How to Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides on a Plant-Based Diet
Article by: Ashlen Weddington, Certified Health Coach
Following a vegan diet can offer many benefits like weight loss, better digestion, and reduced rates of chronic illness. Many people think of eating carrots, kale, and quinoa when thinking of what a vegan diet consists of (some would call it “rabbit food”). However, due to the rise of veganism in the past few years, every food you could possibly miss from your pre-vegan days are now being veganized. Miss smoked gouda, donuts, a bratwurst? No problem, you can now easily find vegan versions of these things.
It is important to note that even if something is labeled “vegan” it doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthy!
Many people transition to a vegan diet to become healthier, however, there are still foods within this diet that have the potential to raise LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Just like certain non-vegan foods, certain vegan foods (especially processed foods) can contain simple carbohydrates, sugar, hydrogenated oils, and saturated fats that have the potential to raise these metrics.
A vegan diet and a whole-foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet are easily confused with each other. A vegan diet emphasizes what it eliminates (animal products), while a whole-foods, plant-based diet emphasizes what it incorporates (nutrient dense foods in their whole form). A WFPB diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. This diet is flexible, and some may choose to incorporate a minimal amount of animal protein. Typically, WFPB does not include processed foods and most oils.
A whole-foods, plant-based diet is rich in fiber, which binds to cholesterol and eliminates it out of the body. Plant sterols and stanols found in plant-based foods block cholesterol absorption, while foods that contain polyunsaturated fats lower cholesterol levels. Eating a diet low in fat, alcohol, simple carbohydrates, and refined sugars can lower cholesterol.
Lower Cholesterol with Plant-Based Foods
Foods in a WFPB diet that may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels:
- Other whole grains
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits
- Brussels sprouts
- Eggplants and okra
Vegan foods that may raise cholesterol and triglycerides levels:
- Simple carbohydrates made with white flour (pasta, pizza, breads and pastries...)
- Sugary foods and beverages (candy, cookies, ice cream, cake, soda..)
- Packaged snack foods (can contain hydrogenated oils and saturated fats)
- Coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter
Artichoke Leaf Extract to Lower Cholesterol & Triglycerides
Something that can be incorporated into a whole-foods, plant-based diet that may also help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels is 100% artichoke leaf extract. This is a minimally processed supplement that is a rich source of fiber. In one review that consisted of 700 people supplementing with artichoke leaf extract, it was found that taking the extract daily caused a reduction in total and LDL cholesterol over the course of 5–13 weeks. In another study, 143 people with high cholesterol took artichoke leaf extract daily for a period of six weeks. This resulted in an 18.5%-22.9% decrease in total and LDL cholesterol. (Sources linked below)
Navigating through information on health and nutrition is no easy task; there is a plethora of misleading information on the internet! Eating a vegan diet can be a healthy way of eating, but it is important to be aware that some vegan foods can still raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels. I am a certified health coach, and I help my clients transition to a whole-foods, plant-based diet. A whole-foods, plant-based diet is rich in foods that can help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. If you have any questions or would like help transitioning to a whole-foods, plant-based diet, contact me here: https://ashlenweddington.com/health-coaching/.
About the Author - Ashlen Weddington
My education and certification is through the UCSD Extension Integrative Nutrition Program. Through this program I was taught foundations of science-based nutrition, as well as using concepts from Ayurveda, Macrobiotics, and Chinese medicine for healing. I believe in bio individuality; there is no ideal diet for everyone. The best way for you to eat will be different from myself and your best friend; YOU are unique.
I incorporate my knowledge of yoga, breath work and meditation, into health coaching. I received my 200hr yoga teacher certificate in Vinyasa/Hatha yoga through Yandara Yoga Institute, and 21 hour restorative yoga training through Yoga Garden SF.