices.
Top Superfoods to Raise Your HDL:
1. Natural Oils
Natural oils such as coconut and extra-virgin olive oil are ‘healthy’ fats that can raise your HDL levels, and conversely lower your LDL. Trade out your sunflower or canola oil for olive oil, which contains polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) that have been related to increased HDL.
2. Up Your Antioxidants with Fruits, Veggies, and Berries!
Olive oil isn’t the only food substance with an antioxidant that boosts your HDL. Anthocyanin is another antioxidant, found in fruits, vegetables, and berries, that has been shown to raise your good cholesterol. What’s interesting is that anthocyanin is found naturally in foods that appear ‘purple’ (or are somewhere in the same side of the colour spectrum). Some anthocyanin-rich eatables include:
3. Go Green – With Avacados!
Avocados are a superfood that have become increasingly popular in plant-based diets. Being one of the richest natural sources of healthy fat (monosaturated), their LDL lowering ability should come as no surprise. The fiber-packed vegetable can lower your LDL levels and boost your HDL!
4. Nuts and Seeds
Bythis point you’ve probably noticed that many fats have made their way to our list, negating the notion that all fats are unhealthy. Nuts and seeds follow suit, with grounded chia and flax seeds being great sources of omega-3 fatty acids and promoting HDL production.
Many common nuts contain plant sterols, a substance that promotes HDL production and blocks LDL absorption. This includes:
5. Don’t Forget Dessert!
Savoury foods aren’t your only option for increasing your HDL production and lowering LDL levels. For all the happy chocoholics out there, high-quality vegan dark chocolate is a promising food choice for lowering your bad cholesterol. And of course, it tastes great too!
The Big Nos – Foods That Raise LDL
Now that we’ve gone over the foods that can raise your good cholesterol levels, let’s take a look at which ones raise your bad cholesterol. These LDL-boosting foods should be avoided, especially if you’re suffering from heart problems or high levels of bad cholesterol.
1. Trans Fats
Trans fats lower your HDL and raise your LDL, making them the worst type of fats to consume. These increase your risk of cardio vascular diseases and also deposit fat molecules on your vital organs, hindering their function.
Vegans typically consume relatively less trans fats than non-vegans, but some processed foods such as biscuits, microwave popcorn and fast food (that vegans consume as well), do contain these harmful fats. Thus, if you are suffering from high levels of bad cholesterol, then it’s important that you avoid these foods.
Sugar, particularly processed white sugar, has been linked with a decrease in HDL levels, according to scientific studies. Sugar is now being medically termed as “the white poison” for the increasingly high number of problems that it causes and that are now coming to light after numerous years of study. Try avoiding processed sugary foods such as biscuits, cakes, and candy if you wish to keep your bad cholesterol levels low.
We’ve taken a look at some of the best foods to consume for raising your good cholesterol, and some other consumables that you should steer clear of if you wish to maintain (or raise) your levels of cholestrol. At this point, it’s important to realise that keeping your cholesterol in check involves making some important lifestyle choices.
Thus when it comes to consuming the right foods, it’s not enough to just eat an avacodo on occasion in hopes of preventing an increase in your bad cholesterol levels. It is important to incorporate HDL-rich foods into your daily meals and to minimise your consumption of trans fat and processed sugar as a part of your lifestyle so that you can see the difference. Moreover, a healthy diet is to be complemented by a good exercise regime in order to keep your cholesterol in check. Moderate, regular exercise such as going out for brisk walks or taking up a sport can help boost your HDL levels and keep your bad cholesterol levels at bay.
Yes, following a diet that keeps your cholesterol in check isn’t easy, but being a vegan means you’re already halfway there! A few additional changes made here and there and then maintained with a bit of dedication can definitely help you achieve a better cholesterol balance. We wish you the best of luck!