Diet is an important part of healthful living. There are foods that hurt your health and foods that improve your health. What you choose to eat is just as important as what you chose NOT to eat. This is particularly true for foods that help control your cholesterol levels.
Saturated fats in the diet are harmful to your health as they raise bad cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. Saturated fats are found in red meat, butter and other dairy products such as cheese, sour cream, whole milk, 2% milk, yogurt, and ice cream.
A study on the effects of diet on cholesterol was study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In this study, a group of 350 Canadians were randomly divided into three groups and prescribed special diets.
One group was told to avoid foods high in saturated fats for 6 months. This group benefited from this diet change, but only experienced an 8 mg/dl reduction in LDL-C.
The other two groups were told to avoid saturated fats and were also encouraged to add beneficial, cholesterol lowering foods to their diet. They were told to drink soy milk, eat tofu products, and eat more nuts, peas, beans, and lentils. They were also asked and to eat more oats as in rolled oats and Cheerios.
One group got this instruction just twice. The remaining group got the same dietary instruction seven times. All the diets were vegetarian.
Everyone in the study had high LDL-C levels averaging 170 mg/dL at the beginning of the study. After six months, people on the low-saturated-fat diet saw a drop in LDL cholesterol of 8 mg/dL. The groups that ate more good foods had a reduction in LDL-C of 24 mg/dL and 26 mg/dL.
This study proves that a healthful diet that avoids red meat and diary products yet is rich in nuts and grains can achieve a similar reduction in bad cholesterol that is seen in people who take cholesterol lowering medication.
Cholesterol lowering drugs have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and are important in the treatment of high cholesterol levels, but often the money spent on expensive medication will achieve the same results if spent on healthful foods.
The diet advocated in this study is exactly the diet recommended by Ellen G. White, a 19th century health reformer who more than 100 years ago wrote, “It is a mistake to suppose that muscular strength depends on the use of animal food. The needs of the system can be better supplied, and more vigorous health can be enjoyed, without its use. The grains, with fruits, nuts, and vegetables, contain all the nutritive properties necessary to make good blood.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 313