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A study shows that eating more plants can help lower cholesterol.

Fruits and veggies are important for good health, but only one in ten Americans eats them every day. A new study found that these kinds of foods will keep you healthy if you have a problem with cholesterol.

In the study, experts looked at low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are called “bad cholesterol” because too much of it increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Comparing those who ate both meat and plants, those who ate only plants saw their LDL level drop by 10% and their overall cholesterol drop by 7%.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Ruth Frikke-Schmidt, is a professor of clinical biochemistry and the chief physician at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark. She said, “This is equivalent to a third of the effect of taking cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins, and someone who ate a plant-based diet for five years would have a 7% lower risk of heart disease.”

Frikke-Schmidt said, “It’s important that we got the same results across continents, ages, different ranges of body mass index, and people in different states of health.”

“If people start eating vegetarian or vegan diets at a young age, there is a good chance that they will lower their risk of heart disease caused by clogged arteries.”

“This large analysis backs up what we already knew, which is that eating more plant-based foods is good for your heart,” Tracy Parker, a senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation in Birmingham who was not involved in the study, said.

But the study also showed that diet may not have as much of an effect on cholesterol in people who “inherit the tendency for their livers to make too much cholesterol.” This means that high cholesterol is more likely to be caused by our DNA than by what we eat, according to Robert Storey, a professor of cardiology at the University of Sheffield in the UK.

Frikke-Schmidt said that taking statins is a better way to lower fat and cholesterol levels than eating a plant-based diet.

“However, one plan doesn’t rule out the other, and combining statins and plant-based diets is likely to have a synergistic effect that makes the benefits even bigger,” she said.

Duane Mellor, a senior teaching fellow at Aston University’s Medical School in Birmingham, UK, said, “Anyone who wants to become a vegetarian or vegan should make sure their diet is well planned and includes enough iron, iodine, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.”

Also, people who switch to a plant-based diet should still pay attention to the kinds of things they eat.

Aedin Cassidy, a professor and director of interdisciplinary research at Queen’s University Belfast’s Institute for Global Food Security, said that only “healthy plant-based diets” that include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains improve health. Other plant-based diets that include refined carbohydrates and processed foods high in fat, sugar, and salt do not.

“If people have trouble adapting to a full vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, they might want to try the Mediterranean diet. It focuses mostly on fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fish, with few eggs and very little low-fat dairy and very little meat,” said Parker.