Can Vegans Have High Cholesterol?
Many of us assume that vegans don’t need to worry about their cholesterol levels. But is this true? While a vegan diet may eliminate some of the risk factors associated with high cholesterol, there are many other factors that contribute to overall cholesterol levels in the body.
Your Body Needs Cholesterol
Not all forms of cholesterol are created equal! There are both good and bad forms of cholesterol, and your body needs a little of both to keep things running optimally. Cholesterol helps synthesize hormones, make certain vitamins, and build cells. Your liver actually produces all of the cholesterol you need, but the food you eat can contribute to the overall amount of cholesterol in your body as well.
Veganism’s Impact on Cholesterol
Current research indicates that vegan diets are associated with lower levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, compared with non-vegan diets. Two main factors contribute to this phenomenon. Vegan diets are typically rich in whole plant foods that are high in dietary fiber, which helps decrease cholesterol levels. Vegan diets are also typically low in dietary cholesterol, which is found almost exclusively in animal products. Therefore, if you’re looking to lower cholesterol levels, adopting a vegan diet may help.
This doesn’t mean that a vegan diet is a cure-all for cholesterol imbalances, however. Even those who eat a strictly vegan diet can develop high cholesterol. Additionally, studies have shown that while vegans tend to have lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, they also have low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, increased triglyceride levels, and increased levels of homocysteine. All of these are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
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Other Risk Factors for High Cholesterol
Let’s examine ways that vegans can still have high cholesterol, beginning with diet. Processed foods, like baked goods, certain high fat nuts, and coconut oil are all examples of vegan foods high in trans fats. Eating a lot of foods that are high in saturated fats can push cholesterol levels up.
When analyzing blood cholesterol, the ratio of good cholesterol when measured against bad cholesterol in the blood is also an important factor. As noted above, vegans are frequently at risk of having lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. If your overall cholesterol level is within range, but you don’t have enough good cholesterol, the imbalance can still be unhealthy, leaving you at greater risk of heart disease.
Another factor that may contribute to high cholesterol in vegans is genetics. Those with a family history of high cholesterol, referred to in the medical world as familial hypercholesterolemia, may be predisposed to high cholesterol despite having healthy diet and exercise habits. In these cases, the body may be prone to overproducing cholesterol in the liver and/or clearing bad cholesterol from the blood and arteries inefficiently. If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you should talk to your doctor about monitoring your cholesterol levels early and often, regardless of your diet.
Keeping Cholesterol Levels Healthy on a Vegan Diet
To keep cholesterol levels within a healthy range, eat processed foods like chips, sweets, and processed meat alternatives to a minimum. Be sure to include an abundance of whole plant foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. All of these foods are high in fiber and can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Additionally, incorporating healthy unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocados, and nuts and seeds to your diet can help maintain healthy good cholesterol levels.
In addition to eating a vegan diet rich in whole plant foods, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol consumption can all help keep your cholesterol within a healthy range.
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What’s Better Than Being a Vegan? Being a Healthy Vegan
Veganism is more than a way of eating – it’s a lifestyle choice. When you commit to this lifestyle, you need to go the extra mile to make sure you’re not simply cutting out animal products. Healthy vegans need to minimize the trans fats and processed foods included in their daily diet just like meat eaters or vegetarians. And, it’s important to be aware of the pros and cons of any diet you choose.
Becoming a vegan has numerous benefits for you, animal welfare, and the planet. But eating an entirely plant-based diet can lead to a few common deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D3, iron, and calcium. For optimal health, you will likely need to add a few supplements to your routine. The good news is that you don’t have to break your diet to do so.
Vegan Life Nutrition has created supplements made specifically for vegans. They’re 100% plant-sourced, organic, and contain no animal byproducts or fillers. Check out your options on the site, and when you’re ready, order online, and have your products delivered right to your door.
Supplements to Consider
If heart health is your goal, there are a few key nutrients that you’ll want to ensure are present in your daily diet. The supplements below play key roles in regulating blood pressure and maintaining healthy veins and arteries.