The National Lipid Organization's recommendations for cholesterol lowering in vegans

The non-profit National Lipid Association (United States) offers a variety of different "fact sheets", or "recommendations sheets" rather, which include short and practical recommendations that everyone can understand.

Among these, they also have one "sheet" (PDF) with information for lowering your blood cholesterol levels if you are a lacto-ovo-vegetarian or vegan. This PDF is titled "Heart-Healthy Eating – Plant-Based Style". When they write "plant-based" they mean "vegetarian or vegan".

I'm citing the entire text of this PDF below:

[I have added some comments in square brackets.]


Heart-Healthy Eating – Plant-Based Style

Advice from the National Lipid Association Clinician’s Lifestyle Modification Toolbox

Why should you eat heart-healthy?

Eating heart-healthy foods will lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. It can lower your cholesterol and triglycerides. Eating heart-healthy can help manage other risk factors like blood pressure and blood sugar.
One heart-healthy eating pattern you can follow is a plant-based eating pattern [with a focus on healthy non-animal-source foods]. It is also called a [healthy] vegetarian or vegan eating pattern.

Choose colorful vegetables

Fill ½ your plate with colorful non-starchy vegetables
  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and green beans
  • Orange, red, and yellow peppers
  • Dark greens like arugula, kale, or spinach
  • Avoid deep fried veggies

Choose plant-based protein foods

Use in recipes in place of meat
  • Dried beans – kidney, pinto, and black beans
  • Lentils and split peas
  • Soy foods – edamame, tempeh, tofu and textured soy protein

Choose foods with healthy fats and oils

Many plant foods have healthy fats – use in small amounts
  • Liquid oils - canola, corn, olive, safflower, and sunflower [Choose olive or rapseed/canola oil for cooking/baking.]
  • Avocados and olive[s] [Olives are usually high in salt. So, eat them in moderation, especially if you have high or high-normal blood pressure. And wash the salt off a little but (a lot of the salt will remain inside the olives).] 
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters - almond and peanut butter [Look for nut butters made of 100% nuts, without salt, palm oil, hydrogenated fats, etc.]
  • Avoid coconut oil [and palm oil - these oils are high in satured fatty acids which increase cholesterol levels]

Avoid [unhealthy] processed foods

  • Read food labels of prepared plant-based foods – some are high in unhealthy fats [unhealthy fats like coconut oil, palm oil, and hydrogenated oils, and some are high in salt]
  • Refined grains like white breads, rice and pastas [Choose whole grains instead.]

Choose high-fiber whole grain foods and starchy vegetables

Fill ¼ of your plate with high-fiber foods [I'm not sure if this is a mistake. Fill most/practically all of your plate (your diet) with high fibre foods.]
  • Barley, bulgur, and oats
  • Brown or wild rice and quinoa
  • 100% whole-wheat breads and pastas
  • White or sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash
  • Beans, lentils, and split peas
  • ([These foods] have protein, too)

Choose fruit with no added sugar

Make fruit your dessert
  • Fresh or dried fruits
  • Frozen or canned fruit with no added sugar
  • Limit 100% juice to ½ cup a day

Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods [not vegan] or dairy-free options [vegan]

  • Calcium-fortified soy, oat, or nut milks with no added sugar
  • Use soy yogurt and [soy] cheese [but check the ingredients for coconut oil, palm oil, etc.]

Drinks and sweets

Choose mostly water
  • Avoid drinks and foods with added sugar like sodas, cookies, desserts, candies, ice cream, table sugar

Limit sodium (salt)

[This is particularly important if you have higher blood pressure, even if it's just slightly high. Not every person's blood pressure responds to a low-sodium diet though.] 
Flavor your food with herbs, spices, citrus juices, and vinegars
  • Read the % Daily Value of sodium on the Nutrition Facts labels on your food

Eating the plant-based style can be easy!
Here is a vegan menu idea:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries and 1 tbl [tablespoon] sliced almonds [or more, as you like], soymilk with no added sugar, [and to drink] coffee or tea with no sugar, or water
[Not sure who has oatmeal with coffee but if you have iron deficiency, it's best to avoid coffee and black tea with meals.]

Lunch: Baked tofu in a whole-wheat wrap with leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mustard; navy bean soup; fresh orange

Snacks: ¼ cup unsalted nuts or seeds and raw vegetables

Dinner: Pumpkin and black bean chili, whole-grain roll, a pear, and [to drink] soymilk with no added sugar, or water

A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help you make a heart-healthy meal plan that works best for your lifestyle. [The idea is a registered dietitian who is specialized in vegan nutrition; someone like that may not always be easy to find; and outside of the "Anglosphere" the concept of a registered dietitian doesn't always exist; the idea is to find an expert in vegan nutrition to advise you.] 2021


More comments by me:

On average, vegans have better (lower) cholesterol levels than meat eaters and also somewhat better cholesterol levels than lacto-ovo-vegetarians. But not every vegan has the same genetic background, of course, and this means than some vegans have high cholesterol - this can be due to their particular diet and/or this can be due to their genetics. If you have high cholesterol (even if it's just slightly high), please also see my blog post "Vegan and high cholesterol ... what now?".

Importantly, while for the general population of meat eaters cholesterol lowering (i.e. the lowering of LDL cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol) is one of the most important factors, vegans should be aware that a vegan diet without a reliable B12 source (supplements and/or fortified foods) will sooner or later lead to a more or less severe B12 deficiency - this is almost guaranteed - and a B12 deficiency will damage your arteries, independently of cholesterol levels.