This is a guest post by Sarah of Living Vegan:

According to William Roberts, MD (Baylor Cardiovascular Institute, Baylor University Medical Center), a well-renowned cardiology expert, the most significant risk factor for heart disease is the lifetime presence of a blood cholesterol level above 150.  In fact, the Framingham Heart Study further illustrates this conclusion.

The study monitored 5,000 people in Framingham, Massachusetts beginning in 1948.  It considered risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol levels, obesity, diabetes, smoking, etc.  Throughout the forty-year study, no person whose blood cholesterol was less than 150 suffered from a heart attack.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average cholesterol level for adults in the US is 199.  People who eat a plant-based (vegan) diet have an average cholesterol level of 128.

Lowering the amount of cholesterol you consume is easier than you would think.  Consider this, cholesterol is only found in animal products.  Plant-based foods do not contain cholesterol.

While you may not be ready to give up all animal products entirely, here are 5 super-easy substitutions you can make that will have a significant impact on the overall amount of cholesterol you consume.

1. Egg Substitutes.  While eggs are often touted as “incredible” they contain 6 grams of fat, 86 calories and a whopping 257 mg of cholesterol per egg.  It is incredibly easy to replace eggs in most recipes, thereby eliminating that source of cholesterol.

  • Ener-G Egg Replacer is a commercial product that works in just about any recipe calling for eggs.  You simply mix 1.5 tsp of this flavorless powder with 2 Tablespoons of water for each egg in the recipe.  This is especially good in baking since it does not carry it’s own flavor and efficiently binds and leavens cakes and other confections.
  • Mashed bananas are another great egg replacer, but do carry a banana flavor into the recipe.  This is ideal for some recipes, such as banana bread, fruit muffins, and pancakes but will give other recipes, such as vanilla cake, a weird banana flavor.

2. Veggie Burgers.   Long gone are the days of cardboard-tasting veggie burgers.  Today, the selection of faux burgers in most grocery store freezers is unsurpassed, with most grocers carrying several dozen varieties and flavors.  Try a couple until you find one you like. Beef-based burgers contain upwards of 600 calories and 100 mg of cholesterol each.  With 100 calories and 0 mg of cholesterol, the veggie burger is a far superior choice when you are looking for ways to eat healthier. Feeling particularly adventurous?  Try a SmartDog in place of your hotdog!

3. Sandwiches.  Replacing just one ingredient in your favorite sandwich with a plant-based product can significantly reduce the amount of cholesterol you will consume.  For example

  • Opt for extra lettuce and tomato and less cheese and meat.\
  • Use avocado in place of mayonnaise.
  • Use Follow Your Heart Vegenaise in place of mayonnaise.  It’s creamy, rich, savory, and studies show the main ingredient, grapeseed oil, works to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and raise HDL (good choleserol) levels.  It’s win-win.
  • Try vegetarian lunch meat.  Just as the number of high-quality veggie burgers has increased over the past  few years, the number of faux lunch meats has increased as well.  My personal picks include Tofurkey Hickory Smoked turkey slices and Yves Meatless Bologna slices.
  • Try a vegetarian cheese.  In the produce section of most grocery stores, you can find a wide selection of cholesterol-free, dairy-free cheeses.  Try a few varieties until you find one that you love!

4. Try Soymilk.  Silk Soymilk is the most innocuous soymilk on the market today.  While it does not mimic the taste of cow’s milk, it provides a smooth, creamy beverage that can be used in any recipe (it’s also great in coffee or tea!).  Silk is most widely available in Plain, Vanilla, and Chocolate.  Their newest advertising campaign touts that “It only takes one taste” and I whole-heartedly believe them!  Try it in your next recipe and I truly believe that you will not notice the difference.

5. Eat more vegetables! Increasing the portions of vegetables on your plate at every meal will inherently lower the amount of cholesterol you will consume.  Try a new vegetable side dish (there are thousands available online, simply Google “vegetarian side dish”) once a week or increase the amount of vegetables you are used to making.  If you have a small salad every night with dinner, double your portion, the same goes for a side of asparagus, broccoli, beans, etc.

Utilizing just one of these suggestions will be a first step in reducing the amount of cholesterol that you consume.  Eating more plant-based foods is healthier for you and can significantly reduce or even possibly eliminate your risk for heart attack.  A great cook book to keep you on track is Delicious Food for a Healthy Heart: Over 120 Cholesterol-Free, Low-Fat, Quick & Easy Recipes.