For people with high levels of "bad" cholesterol ldl, doctors usually dispense cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and a diet low in saturated fat. They advise to cut out ice cream, red meat and butter.
However, new research found that when lowering artery-clogging cholesterol, what you consume may be more important than what you don't eat.
The study found that including several cholesterol-lowering foods like soy protein and nuts into a diet can reduce bad cholesterol far more effectively than a diet low in saturated fat. This doesn't mean that people on statins should stop their drugs for tofu.
Eat More Fiber
Nearly 1 in 6 Americans has a high overall cholesterol level.
Statin and other lipid-regulating drugs were the nation's most commonly prescribed medications, with more than 355 million prescriptions dispensed.
A Canadian study tested a diet that contained a portfolio of cholesterol-fighting foods such as soy protein, nuts, "sticky" fiber - found in oats and barley, and plant sterols. Those in the study were instructed to eat a handful of nuts such as almonds or walnuts every day, and to substitute milk and meats with soy and tofu products.
One of the most potent cholesterol-busters is plant sterols (stanols). They are found in small amounts in many grains, nuts, vegetables, legumes and fruits. They can be added to foods or taken as a dietary supplement. Plant sterols mimic LDL cholesterol particles in the gut, preventing the absorption of those particles so that they pass through the body and are disposed of as waste.
The subjects each followed one of three diets:
1. An "intensive portfolio" diet
2. A "routine portfolio" diet
3. A high-fiber, low-saturated-fat diet rich in produce and whole grains
All three groups lost roughly an equal amount of weight.
Between about 2 pounds 10 ounces and 3 pounds 12 ounces, after six months. But those on one of the portfolio diets — intensive or routine — saw their LDL cholesterol levels decline between 13.1% and 13.8% after six months.
Those on the low-saturated-fat diet had, on average, a 3% reduction in their LDL cholesterol in the same period.
This underscored the fact that "just focusing on reducing saturated and total fat is not the most effective diet for reducing heart disease risk factors or heart disease itself.
What can I do Lower my Cholesterol without Medication?
The components in the portfolio diet were well-known for their cholesterol-busting properties. This research is the first to test the relative effects of those dietary interventions in a real-world comparison, and to gauge how readily people can understand and implement such a diet in everyday life.