I Slashed My Cholesterol With Plant-Based Eating

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And I enjoyed myself in the process too...

A few months ago, I was getting ready to drive to a freezer clearance sale for our local, pasture-raised meat wholesaler when my dietitian wife made a statement:

"By the way, honey, I think we should shift you to a plant-based diet and see if that lowers your cholesterol."

And that's how I ended up with a freezer full of meat, while eating a diet of (mostly) vegetables, legumes and grains. It's been an interesting journey so far. From experimenting with vegan cheese to cheating with half-beef/half-mushroom burgers, I've mostly enjoyed discovering new foods and forcing myself outside my dietary comfort zone. I've even rediscovered a liking for vegan pizza, and enjoyed testing out the new breed of "bleeding" veggie burgers too.

But how would it impact my labs? Having already tried some moderate changes to my diet and lifestyle (more exercise, less butter, etc.) and only achieving moderate results, this was beginning to feel like a last ditch effort before moving to medication. So I was somewhat anxious to receive the news from my latest lipid panel yesterday. The highlights of the results—also shown as a before-and-after screen grab—were as follows:

My LDL-p was at 1035, down from 1841 four months ago. This is now just above the preferred reference range of under 1,000. But it's still considered on the low end of moderate, whereas it was high just a few months ago.

LDL-C came down to 89, and it had been at 136. Below 100 is considered optimal.

Cholesterol total was 197, down from 242. This just scrapes in to the preferred reference range of 100-199.

HDL-P was at 34.6, up from 30.2. Above 30.4 is considered good.

And Small LDL-P was 493, down from 647. The ceiling for the reference range here is 527.


© Sami Grover

The only real area where I'm considerably outside where I need to be is my triglycerides, which are now showing at 253, down from 259. 0-149 is considered optimal. Exactly what we do about that remains to be seen, and I'll be meeting with my doctor to discuss it. But increasing my exercise and reducing sugars and/or carbs further should continue to help; that may include a (slight) reduction in my weekend cocktails, but let's not get too crazy here.

Ultimately, it goes without saying that this is one person's experience with one specific diet. I've never been a believer in a one-size-fits-all approach to eating. However, given that other people have experienced dramatic reductions in cholesterol from a vegan diet, it might be an issue worth exploring if your lipids don't look so hot either. At the very least, since we know that eating more plants and less meat/dairy is a win-win in terms of health and the environment, then it's one more argument for reducetarianism.