Different types of fat can either lower or raise cholesterol levels. “Bad” fats include saturated fats – found in cakes and biscuits – and trans fats – found in processed foods. There are other fats that can help reduce cholesterol levels, which are often found in vegetarian options.
“These can be helpful in reducing cholesterol as they represent a good source of protein without the associated saturated fats of some meats, and have the added bonus of protective fibre.”
There is scientific evidence for the link between diet and cholesterol levels.
“Studies from the Oxford University EPIC team have shown that vegetarians and vegans have better cholesterol profiles and that even moderate intakes of soya products as part of a regular diet are associated with favorable blood cholesterol concentrations,” Mr McIlwain added.
However, he acknowledged that trading meat for alternatives can be daunting.
He said: “Around 90 percent of people across the UK are still eating meat and it’s so culturally ingrained that it can be difficult for people who are considering a vegetarian or vegan diet to know where to start.
“So small steps often help and there is lots of information and support online. Start by swapping one meal, or a couple of meals a week, making sure you swap meat for other ingredients which provide important nutrients such as protein and iron.
“Add beans, pulses, tofu or experiment with the growing range of meat substitutes like soya mince, or plant-based burgers, steaks and sausages and enjoy filling your plate with at least two vegetables for a well-balanced meal.”
Here are some top tips to consider when moving towards a more veggie-based diet.
The protein switch – the key is making sure you swap meat for other ingredients which provide important nutrients such as protein and iron.
Add beans, nuts, tofu or meat substitutes like soya mince to your everyday, usual recipes for a well-balanced meal.
After all, nutritionists say plant protein sources are leaner and a positive choice for you and the planet.
Beautiful beans – from baked beans to chickpeas, and butter beans to kidney beans, these highly nutritious and satisfying foods are a great way to add protein to any recipe – buy them ready-cooked in tins for convenience, or dried in packets to save money.
Tricks with tofu – tofu is made from soya beans and, when chopped into bite-sized pieces, makes a great addition to a wide range of dishes such as stir fries and curries.
mock meat – this can be a practical way to make sure everyone’s happy, especially if you’re the only veggie in a meat-eating household. Some might not even notice the difference.
Supermarkets usually stock a range of versatile and convenient meat-free mince, sausages, fillets and burgers.
Iron – iron is needed for healthy blood, muscles and energy levels. Iron is present in a wide variety of vegetarian foods and, in fact, even the meat-eating population relies far more on these foods for their main iron intake.
The main sources of iron for vegetarians are cereals and bread, beans and lentils, nuts, seeds and leafy green veg. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron – so drink a glass of orange juice with your meal, or add a portion of veg or a salad.