It is not uncommon to find articles on lowering cholesterol, featuring common foods. Many of them can be found online (often with cholesterol lowering drugs advertised on the side) or in magazines. A well-known brand of cereal is also advertising its product as an easy and delicious way to lower your levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol. But do dietary changes really lower cholesterol significantly?
I wanted to find out, and resolved to follow a special diet for 3 months. Before starting as well as at the end of the experiment, I got my blood cholesterol measured. The results? While my diet wasn’t particularly drastic, and I did not want to lose any weight (I actually gained 3 pounds and enjoyed my daily meals greatly), I still managed to lose 22 points! Here is what I did, in 5 easy steps.
I cut out all meat, dairy, and eggs. Now, I know that it sounds pretty drastic to some. But it was in fact really easy. The trick to sticking to such a diet was to make meal plans in advance. I never woke up in the morning wondering what to cook. It was all planned out. And since I knew exactly what to cook, I only went to the store once a week at most, because I had all I needed on hand. Besides, with a list to stick with, I actually spent less money grocery shopping as I did not buy anything superfluous. One of my only expenses was to buy a vegan recipe book, and I spent 3 months drinking fruit smoothies, eating waffles, cupcakes (which were absolutely delicious), and all kinds of ethnic foods such as Indian, Middle Eastern, Italian dishes and much more without needing (or missing) animal products.
I will admit that I like snacking in the evening. But instead of eating popcorn and other foods that aren’t known to lower cholesterol, I stocked up on walnuts and pecans. Every evening, while watching my favorite TV shows, I would eat about 10 walnuts or pecans in the shell. Cracking the shells slowed me down, so I probably could have eaten more, but I felt completely satisfied with my late night snacks.
I increased my intake of soluble fiber. Several months ago, I learned about chia seeds, which are an Aztec seed supposed to provide boundless energy as well as very high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids. They are also very high in calcium. Because they are so high in soluble fiber, they “grab on” to your bad cholesterol and helps eliminating it. Every other morning, I would make a chia pudding with chia seeds, sesame seeds, vanilla and agave nectar. Because it needs to stand for a while to get ready, I would make it in the evening, and breakfast was ready for me in the morning.
I ate more oatmeal, known for lowering cholesterol levels. I would have a bowl with half a cup of dry oatmeal on days I didn’t have chia pudding, and sprinkled it with 1 tablespoon of flax seeds. It made for a very filling breakfast which I would have along with a glass of orange juice.
When I felt like having a light snack, I would whip up a fruit smoothie. It sounds like a lot of work, but it was so easy! I bought bags of frozen fruits and set them in the freezer. In the evening, I would get out as many fruits as needed, set them in bowl, and put them in the fridge. The next day, all I had to do was add the fruits to a blender, add a couple of bananas, and that was it! Washing the blender took little work as well. I rinsed it, filled it with water and a few drops of dish soap, ran it for a few seconds, and then rinsed it again. Nothing else! And here’s a little tip to make smoothies easier: add a few leaves of spinach or other leafy greens. The taste will disappear next to sweet fruits like strawberries, and you’ll never guess you’re having greens at all!