This Vegan Friendly Food May Help Improve Cholesterol Levels

Aug 16 2017 - 12:04pm
Almonds

In the past, people avoided nuts because they were considered high fat, high calorie foods. But here is one reason you should be eating them as a part of your vegan diet.

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New research has found that eating almonds regularly may help improve cholesterol levels. Actually, eating nuts for heart health isn’t a new recommendation, but the most recent study adds to the growing body of research that not all fats are created equally.

We already know that saturated fats can increase total cholesterol in the blood. This increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Decreasing (or eliminating!) food sources such as animal meats and dairy foods can greatly improve your total cholesterol score.

LDL cholesterol – or what is often called “bad” cholesterol – is the primary target of most interventions when it comes to improving heart risk. Doctors like for your LDL cholesterol to be 100 mg/dl.

HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, can be raised by a combination of diet and exercise. Your HDL level should optimally be above 60 mg/dl. Here is where nuts come in.

Researchers with Penn State University have found that about a handful of almonds per day can improve HDL cholesterol levels. Dr. Penny Kris-Etheron says that eating almonds helps to improve HDL function – which is to scavenge and clear out bad cholesterol from the bloodstream.

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Function of the HDL over the six week trial period improved HDL cholesterol by 19% in study participants.

"If people incorporate almonds into their diet, they should expect multiple benefits, including ones that can improve heart health," Kris-Etherton said. In addition to lowering cholesterol levels, heart healthy nutrients found in almonds include vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium. They also contain protein (almost 5 grams per serving) and fiber (almost 3 grams per serving.

This particular study showed the benefits of making no other dietary change other than eating almonds. But what if you not only added almonds to your meals and snacks, but also adopted a fully vegan diet?

According to VeganHealth.org, the most recent report of cholesterol in vegans comes from the EPIC-Oxford study. Vegans were found to have between a 23 and 34 mg/dl lower cholesterol levels than meat eaters. Most of the benefit was found in lower LDL levels, but there are also other metabolic changes that occur that improve heart health, such as lower body weight, higher fiber intake, and lower amounts of apolipoprotein B which promotes fat deposits in the arteries.

Journal Reference:
Claire E Berryman, Jennifer A Fleming, Penny M Kris-Etherton. Inclusion of Almonds in a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet Improves Plasma HDL Subspecies and Cholesterol Efflux to Serum in Normal-Weight Individuals with Elevated LDL Cholesterol. The Journal of Nutrition, 2017; 147 (8): 1517 DOI: 10.3945/jn.116.245126

Other Resources:
National Heart Lung Blood Institute (National Institutes of Health)
VeganHealth.org
World’s Healthiest Foods

Photo Credit:
Wikimedia Commons

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