You’ve probably all heard about the health benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet, right? This diet that’s high in nuts, fish, legumes, fruits and vegetables, has been shown to even prevent type II diabetes and lower heart disease risk. According to new research, this popular diet can also help reduce cholesterol levels.
A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that when researchers added monounsaturated fats (MUFAs, for short) to a low-cholesterol diet for patients with mild to moderate elevated cholesterol levels, the participants had an increase in their HDL (good cholesterol) and a decrease in their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. MUFAs are found in nuts such as peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios. MUFAs are also high in olive oil, canola oil and avocados (holy guacamole!).
Researchers studied 24 patients — 17 men and 7 postmenopausal women — who ate a very low saturated fat diet before being randomly assigned to either a high-MUFA diet or the low- MUFA diet. Both groups ate a vegetarian diet that included oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant, okra, soy, almonds and a plant sterol-enriched margarine. In the high-MUFA group, 13 percent of their calories from carbohydrates were swapped for a high-MUFA sunflower oil or avocado oil.
The results? Compared with the low-MUFA group, the higher MUFA subjects had a 12.5 percent greater increase in good cholesterol over the course of four weeks and lowered their bad cholesterol by 35 percent. Researchers say that more research needs to be done, but that people with high cholesterol should consider adding more MUFAs to their diets along with exercising, losing weight, moderate consumption of alcohol and smoking cessation.
Pretty encouraging research for those with high cholestrol. What’s your favorite way to get your MUFAs in your diet?