Diet based on animal foods is commonly reported as a cause of high cholesterol levels. Many animal foods are rich in saturated fats that increase cholesterol levels in our body. Switching to a vegetarian diet is one solution you can choose to lower your blood cholesterol levels. Vegetarian diets are usually high in fiber and low in saturated fats.
In this article, we are discussing the major considerations regarding switching to a vegetarian diet to manage high cholesterol.
What Nutrient Deficiencies Are Reported Among Vegetarian People?
Vegetarian diets are rich in fiber, carbs and many vitamins. However, they lack some nutrients, especially if the diet is chosen without adequate planning. Here are some of the nutrients that are found in low levels in plant foods.
Animal foods like meat and dairy are often regarded as some of the richest sources of protein. However, you can still meet your daily protein requirements with various protein-rich plant foods like pulses, legumes, soy products, and more. Vegetables including Brussels sprouts and broccoli, nuts, seeds and whole grains are also good sources of protein. If you fail to realize the importance of adding protein-rich plant foods to your diet, you may become protein-deficient.
Animal foods like beef, eggs, canned salmon, sardines and poultry are known as rich sources of iron. Because a vegetarian diet excludes these foods, there is a minute possibility for iron deficiency but it can be overcome by adding ideal iron-rich plant foods to your diet. Foods like dried beans, spinach, dried fruits, kidney beans, lentils, white beans and yeast are rich sources of iron.
Spending some time in the sun is enough to fulfill your daily vitamin D requirement but it might not be a possible option for all people. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna and dairy are common sources of vitamin D. If you are not including dairy in your vegetarian diet, you might possibly develop vitamin D deficiency. In that case, you will need to take vitamin D supplements.
Vegetarians may develop vitamin B12 deficiency because there aren’t many plant foods that are rich in vitamin B12. To avoid developing deficiency, you have to take vitamin B12-fortified foods like soy milk or a B12 supplement.
Zinc is essential for healthy growth and development. According to NIH, the richest sources of Zinc are meats and seafoods. Legumes, nuts and grains are also rich in zinc.
Choosing Healthy Fats In A Vegetarian Diet
Although vegetarian diets avoid animal foods that are sources of saturated fats, you still have to give enough attention to the cooking methods and sources of fats you use in your vegetarian diet. Here are some things you are supposed to do.
Limit Saturated Fats
Animal foods are not the exclusive sources of saturated fats. There are many plant foods like coconut oil and palm oil that contain saturated fats. Full-fat dairy products also contain saturated fats. Although it is known that higher levels of saturated fats can cause cholesterol, it hasn’t been proven universally that all saturated fats can lead to heart attack and stroke. Things are confusing when it comes to comparing animal-based and plant-based saturated fats.
Follow A Low-Fat Cooking Style
Limiting the amount of oils and fats in foods is important to regulate cholesterol levels. Try some low-fat cooking styles like cooking in water or using a small amount of olive oil to sauté. If you are that fond of fried foods, you may use an air fryer that needs very little oil to give the same effects as deep-frying. Cooking methods like boiling, poaching, steaming and broiling are much better than frying if reducing calorie intake is your goal. While baking, limit the amount of oil you use and replace it with applesauce, juice or water.
Add Heart-Healthy Oils
Heart-healthy oils of soybean, olive, sunflower, canola, peanut and safflower are sources of unsaturated fats that can contribute to lowering your cholesterol levels. Olive oil has been particularly associated with positive effects on heart health. A study conducted by Harvard University evaluated about 35,000 men and 64,000 women over a period of 24 years. It was found that people who added olive oil to their diet have 15 percent less risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Avoid Trans Fats
Hydrogen is added to many vegetable oils. These hydrogenated oils are high in trans fats that can raise cholesterol levels in our body. Use cooking oils that do not have trans fats. They are also present in processed foods. Be careful while selecting refrigerated dough, frozen pizza and pre-packed baked foods as they may have higher trans fat content.
Merely choosing a vegetarian diet may not contribute to reducing cholesterol levels. You have to plan the diet in the appropriate way to get the expected results.