Will a low fat low cholesterol diet improve you health? Possibly. Why just possibly? Because there is so much more to health than just falling into these broad categories of low fat and low (or even no) cholesterol. I could eat a bag of pretzels, a package of Twizzlers and wash it down with a bottle of Coke – all low in fat and absolutely NO cholesterol – but NOT healthy.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe (because our best available research supports it) that it is very important to strive for a low fat low cholesterol diet. BUT, it is more important to understand that there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. And if you’re looking for better health and well being, then you’re wise to be doing your research about how to do it right.
Why Adopt A Low Fat Low Cholesterol Diet?
Let’s start by looking at cholesterol. Cholesterol is found almost exclusively in animals. Why? Because animals produce the cholesterol they need in order to be healthy and survive. WE are animals too, and therefore, our bodies also produce all the cholesterol we need. When we consume animals and their by-products in our diet, we start to accumulate excess cholesterol as our bodies do not eliminate the excess very well. This accumulation is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke.
Have you heard that a cholesterol of 200 mg/dl is within “normal range”? It seems like everyone today is trying to get to below that magic 200 mark. Being “normal” in a country of sick people is not really what I hope to strive for, and you shouldn’t either if you want optimal health.
There is considerable evidence that in order to protect ourselves from heart disease, we must lower our levels quite a bit more. In countries that have significantly lower rates of heart disease, such as in rural China, cholesterol levels range from 70-170. Doctor Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, states that a cholesterol level below 150 mg/dl makes us “heart attack proof”. In the famous Framingham Study, results show that over the 50 year project not one person who maintained a level of 150 or below has had a heart attack.
I don’t know about you, but even one heart attack or stroke is one too many, especially considering the fact that 40% of the time, the first sign of heart disease is a fatal heart attack. No second chances there.
Okay, now let’s examine the low fat side of the equation. Low fat diets went “out” with the 80’s, right? A failure, right? Well, if you call a diet that is made up of about 30% fat, low fat, then I guess you can say, yes. Prominent researchers today, however, know that lowering the percentage of fat in a diet from 35% to 30% does nothing to improve it, especially when what is put in place instead is refined carbohydrates. Unfortunately, that’s what happened during the low fat diet craze. A truly healthy, low fat diet is one where 10-15% of the calories come from fat and almost all of the calories come from whole, plant based foods.
A truly low fat diet, from whole foods, provides the benefits of reducing obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and many types of cancer. It also stops the progression of multiple sclerosis. These are areas that we have solid research on, and there are MANY more afflictions that people are healing everyday by adopting a whole food plant based diet.
How To Adopt A Low Fat Low Cholesterol Diet
So now you know the “why”, but the question remains, “how” do you change your diet? Should you slowly change your diet, or do it in one fell swoop?
Good question. And there’s not one answer. For many people, slowly adding in more good stuff and crowding out the bad is what works for them. For others, they must jump in with both feet to go through the uncomfortable transition but then be done with it. In general, however, the more drastic a change you make, the more drastic the results will be, and the likelier it is that the good results will provide the motivation to keep it up.
To achieve a healthy low fat low cholesterol diet, here are the guidelines to follow.
Understanding why it is we continue in unhealthful behaviors, particularly eating patterns, even when we KNOW better is super important. I highly recommend a book called The Pleasure Trap by Doug Lisle, PhD, which explains how we tend to stay stuck in health destructive behaviors, and how to get out of those patterns. Below is his Ted talk – highly recommended watching!!
The low fat low cholesterol diet will serve your health well, provided it is based on mostly whole (not processed) plant foods. Eating this way is not only delicious but also can make you feel amazing and is well worth the effort to learn about how to prepare and cook your meals. I hope you spend some time here as a first step to learning more about losing weight and feeling great through a whole food plant based diet and lifestyle.