The big question of how long does it take to lower cholesterol with diet is multifactorial.
This blog posts goes over what cholesterol levels are, what dietary patters and nutrients lower cholesterol, and then the timeframe of how long does it take to lower cholesterol with diet.
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- Understanding Cholesterol Levels
- The Role Of Diet In Lowering Cholesterol – Dietary Patterns
- Sample Meal Plan
- Tips To Stick With A New Diet
- Timeframe For Results
- Other Lifestyle Factors
- Other Factors
- Monitoring Progress
- Final Thoughts
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Understanding Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a waxy fat substance that the body requires for regular cellular and hormonal maintenance.
Cholesterol is essential for good health; excess amounts however can be detrimental and can pose problems.
The liver makes all the cholesterol that the body needs for regular function. Excess amounts can come from food consumption, mainly animal-derived food products (or high saturated fats foods), hence it is easy to develop high blood cholesterol levels when not maintained carefully.
There are two different types of cholesterol:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol
HDL, or “good” cholesterol is essential for regulating good health. HDL cholesterol can essentially absorb the cholesterol levels in the blood and carry them back to the liver to be recycled to flushed out.
LDL, or “bad” cholesterol can cause health problems if not carefully regulated. LDL cholesterol has been shown to cause plaque build-up and narrowing in the arteries, which can lead to increased risk of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular-related problems.
The type of cholesterol is important to note when examining your health goals. HDL is essential for regular bodily function and for overall cholesterol regulation, while LDL in excess amounts can be fatal to ones health.
The Role Of Diet In Lowering Cholesterol – Dietary Patterns
Dietary patterns is a term used to describe the combination of different foods, drinks, and their respective frequencies of which they are consumed.
They can help ins understanding how different combinations of foods in different frequencies can help target health goals more efficiently.
The most popular dietary patterns include the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet, the MIND Diet, and the Portfolio Diet which we will go over below. These articles on the PAD diet and POTS diet can also be helpful resources.
The Mediterranean Diet was crafted in the 1950s based on the traditional cuisines of countries residing around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Italy, Greece, Spain, Morocco, and France. It has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels and can be characterized by the dietary plan recommendations (1):
- Consumption of less saturated fats and more vegetable-based oils
- Higher emphasis on foods of plant/vegetable origins and less on animal origins.
The Mediterranean Diet has been shown through many studies to have a key role in lowering cholesterol levels as well as the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and improving overall health (2) (3).
Essentially working through reducing overall consumption of foods high in fats and cholesterol and increasing the consumption of vegetable-based oils and foods, the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to not only reduce LDL cholesterol levels but also improve HDL cholesterol efficiency and functioning (4) (5).
Learn more about Mediterranean Diet eating out!
The DASH Diet stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” and was created by the United States Department of Health and Human services with the goal of reducing blood pressure among the general population. It can be characterized by the dietary plan recommendations:
- Increased intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat products
- Decreased intake of foods high in saturated fat and sugar
In addition, the DASH Diet has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels through its unique dietary patterning (7).
The MIND Diet has pros and cons. It is a unique hybrid between the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet and stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This unique diet emphasizes the same principles as the DASH and Mediterranean diets, however puts a special emphasis on improving neurocognitive health through the following dietary plan recommendations:
- Focused consumption of fruits important for improving neurocognitive health such as berries, spinach, kale, and leafy green vegetables.
- Limitation of foods such as cheese and butter.
- Elimination of foods that may have negative effects on the brain such as red and processed meats, high-saturated foods, and sweets.
The MIND Diet mainly aims to help improve neurocognitive health and has been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, however can also help reduce cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health.
Because of its unique similarities to the Mediterranean and DASH diets as well as its unique emphasis on certain foods, the MIND Diet can well reduce cholesterol levels. The emphasis on consuming berries for example can be reduce cholesterol due to its high antioxidant levels (13).
Learn more about the MIND Diet recipes with these plant-based diet books!
The Portfolio Diet is a unique diet that emphasizes the consumption of nuts, soluble fiber, plant proteins, and plant sterols. These foods together can help to lower cholesterol levels with its unique nutrient properties. Check out Portfolio diet recipes here.
This diet has been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease development as well as reduce cholesterol levels. By combining these food types together along with a limitation on unhealthier foods, the Portfolio diet creates another efficient yet simple dietary plan that can greatly help regulate cholesterol levels.
Each diet can offer its own individual health benefits as well as help lower overall cholesterol levels.
It is important not to underestimate what a healthy diet can do for you. The right dietary plan can help lower cholesterol levels just as effectively as pharmacologic therapeutic methods such as drugs (9).
The dietary plan you may choose to incorporate into your own diet depends entirely on your own individual needs, health goals, and current lifestyle. Let’s look at the specific nutrients that can help lower cholesterol, and then we can find out how long it takes to lower cholesterol with diet.
The Role Of Diet In Lowering Cholesterol – Nutrients
Soluble fiber has also been shown to help in reducing cholesterol levels in addition to the numerous health and nutritional benefits it can offer.
Soluble fiber can essentially add bulk to the diet, which then absorbs and even passes excess cholesterol in the body, thus resulting the excretion of cholesterol out of the body leading to lower cholesterol levels (10).
Some examples of foods with soluble fiber include:
- Fruits such as apples and blueberries
- Chia seeds
Soluble fiber is one of the most recommended macronutrients to be consumed to help reduce cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure, and promote overall health.
There are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two as this can be integral to developing a healthy diet and reducing cholesterol levels.
Unsaturated fat is a type of fat that is considered to be healthy and can even be beneficial to one’s health, particularly regarding regulating cholesterol levels.
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are mainly plant-derived. Some common examples of foods rich in unsaturated foods include:
- Vegetables such as olives and corn
- Legumes like peanuts
- Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans
- Seeds such as sesame, sunflower, flax, and pumpkin seeds
Unsaturated fats have been found to help reduce LDL cholesterol levels while boosting HDL cholesterol efficiency, which can also help reducing LDL cholesterol levels (11).
Omega-3 fats are an important type of unsaturated fat that the body requires for regular function. They function for the maintenance of healthy cells in the eyes and brain and also function to help the immune, cardiovascular, and endocrine system regularly.
Omega-3 fats must be derived from consumed food as the body cannot produce it. Some foods where omega-3 fats can be found include:
- Nuts and seeds such as flax, chia, and walnuts
- Plant-based oils such as flaxseed oil, and canola oil
There are many studies which have found omega-3 fats to have the ability to reduce fat levels in the blood as well as increase HDL cholesterol levels in the body (12).
Plant sterols (or phytosterols) are compounds found naturally in plants and has protective properties that support the plant. They are structurally and functionally similar to cholesterol.
Plant sterols can be found in all plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, and oils.
Plant sterols essentially work to help excrete LDL cholesterol from the body when consumed. Numerous clinical studies have found a correlation between increased daily intake of plant sterols and decreased LDL cholesterol concentrations in the body (13).
Due to its similar chemical structure to cholesterol, consumption of plant sterols can reduce total overall absorption of cholesterol in the body (13).
Plant sterols by themselves can promote healthy regulation of cholesterol levels in the body. However, it is important to also couple them with the dietary limitation of foods high in cholesterol.
Saturated fat (like butter) is considered to be an unhealthy type of fat that can cause adverse health effects if consumed in excess. High amounts of cholesterol is one of the most common consequences of excess saturated fat consumption.
Saturated fats are often solid at room temperature due to its more complex chemical structure allotting it to be harder to break down, hence its presence in the body can cause many fatal and unwanted health consequences.
Saturated fats are most often found in animal-based foods but can also be found in a few plant-based foods, the most common foods with high amounts of saturated fats include:
- Meats and processed meats such as beef, sausage, and bacon
- Dairy products such as cheese, high-fat milk, butter, and ice cream
- Grain-based desserts such as cookies
- Fast food
- Oils such as coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil
Essentially, saturated fats have been shown to increase LDL cholesterol levels of reducing its overall regulation feedback system as well as increasing its production. Together, this causes a dangerous excess amount of LDL cholesterol left in the body (14).
Trans fats are another unhealthy type of fat that is considered to be the worst type of fat for the body. Trans fats are made by heating liquid vegetable oil in the presence of hydrogen gas through a process called hydrogenation.
This process causes the heated vegetable oil to become more stable and less easy to break down in the body. The heated oil also become solid due to the change in chemistry. As a result, regular fats become more dangerous and can cause more greatly adverse health effects in the body when consumed.
Some examples of foods containing high amounts of trans fats include:
- Fried foods such as fast food and donuts
- Baked goods such as cakes, pie, biscuits, cookies, and crackers
- Spreads such as margarine
Trans fats can interfere with the mechanism of regulation cholesterol levels in the body while also increasing LDL cholesterol production and reducing HDL cholesterol levels (15).
Dietary cholesterol though commonly assumed to be a major contributor to raised cholesterol levels is not as much of a factor as saturated and trans fats to cholesterol regulation.
A study by the American Heart Association found little correlation between increase cholesterol levels and dietary cholesterol consumption, as well as cardiovascular disease risk (15).
Dietary cholesterol has less impact overall increased cholesterol levels, while saturated and trans fat consumption may play a greater role in this change.
The American Heart Association emphasizes that the most effective methods of reducing cholesterol levels is to follow dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean, DASH, or MIND diets, which all work to reduce saturated and trans fat consumption and promote plant-based foods in the diet (15).
Though not as integral in regulating cholesterol levels, seeking out low-cholesterol foods like these low cholesterol desserts or natural drink recipes to lower cholesterol can be just as important and beneficial to one’s health, see this list of low cholesterol foods to try out today!
Keep reading to find out how long does it take to lower cholesterol with diet.
Sample Meal Plan
- Lunch: Black Bean Toast
- Dinner: Salmon Fish Cakes
- Snack 1: Watermelon Smoothie
- Snack 2: Steel Cut Oat Granola
Tips To Stick With A New Diet
Starting a new diet is a great first step to living a healthier and proactive life. However, the biggest challenge many find is in being able to consistently commit and stick with it daily!
Here are some tips that have been shown to most efficiently help individuals stick with their new diets.
When going grocery shopping, it is always important to have in mind the new dietary goals you have set for yourself and stick to them when choosing what to buy.
It is at the grocery store that we make decisions based on our diets, hence it is important to choose the food products that align with your dietary and health goals.
Grocery shopping by itself can be stressful when you’re looking to follow a new diet. Here are some helpful tips to make the grocery trip less stressful with a new diet:
- Create a list with all the products you need to purchase that will help you follow your new diet
- Aim to have more quick trips to the store instead of occasional larger trips which tend to be more overwhelming
- Take it slowly – gradually build your grocery list to fit your dietary goals at your own pace
- Create mini grocery goals regarding your new diet and aim to achieve them with every trip
- Try to slowly cut down on foods that go against your new diet with every trip
- Base your grocery trips around meal plans/recipes you want to follow in your new diet
Grocery shopping by itself can be stressful when you’re looking to follow a new diet.
Planning out your meals according to your new diet is one of the most effective tips in helping individuals stick to their new diets.
Meal planning can help you stay on track with your dietary goals and can also help you stay more organized, especially when first transitioning to a new dietary lifestyle which tends to be the most difficult part for many individuals.
Meal planning tends to be one of the most common and effective ways for dietary programs to motivate their users as it builds more confidence and momentum to commit to a new diet, which can be difficult.
Eating out can be one of the most difficult challenges to individuals beginning a new diet. It is common for many new dieters to even avoid eating out altogether!
Eating out can be a fun experience, especially when with friends and family. It is important to keep in mind your dietary goals, but also as equally important to enjoy yourself when eating out.
Here are some tips to help you stick with a new diet while also enjoying yourself when eating out:
- Always keep your dietary goals in mind when browsing for what to eat, but don’t be too harsh on yourself if there aren’t many promising choices
- Be mindful – try to stick with the foods that what would best accommodate your new diet
- Rather than choosing one large meal, try to instead have multiple smaller, healthier side dishes and appetizers
- Try to fill up your plate with mainly vegetables and foods that best accommodate your new diet
- Always try to opt for water, fruit juice, a smoothie, coffee, or tea to pair with your meal
- Pay attention to the ingredients and foods used in what you may be ordering
- Don’t go out with a completely empty stomach – eating a healthy snack beforehand can limit your cravings
- Start with a light soup or salad before deciding on your main course
- Or, simply give yourself a break and enjoy one cheat meal – but remember to place yourself back on track with your dietary goals afterwards
- Check out these articles for healthy meal selections: low sodium burger king, breakfast menu at tim hortons, low sodium subway options, low sodium McDonalds options.
Dieting does not need to be seen as boring or limiting! Often times diets are abandoned because individuals find it difficult to enjoy their new dietary lifestyle.
With a little variety in the foods consumed when dieting, sticking to a new diet can instead be made easy and can even inspire more personally creativity and adaption to ones lifestyle.
Minor but effective dietary alterations as simple adding more vegetables to your plate, eating more lean meats and fibrous foods, or steaming rather than frying food can allow you to still enjoy the foods you love while also sticking to your new diet.
Looking for unique meals and snacks that are not only delicious but also dietitian-approved and diet-friendly? Check out some of these tasty, nutritious, and carefully crafted recipes here!
Reading Food Labels
When starting a new diet, it is important to become more mindful of the foods you consume as well as the ingredients your food consists of.
Food labels have a nutrition facts table, an ingredient list, and nutrition and health claims.
Here is a quick guide to your food labels (17):
|Label Component||Information Provided|
|Nutrition Facts Table||Serving sizes Total calories% Daily Value (DV) of nutrients Information of the following core 13 nutrients such as portion (g):Fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.|
|Ingredient List||All ingredients in the food product, usually ordered by weight.|
|Nutrition and Health Claims||Amount of nutrient in a food product. The beneficial and healthy effects of a food product.|
In addition, there a certain key words to pay attention to when reading food labels. Many food labels won’t specify whether a food product contains a certain type of fat, sodium, or sugar.
Certain ingredients can have many different names but mean the same thing. Below is a summary of some familiar nutrients and their other commonly used names (18):
|Common Ingredient Name||Other Names|
|Saturated Fat||Bacon, Beef fat, Butter, Chicken fat, Cocoa butter, Coconut or coconut oil, Hydrogenated fats and oils, Lard, Palm or palm kernel oil, Powdered whole milk solids, Shortening|
|Trans Fat||Hard margarine, Hydrogenated fats and oils, Partially hydrogenated fats and oils, Shortening|
|Sodium||Baking powder, Baking soda, Brine, Celery salt, Disodium phosphate, Garlic salt, Monosodium glutamate (MSG), Onion salt, Salt, Sodium alginate, Sodium benzoate, Sodium bisulfate, Sodium propionate, Soy sauce|
|Sugar||Brown sugar, Cane juice extract, Corn syrup, Demerara or Turbinado sugar, Dextrose, Evaporated cane juice, Fructose, Galactose, Glucose, Glucose-fructose, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Invert sugar, Lactose, Liquid sugar, Maltose, Molasses, Sucrose, Syrup, Treacle|
It can be difficult to decode and read food labels in order to accommodate your dietary goals.
If you are having difficulty in efficiently managing your dietary needs and how food can play a factor in your health goals, consider consulting a dietitian for further guidance!
Timeframe For Results
I’m sure you are still wondering how long does it take to lower cholesterol with diet?
With any new lifestyle changes, a new diet will take time to see significant results. Typically a few weeks to a few months. Everyone is different since it depends on their way of eating before making changes, as well as their genetics and medications etc.
There are many factors that may also play a role in how long it will take for cholesterol levels to decrease such as current diet, health, and lifestyle, as well as how you’re able to integrate the new diet to comfortably fit your current life.
It is also important to stay consistent and patient, while also allowing yourself to take things slowly as needed and believe in your own capabilities. You are in charge of your own goals and accomplishments!
Other Lifestyle Factors
Many other lifestyle factors can also contribute to how quickly one can see results when beginning a new diet. Here are a few common factors that can affect the timeframe to see significant changes:
- Physical activity
- Alcoholic intake
- Regular doctor appointments
As always, it is recommended to consult your doctor or a healthcare professional when making dietary and health-related changes to your lifestyle.
Many lifestyle factors can significantly play a key role in reaching your dietary goals. However, there are also a few other important factors to note that span outside of simple lifestyle factors.
A few other factors that can influence the timeframe to see significant results including:
- Age and gender
- Other medical conditions and their severity
Generally, metabolism is indirectly associated with cholesterol levels. Faster metabolisms can help decrease cholesterol levels in the liver (28). Metabolism by itself can depend on the factors listed above.
Dietary needs tend to change with age. With increased age, metabolism tends to slow, energy requirements decrease, and nutrient absorption becomes slower. The time to see cholesterol levels decrease can depend on age for these same reasons.
Gender also plays a role in how quickly dietary results can be observed. There has been an observed difference in overall metabolism in men and in women, with men have quickly metabolic levels than women. In addition, women tend to naturally have higher levels of HDL cholesterol than men (19). For these reasons, gender can play a large role in how quickly cholesterol levels decrease as well.
Genetics can also play a major role in one’s dietary needs and how easy it can be to reach dietary and health-related goals. Metabolism has been shown to be connected to genetics and having a fast metabolism can be purely based in genetics. Particularly with cholesterol levels, some individuals may find that cholesterol can run in families; a phenomenon known as Familial Hypercholesterolemia (20).
There can be many medical conditions that can interfere with overall cholesterol regulation. The severity of these conditions is also important to take note of when evaluating one’s own health goals. When beginning any new diet or lifestyle changes, it is always recommended to consult your doctor or a healthcare expert.
It is always recommended to monitor your cholesterol levels regularly, whether through regular blood tests or other methods as this can help you efficiently track your progress and make any necessary adjustments to your diet or lifestyle.
It is also important to always have regular check-ups with your doctor or a healthcare professional to ensure you are on track with your health goals. These individuals can help you to understand your current standing and progress as well as help you to further maximize the potential results and health benefits.
As always, it is recommended to speak with your doctor if you have high cholesterol levels or have any concerns regarding your cholesterol levels. Even if you are wondering “how long does it take to lower cholesterol with diet?”
The question of what the timeframe would be to see decreases cholesterol levels is a complicated concept as there are many factors that contribute to this and can vary by each individual.
There are however many things one can do to reduce the timeframe to see results, such as having a proper diet, being more mindful with what you are consuming, monitoring progress, and consulting your doctor to ensure you are on the right track to accomplishing your health and dietary goals.
Keep at it – you’ve got this!