Vegetarian diets don't always center around healthy vegetables. Instead, in place of meat products, sometimes processed and high-fat foods are the centerpiece of a vegetarian diet. This type of diet is unhealthy and increases the risk for high cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, the No. 1 killer of men and women in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cholesterol is a wax-like fat present throughout the body and necessary for good health. Problems occur when too much cholesterol circulates in your blood. Sticky cholesterol particles can stick to the sides of blood vessels, forming plaques that impede blood flow. When a clot forms around a plaque, you can get a blockage that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol risk factors out of your control include family history and older age.
Cholesterol-Rich Vegetarian Diets
Diet is a factor you can control in cholesterol management. A diet rich in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol contribute to problematic levels of cholesterol in your body. Trans fat products contain hydrogenated vegetable oils found in stick margarine and shortening. Vegetarians who eat a diet heavily based on trans fat, including foods like crackers, cookies, doughnuts, breads and french fries, are at risk for high cholesterol. Foods high in saturated fat and rich in cholesterol that vegetarians are likely to eat include certain vegetable oils, whole milk, butter, egg yolk and cream.
A therapeutic diet for high cholesterol is low in fat and cholesterol. Your vegetarian diet should revolve around whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These foods contain many important nutrients and are rich in fiber, a nutrient shown to reduce the risk for heart disease. Good choices are bananas, apples, spinach, kale, mangoes, whole wheat bread and oatmeal. It's recommended that you consume less than 200 mg of cholesterol per day from foods, reduce calories consumed from saturated fat to less than 7 percent and add 5 to 10 g of fiber to your diet each day.
Protein for Vegetarians
Vegetarians should consume adequate protein each day and it doesn't all have to come from dairy products and tofu. About 50 to 65 g of protein per day are recommended for the average adult. Soybeans, like meat products, are complete proteins, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids. You can add soybeans to soups or drink them in beverages. Incomplete proteins are plant products, such as beans, nuts, grains and seeds. These foods don't provide you all the amino acids by themselves, but when combined they can make a complete protein. Eating rice with beans, corn and beans or wheat cereal are examples of complete protein meals. Nuts and seeds also are a good choice for vegetarian snacks in place of unhealthy trans-fat products such as cookies. Choosing foods like this for a vegetarian diet will help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease.