While there are a lot of self-proclaimed health experts on the internet telling people not to concern themselves with high cholesterol levels, the reality is that excessive levels of cholesterol are a factor in many health conditions, including: Alzheimer’s, cancer, dementia and heart disease. On the flip side, there’s no reason for panic because there is so much you can do to lower cholesterol levels.
A plant-based diet has long been held as the gold standard to lower cholesterol levels, and for good reason: it works. New research published in the medical journal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, shows that a plant-based “Portfolio Diet” is even better. The diet, given its name for the inclusion of a portfolio of research-proven foods that reduce cholesterol levels in the body.
Of course, there are some excellent foods that are research-proven to lower cholesterol levels, namely: plant-based proteins like beans and lentils, fruits like apples, oranges and berries, oats, barley, plants that contain sterols such as nuts, some grains, etc. The ones you’ll find in the Portfolio Diet includes four main categories of foods: nuts, plant-based protein, fiber and plant-based foods that contain sterols.
The Portfolio Diet, which has been found to lower cholesterol by 17 percent, as well as improve other markers like C-reactive protein, triglycerides, reduced blood pressure, all of which are factors for heart disease and other chronic health conditions. The diet includes a portfolio of daily foods, including 42 grams of nuts (about 1.5 ounces), 20 grams of soluble fiber, 2 grams of plant sterols and 50 grams of plant-based protein.
Nuts about Heart Health
Ideally, choose raw, unsalted nuts, including any of the following: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, walnuts or other types.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber is the type that people once referred to as “roughage.” It’s the kind that passes through your digestive tract undigested but helps to keep things moving. Soluble fiber forms a gel when it mixes with liquids in your gut. Getting sufficient soluble fiber helps to reduce high cholesterol and improve heart health. Whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and vegetables and fruit tend to contain soluble fiber. Here are some of the top sources of soluble fiber, along with he soluble fiber content of each:
Black Beans: 3/4 cup contains 5.4 grams soluble fiber
Lima Beans (also known as butter beans): 3/4 cup contains 5.3 grams soluble fiber
Kidney Beans: 3/4 cup contains 3 grams soluble fiber
Avocado: One-half an avocado contains 2.1 grams soluble fiber
Brussels Sprouts: 1/2 cup contains 2 grams soluble fiber
Figs: 1/4 cup dried figs contains 1.9 grams soluble fiber
Oats: 1 cup cooked oats contains 1.9 grams soluble fiber
Sweet Potatoes: 1/2 cup contains 1.8 grams soluble fiber
Turnips: 1/2 cup contains 1.7 grams soluble fiber
Broccoli: 1/2 cup contains 1.5 grams soluble fiber
Pears: 1 medium-sized pear contains 1.5 grams soluble fiber
Carrots: 1 cup chopped carrots contains 2.4 grams soluble fiber
Plant sterols are cholesterol-type substances found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and grains. Ironically, eating more plant sterols can help reduce your cholesterol in your body. There are many foods high in plant sterols but some of the best ones include:
Pistachio Nuts: 1/2 cup of shelled, unsalted pistachio nuts contains 135 milligrams of plant sterols
Sesame Oil: 1 tablespoon contains 118 milligrams of plant sterols
Wheat Germ Oil: 1 tablespoon contains 75 milligrams of plant sterols
Sesame Seeds: 1 tablespoon contains 64 milligrams of plant sterols
Macadamia Nuts: 1 ounce (about 10 to 12 nuts) contains 33 milligrams of plant sterols
Olive Oil: 1 tablespoon contains 30 milligrams of plant sterols
Almond Butter: 1 tablespoon contains 22 milligrams of plant sterols
Sage, Oregano, Thyme, or Paprika: 1 tablespoon contains 12.5 milligrams of plant sterols
While most people tend to think of meat as the only source of protein, the reality is that all fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and seeds contain protein. Some of the best sources of plant-based protein include: avocados, coconut, legumes, nuts, quinoa, seeds, tofu, miso, tempe and dairy alternatives such as almond milk, coconut milk and hemp seed milk.