Cholesterol: How eating a vegan diet can lower your cholesterol levels

So do vegans not have to worry about high cholesterol?

A vegan diet doesn’t automatically guarantee healthy cholesterol levels.

It’s true that vegans tend to have healthier diets in general. But if you mostly eat processed, fatty foods, white bread, potatoes and sweets, you can easily have high levels.

If, on the other hand, your diet consists of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds, your levels are probably super healthy and shouldn’t be an issue.

Some people may have a wholefood vegan diet, without coconut and palm oil, avoiding hydrogenated fats, doing everything ‘right’ and still have high cholesterol.

In those cases it’s often because there’s an underlying cause, such as a disease altering cholesterol metabolism, which requires medical attention.

Which foods lower cholesterol?

A healthy vegan diet low in saturated fats is excellent for lowering cholesterol in general. But there are a few foods that can be extra helpful:

  • Oats – and other sources of beta-glucans, such as barley and mushrooms. Beta-glucans are a specific type of fibre that is very effective at lowering cholesterol levels16.
  • Wholegrains – Wholemeal bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa or muesli are excellent sources of fibre helping to keep your cholesterol in check.
  • Fruit and vegetables – at least five portions a day. They provide essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants important for healthy blood vessels, healthy energy and are also great sources of fibre.
  • Nuts and seeds – especially those high in omega-3 fats, such as walnuts, hempseed, flaxseed, chia seeds.
  • Soya – Soya protein actually helps to actively lower your cholesterol levels. The intake of around 25 grams of soya protein daily has been identified as an effective dose17. A couple of servings of soya foods is enough to provide this amount – tofu, tempeh, soya-based mock meats, soya milk or yoghurts, etc.
  • Beans, lentils and chickpeas – These low-fat, high-fibre sources of protein are excellent for your heart. They take a while for the body to digest, preventing over-eating while providing healthy energy, fibre and a number of essential minerals.

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Are statins the only way to treat high cholesterol?

Statins are drugs that interfere with cholesterol synthesis in your body – that way, they lower levels.

Statins also reduce the formation of cholesterol plaques in blood vessels. They are the go-to prescription drug for people with high levels and/or blood pressure.

There are a few other medications that can be used and they all target cholesterol metabolism in your body.

However, if you keep supplying material for excess cholesterol to be made in your body, taking medication is like dismantling a wall that you continue building.

It makes no sense! A diet change is what can make the most dramatic positive difference to your health.

Choosing a wholefood vegan diet is the best tool in preventing or treating high cholesterol levels.

Healthy lifestyle choices can help people to live well with osteoporosis, including vegans. 

Make sure you’re giving your body what it needs with our guide to vegan diets and osteoporosis.

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About the Author: Tung Chi