Instead of just adding more plant proteins to the diet, researchers suggest trading animal proteins for plant proteins. You don’t have to give up all of your animal protein, just swap one or two servings every day, and you can lower levels of cholesterol markers and prevent heart disease, scientists from St. Michael’s Hospital say.
Plant protein sources such as soy, nuts, and pulses, which include peas, beans, and lentils can help lower the risk of heart disease if they are included in the diet in place of animal protein like dairy, meat, and poultry.
“Because people in North America eat very little plant protein, there is a real opportunity here to make some small changes to our diets and realize the health benefits," explained lead author of the new study, Dr. John Sievenpiper.
He also suggests eating other cholesterol-lowering foods alongside plant proteins, such as oats, barley, psyllium, and plant sterols, which are “viscous, water soluble fibers.” Psyllium, also known as ispaghula, is a laxative, a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds.
Sievenpiper and his team conducted a review of 112 randomized control trials where study participants swapped animal proteins for plant proteins for at least three weeks. The participants swapped just a few servings of animal protein, not all servings.
Collectively, the studies showed that three main cholesterol markers were reduced by about five percent when people swapped a few servings of animal protein for plant protein. One cholesterol marker is include low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, AKA “bad” cholesterol, which contributes toward risk of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease via fatty buildups in the arteries. Another is apolipoprotein B (ApoB), a type of protein found in lipoprotein particles that contributes toward artery clogging.
"We are seeing a major interest in plant-based diets from Mediterranean to vegetarian diets in the supermarket and the clinic, and this comprehensive analysis of the highest level of evidence from randomized trials provides us with more confidence that these diets are heart healthy," Sievenpiper said.
The present study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.