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Swap animal for plant proteins for cholesterol benefits

Each month we reinforce the power of plants and the many reasons to get your 10 a day. There are so many delicious ways to do it: meatless meals, going vegetarian or trying the ever more en vogue Mediterranean diet. Now the focus is turning to plant protein and how it affects our health.

Consuming protein from plants is known to have a cholesterol lowering benefit, however less is known about how those benefits change when substituting plant proteins like soy, nuts, peas and lentils for animal proteins like meat, dairy or eggs. Does the benefit come from the replacement of animal for plant protein, or is there some other aspect of plant based diets, such as increased fiber, that is responsible? That is what researchers hoped to find out in this systematic review published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

In reviewing information for almost 6,000 adults, investigators found that replacing animal proteins with plant proteins at least once a day for at least three weeks resulted in lower cholesterol levels. The plant protein swap could be attributed to lowering cholesterol due to the plant sterols or soluble fiber; however in this case researchers believe the decrease in cholesterol is instead due to the plant protein itself which has a slightly different amino acid profile. Though researchers suggest further exploration on the topic, in this instance, they saw decreases in LDL, commonly known as “bad” or “lousy” cholesterol, and the cholesterol markers non-HDL-C and apolipoprotein B, of 4%. While that is a small reduction, most of us eat more protein from animals than plants, leaving a substantial opportunity for beneficial improvements.

If you’re interested in gaining some plant powered benefits, try these simple swaps:

Published June 1, 2018

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