By being vegan, you are less likely to consume any cholesterol from the diet because cholesterol can be found only in meat, dairy, and eggs. While meat naturally contains saturated fat and trans fat, most plants do not have saturated fat nor trans fat. So, can a vegan, who does not eat any cholesterol from the diet, can have a high cholesterol level?
High intake of saturated fat, trans fat, excess calories, alcohol, and high sugar beverages has been noticed to contribute to a higher cholesterol level. (1) Therefore, Vegans might still get cholesterol from deep-fried or fast food products. Another ingredient that vegans should watch out for is coconut milk and oil because saturated fat and trans fat can be found in these two ingredients, especially when used or reheated repeatedly.
It is still controversial the connection between coconut milk and oil and cholesterol level. However, just because the food is vegan doesn't mean it does not have any saturated fats. An example of a typical dish that uses oil and coconut milk is Rendang.
Apart from diet, other risk factors that can influence the cholesterol level in our blood include obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, age, and diabetes. (2) Furthermore, hypothyroidism, renal or kidney disease, HIV, PCOS, metabolic syndrome can be secondary causes of elevation in cholesterol level. (3) Those who use certain medications might also have side effects that can elevate cholesterol levels, such as Beta-Blockers, Antipsychotics, and many more. (4)
All the risk factors of cholesterol above are called secondary causes of a high cholesterol level. But what is the leading or the primary cause of a high cholesterol level? Research has found that some also have a genetic predisposition from their family to have high cholesterol levels or high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (5) Talk to your doctor to see whether you have a genetic predisposition to it or not.
If you do, it means you have to make sure that you have a very healthy diet, a.k.a plant-based diet. You might be able to control it with medication and diet. The good news is that fiber in plant foods can help you bring your cholesterol level in control because fiber can decrease your cholesterol! (6)
However, please consult your case with your doctor to check your condition further because even vegans might get a high cholesterol level because of primary and secondary causes. Evaluating your health, diet, and risk factors and consulting with your doctor is the best way to solve it.