High cholesterol is one of those health issues that no one wants to deal with, and yet it’s also one of the easiest health conditions to eat your way into if you’re not careful. Consuming animal products, refined foods with trans fats, high-fat products, and too many saturated fats can lead to high cholesterol levels, but other risk factors include eating too much animal protein in general, consuming too many saturated fats, and eating too little fiber.
Thankfully, there are a number of easy-to-find and affordable plant-based foods that are demonstrated to help lower cholesterol. Foods high in soluble fiber pack some of the best cholesterol-lowering benefits, due to the way they bind to cholesterol in the blood and help escort it out of the body. Good cholesterol is known as HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and “bad” cholesterol is known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein). While various issues can affect LDL and HDL levels, including heredity, stress, and activity levels, the number one thing that affects our total cholesterol levels is our dietary choices, regardless of whether or not your family has a history of high cholesterol levels.
By simply swapping out foods that have been shown to increase your risk for unhealthy levels of cholesterol in the body for better options, you can help lower your total cholesterol levels, and best of all, it’s much easier than you might think!
Plant-based foods that have been shown to lower cholesterol include the following: whole grain oatmeal and barley, which are rich in beta glucan soluble fibers; flax seeds and walnuts which are full of good omega-3 fats and fiber; beans, lentils, and peas which are high in soluble fiber; fruits such as apples, oranges, and berries that are rich in the soluble fiber known as pectin. Of course, vegetables are also important to include in any healthy diet since they’re also rich in fiber and phytonutrients.
So if you’re looking for some simple ways to swap out high cholesterol-containing foods for plant-based options, here are 5 simple ways you can do just that!
5 Healthy Plant-Based Swaps
All dairy milk, even skim milk, contains cholesterol. Dairy proteins have also been linked to a number of other health issues including digestive upset, colon cancer, and acne. Choose unsweetened almond milk instead or another type of unsweetened plant-based milk such as soy, cashew, or rice milk, and feel free to check out our recipes for homemade plant-based milk options. If you’re new to making your own homemade plant-based milk, try this easy Homemade Almond Milk Recipe to start out with.
Butter is one of the highest sources of saturated fats and cholesterol, but you don’t need butter to enjoy delicious foods. Choose avocados or nut butter, such as almond butter, in place of butter. Avocados and almonds are both high in heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats that are great for heart health. While there are oil-based vegan butter options out there you can use, it’s best to experiment with avocados and almonds as two whole food, healthy alternatives.
You can bake with avocados, put it on top of potatoes like butter, and even enjoy the popular avocado toast with these 10 Creative Ways to Amp Up Your Avocado Toast Game or this popular recipe for Lemon Avocado Chickpea Toast. Nut butter also makes a great replacement for butter in baking, although it won’t harden at room temperature due to its healthier unsaturated fats. Choose healthy nut butter options without added oil, such as raw or plain roasted almond butter, for example. This One-Bowl Almond Butter Banana Bread is a great recipe to test it out!
Dairy-based cheese is one of the most difficult foods for people to give up when they attempt to eliminate dairy from their diet, but it’s also one of the most important foods to eliminate as well. Cheese is high in saturated fats and the concentrated protein casein, which is one of the worst types of animal proteins a person can consume. In short, cheese made from cow’s milk just doesn’t do a body good. Luckily, you don’t need it to get a cheesy fix from a healthy source!
Instead of dairy cheese, you can use nutritional yeast to achieve a cheesy flavor! It may sound scary if you’re new to nutritional yeast, we know, but it has a delicious cheddar-like cheese flavor that can be used on anything, not to mention it’s fat-free and packed with B vitamins and protein. Sprinkle nutritional yeast on potatoes, veggie pizza, use it in soups and stews, or make sandwiches with it. See all of our nutritional yeast recipes here for more ideas! Or, if you’re into making your own cheese at home from plant-based ingredients, you can also check out these 25 homemade dairy-free cheese recipes.
Who needs meat when you can have protein-rich, and heart-healthy beans, peas, and lentils? These hearty little legumes are loaded with iron, protein, vitamins, magnesium, and potassium that are all excellent for your body. Not to mention, legumes are so inexpensive and have been directly linked to better health, especially for your heart. The American Heart Association even acknowledges that legumes are excellent choices for better cholesterol levels, and studies continue to show their benefits for heart health only increase.
So skip the meat and get back to the basics with your protein and iron needs by choosing beans! Check out all of our amazing veggie burgers here using beans that will leave you fully satisfied and energized, and see all of our recipes with beans here for many more ideas.
Ice cream is delicious, sweet, and satisfying. But guess what? You don’t need the saturated fat and added sugar found in dairy ice cream; frozen bananas are so much better! Frozen bananas are deliciously sweet just like ice cream and you can instantly turn them into ice cream in the blender or food processor in under 2 minutes.
Oh, and even better? Bananas are packed with excellent vitamins and minerals for heart health which includes pectin fiber, a soluble fiber that’s also found in apples, along with vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin B5, and vitamin C. Craving chocolate or strawberry ice cream? You can add whatever other ingredients to banana ice cream you please and skip the preservatives found in the store-bought stuff while you’re at it. See more Ways to use Bananas to Replace Dairy Foods here and all of our ice cream recipes made with bananas.
Eggs can be replaced in a number of different ways depending on if you’re baking with them, cooking them on the stovetop, or using them in another way. There are multiple ways to replace eggs, with some of the most common being applesauce, ground flax or chia seeds with water, mashed banana, baking soda and vinegar, or pumpkin in baking applications. For stovetop eggs, such as scrambled eggs, scrambled tofu is a popular option, as well as chickpea omelets. Or, if you’re whipping a meringue, there’s also aquafaba! See How to Cook and Bake Without Eggs, 10 Easy Ways to Eliminate Eggs From Your Diet, and The Healthiest Egg Substitutes for All Your Holiday Baking.
Take better care of your heart today with these incredibly easy plant-based swaps. Then, don’t forget that for optimal heart health, a healthy plant-based diet coupled with daily activity, a good night’s rest, and stress management is truly the golden ticket!
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Lead image source: Spicy Tofu Scramble and Avocado Breakfast Burrito