A Plant Based Diet

Eating a plant based diet may be the best way to control cholesterol and avoid health issues such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.  A new study, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, showed the positive impact of avoiding meat and loving those veggies.

The study collected a group of Canadian volunteers with very high LDL (the bad cholesterol) and put them on a diet of soy, oats, barley, psyllium and nuts.  They also used a special margarine containing sterols.  Sterols are found in the walls of plant cells, such as grain, fruits, legumes and nuts.  Similar sterol content is available from orange juice, cereal or yogurt. 

After six months of this diet the LDL levels in the people following this diet were found to have dropped 13 percent, on average, over their initial values.  The researchers credit the special margarine for about half of the drop in cholesterol.   The high plant fiber component of the diet also helped with the reduction.  Viscous fiber absorbs cholesterol and carries it away.  Oats, bran and barley are excellent sources of viscous fiber.

The third element of the diet was soy.  A key source of protein, soy as edamame, soy milk or tofu can help reduce LDL levels and provide the protein that is essential to good health that would otherwise come from meat.  Protein is the building block for skin, muscles, hair, nails, tendons and cartilage.  Soy in its many forms also contains isoflavones, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol.

The American Dietetic Association recommends following a "Color Code" system when following a plant based diet.  The color of the plant will tell you which essential nutrient it contains.  By following the color code, you can be assured of well-rounded nutrition.  Here is a bit of their color code:

Tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon
Grapes, prunes, cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, apples
Carrots, mangos, apricots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes
Beta cryptothaxin
Oranges, tangerines, peaches, papaya, nectarines
Luetin, Zeaxanthin
Spinach, collards, turnips, corn, peas, avocados
Indoles, Sulforaphanes
Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale
Allicin, quercetin, flavinoids
Leeks, onions,, garlic, chives

Converting to a plant based diet does not need to be difficult or leave you dreaming of a hamburger.  You can start your day with a grapefruit, some oatmeal or pancakes and a cup of tea.  Maybe lunch has a green salad with some edamame or a good old PB&J with some soy milk on the side.  For dinner you could try a soy burger or veggie stir-fry with apple cobbler for desert.  Not a bad day at all!

If your doctor is after you to reduce your cholesterol, or you just want to live longer, you should consider a plant based diet.  The medical evidence is clear; if you follow this diet your body will be healthier.

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