The two DASH trials clearly demonstrated that blood pressure was more effectively lowered by a diet that combined foods high in potassium (fruits and vegetables), calcium (lowfat and nonfat dairy) and magnesium (whole grains beans and nuts) with low salt and saturated fat intake. Now the results of a new study using a combination diet were presented at an American Heart Association meeting in March.1 This new study found combining a vegetarian diet that was very low in saturated fat and cholesterol with a relatively high intake of soy protein (45 grams a day) and high soluble fiber could reduce LDL levels in 25 volunteers by an average of 35% in one month. Subjects averaged about 16 grams of soluble fiber mostly from foods such as oats, barley, beans and high-soluble-fiber vegetables like eggplant and okra. Subjects consumed psyllium three times a day along with an ounce of almonds and two tablespoons of margarines with sterols.
When the subjects in this study followed a more moderate lowfat diet, their LDL levels only fell by an average of 12%. Earlier research studies have shown:
• Soluble fiber cuts LDL levels by about 1% for every 2 grams consumed daily.
• Consuming soy protein in place of animal proteins modestly lowers LDL levels.
• The addition of 2 grams a day of plant sterols or stanols from margarines such as Benecol® and Take Control® have also been shown to lower LDL levels by 5 to 10%.
• Eating a more-vegetarian diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat has been shown to cut LDL levels by 20 to 40% in most people.
Bottom Line: The DASH and Portfolio diets both demonstrate that the most effective dietary approach to treating high cholesterol levels, hypertension and other heart disease risk factors is a diet that is much lower in saturated fat, salt and cholesterol than the typical modern diet and much higher in minimally processed plant foods including whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
By James Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN.
1. Miami Herald. March 7, 2003
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.