Getting enough protein in your daily diet is crucial for your overall health, and thankfully there are plenty of protein-heavy foods out there to choose from. But for those who have high cholesterol, or are trying to monitor their cholesterol levels, finding the right sources of protein for you may add an extra layer of challenges.
Animal-based proteins like red meat and processed meat (sausages, hot dogs, etc.) are typically higher in saturated fat, which has been linked to higher LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and lower HDL cholesterol (the good kind). But if people are cutting out this meat from their diet in order to manage cholesterol and not replacing it with other proteins, they run the risk of not getting enough protein in their diet.
In order to find better proteins for your heart health, we talked with Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility. Here are the best proteins for lowering cholesterol, and for more healthy eating tips check out The Most Crucial Eating Habit for High Cholesterol.
“Beans are a source of plant-based protein and eating them is linked to a reduction of cholesterol. The soluble fiber naturally found in beans is one reason why eating this protein source is ideal for those trying to lower their cholesterol,” says Manaker.
Whether you grab a handful for a mid-afternoon snack or top off your oatmeal with a few, walnuts are a great heart-healthy protein source.
“Walnuts are the only tree nut that is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid,” says Manaker, “and data shows that people who ate about half a cup of walnuts every day for two years modestly lowered their LDL, or ‘bad,’ cholesterol levels.”
There is research that has linked the consumption of refined carbs and added sugars to higher cholesterol, but whole grains are an excellent carbohydrate option for lowering cholesterol because of their fiber and nutrient content.
“Whole grains, like quinoa, naturally contain protein along with fiber, carbohydrates, and antioxidants,” says Manaker, “and eating quinoa has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol as well as a person’s glucose response.”
And lastly, if you’re looking for an easy, delicious food to add to your dinner, try a hearty portion of lentils. “Lentils are a plant-based protein source that are chock full of antioxidants and fiber,” says Manaker, “and data shows that eating pulses, like lentils, may help lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.”
And if you’re looking for ways to eat lentils, “they can be a great addition to sauces, stews, and even salads,” says Manaker.