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Go Vegetarian - Cholesterol-Lowering Diet Without Meat

Dietitians' Tips for How to Start a Vegetarian, Cholesterol-Lowering Diet

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Updated February 07, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

The benefits of Vegetarian Diets for High Cholesterol have been well established. Removing or reducing animal products in your diet may help to reduce both total and LDL "bad" cholesterol, because animal products can be high in saturated fat.

If you are accustomed to eating meat regularly, you may not know how to begin a semi-vegetarian, total vegetarian (no meat, poultry or fish), or vegan (no meat, poultry or fish, and no animal products—including eggs, honey, and milk) diet. Below, nutrition experts offer their opinions and suggestions on smart ways to start out.

Eat the "Right" Vegetarian Way

There is a "right" and a "wrong" way to follow a vegetarian diet, according to Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, author of "The Veggie Queen™: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment" cookbook.

"If you decide to follow a vegetarian diet to help lower cholesterol, be sure to substitute many plant-based proteins for the cholesterol-laden food that you've previously had in your diet. Do not add in more cheeses and full-fat dairy and egg products. For example, instead of eating chili with meat, eat chili only with beans and lots of vegetables. "

Don't forget cholesterol-lowering superfoods. "Of course, including more foods that contain soluble fiber, such as beans, oats, barley and apples will help almost anyone lower their cholesterol. Also, when plant foods such as vegetables take the place of fatty snack foods such as chips, it makes a world of difference," says Nussinow.

Make Smart Substitutions

"Instead of steak or chicken, bean burritos are great when you have leftover rice or quinoa -- mix with store-bought refried beans and sprinkle with a little cheese. It makes a great quick breakfast or lunch when you're out of bread," says Patricia Guay-Berry, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Suburban Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland.

Guay-Berry suggests remaking traditional family favorites to suit a vegetarian diet: "Instead of pasta with meat sauce, sauté veggies, puree them and mix in with the sauce -- zucchini and summer squash work well."

Focus on Fiber

Kate Scarlatta, Registered Dietitian in Boston, Massachusetts, and author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Well with IBS" (Alpha, 2010) recommends making the most of your vegetable-based diet by focusing on fiber.

Scarlatta suggests that individuals begin by adding soluble fiber to each meal. "Soluble fiber binds cholesterol and helps eliminate it from the body," she says. "Increase soluble fiber slowly by adding more each day (along with plenty of water) with a goal of 10-15 grams/day. When looking at the nutrition facts label, look for soluble fiber grams under the dietary fiber heading. Great sources include products made with whole oats, oat bran, legumes, fruit and vegetables." Below, Scarlatta provides soluble fiber numbers to help you get started.

Pears - 3 grams soluble fiber

1/2 cup Brussel sprouts -2 grams soluble fiber

1/2 cup Pasnips-2 grams soluble fiber

Apple - 2 grams soluble fiber

Black beans (1/2 cup) - 3 grams soluble fiber

Lima beans (1/2 cup) - 3 grams soluble fiber

Oatmeal - 1-3 grams soluble fiber

Kashi TLC crunchy granola bar per serving Honey Toasted 7

grain - 3 grams soluble fiber

Trader Joe's Twigs, Flakes and Cluster per serving - 5 grams

soluble fiber.

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