4 low cholesterol diets crucial in maintaining a healthy heart
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Author: Dr. Blaise Ntacyabukura
The elevated levels of some forms of Cholesterol such as the low-density (LDL) cholesterol are a conventional risk factor for heart diseases. An additional 300 mg of dietary cholesterol consumed per day is associated with a 17% increase in the risk of heart disease among adults. With that said, it is strictly advised to maintain an overall healthy eating pattern and consume as little dietary cholesterol as possible.
So which diet is recommended to achieve that goal?
A vegetarian diet consists primarily of cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts; animal foods, including milk, dairy products, and eggs generally are excluded.
Some vegetarian diets may be grouped in:
The macrobiotic diets, that consist of vegetables, fruits, legumes, seaweeds, whole grains especially brown rice, and locally-grown fruits. Animal foods limited to white meat or white meat fish may be included in the diet once or twice a week.
Semi-vegetarian diets, occasionally include some meat in the diet, such the fish and chicken meat, but no red meat.
Lacto-ovovegetarian diet, includes eggs, milk, and milk products (Lacto = dairy; Ovo = eggs), but no meat is consumed.
The lactovegetarian diet includes milk and milk products, but no eggs or meat are consumed.
A vegan diet, excludes all animal products, including eggs, milk, and milk products. Some extreme vegans do not use honey and may refrain from using animal products such as leather or wool. They also may avoid foods that are processed or not organically grown
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) comprised of four to five servings of fruit, four to five servings of vegetables, two to three servings of low-fat dairy per day, and little fat-containing diets. It was found to lower blood pressure more than a diet rich in fruits and vegetables alone.
When the DASH diet is combined with a low-salt diet, it results in further decreases in blood pressure, higher than antihypertensive agents alone. Additionally, the DASH diet has also been associated with a lower risk of intestinal cancer, heart disease, premature mortality, and gout (in men).
The Mediterranean diet is typically high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. It includes olive oil as an important source of monounsaturated fat and allows low to moderate wine consumption. Additionally, It includes low to moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and dairy products, with little red meat.
According to various researches, the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of stroke compared with a low-fat diet (nearly 40%) but does not reduce the number of heart diseases or overall death toll from heart diseases. It, however, diseases the risk of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and cancers such as intestinal, prostate, oropharyngeal, and breast cancers.
Though it is hard to define what is and what is not an organic diet, eating a diet high in organic foods can lessen exposure to synthetic pesticides. However, no rigorous research has assessed if this actually translates to improved health outcomes. Evidence that points to a possible link between high organic food intake and a lower risk of cancer, particularly lymphomas, is still growing.
The long-term effects of a vegetarian diet on health outcomes are difficult to separate from lifestyle elements such as regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol products. Therefore, both have are equally recommended. Note also that the effectiveness of any of the diets mentioned above should be assessed at the individual level.
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Tuso, P. J., Ismail, M. H., Ha, B. P., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. The Permanente journal, 17(2), 61–66. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/12-085
Sacks et all. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. The New England journal of medicine, 344(1), 3–10. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM200101043440101
Schwingshackl, L., & Hoffmann, G. (2014). Adherence to Mediterranean diet and risk of cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. International journal of cancer, 135(8), 1884–1897. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.28824
Baudry, J et al (2018). Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk: Findings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study. JAMA internal medicine, 178(12), 1597–1606. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4357