Cholesterol is a fatty substance, which is found in our blood, keeps our cells healthy. However, LDL cholesterol, also referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, can build up inside the walls of the blood vessels increasing a heart attack risk. A healthier way of eating which includes an array of delicious foods have been shown to be heart healthy reducing levels by up to 30 percent.
Researchers randomly assigned 296 people at high risk of cardiovascular disease participating in the PREDIMED study to one of three diets for a year.
Those diets were a traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil; a traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with extra nuts and a healthy control diet that reduced consumption of red meat, processed food, high-fat dairy products, and sweets.
Only the control diet reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels. None of the diets increased HDL levels significantly.
But the Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil improved key HDL functions, including helping the body remove excess cholesterol from arteries, serving as an antioxidant, and keeping blood vessels open – all of which reduce cardiovascular risk.
Heart UK listed the benefits of a Mediterranean diet for heart health which include:
- It’s rich in monounsaturated fats which are heart healthy, such as olive oil and nuts.
- It’s a good source of omega 3 fatty acids from seafood, especially oily fish which are good for your heart health too.
- It’s rich in potassium, which comes from wholegrain cereals, fruit, vegetables and nuts.
- It’s rich in fiber including soluble fiber from wholegrain cereals, vegetables, fruit, beans and peas.
- Rich in antioxidants including vitamins E and C, carotenoids and flavonoids.
- It’s rich in B vitamins including folic acid.
Evidence shows that plant-based diets lower cholesterol levels more effectively than other diets.
One study in collaboration with George Washington University and Keio University, Japan, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine explored this further.
Overviewing 49 studies, a comparison of cholesterol levels in those who followed a plant-based diet and an omnivorous diet were made.
The results found that a low-fat, plant-based diet “typically reduced LDL levels by about 15 to 30 percent”.
Research from the University of Toronto found that incorporating “special cholesterol-lowering foods” in a plant-based diet resulted in a reduction in LDL cholesterol by nearly 30 percent in just four weeks.
As well as dietary considerations, the NHS encourages everyone trying to lower their cholesterol levels to move more often.
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce your cholesterol.
Moreover, moving more frequently is one of the best things you can do for your health overall.