What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is actually a natural product from the liver that the body uses to build cells. Although our bodies need it, you will not find cholesterol supplements in the vitamin aisle. The truth is your body does not need any extra cholesterol. In fact, getting extra from outside sources such as red meat and full-fat dairy items can be detrimental to heart health. The waxy substance attaches to proteins, travels through your blood, and builds up on artery walls. This can lead to chest pain, heart attack, or stroke!
What to Do
The good news is that a little prevention can go a long way. Plus, the habits are good practices for the prevention or treatment of numerous other health concerns. For example, getting to and maintaining a healthy weight and exercising are great ways to control cholesterol as well as diabetes, joint health, sleep disorders, and even cancer!
A healthy weight and cardiovascular health share some common foods. Scan for the following ingredients when menu-planning for help in lowering cholesterol levels.
- Apples, citrus, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries – These fruits are high in pectin, a type of fiber that attaches to cholesterol and flushes it from your system.
- Olive oil – High-Density lipoproteins (HDL) are the good cholesterol. They are responsible for the absorption and removal of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or the bad kind. Olive oil helps in the HDL process.
- Whole grains and beans – Soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol and pulls it out of the body before it enters our blood and causes damage.
- Nuts such as almonds and walnuts – Their phytosterol compounds are like cholesterol, so their presence actually blocks the absorption of real cholesterol.
The following are some great recipes that I have found. Each is suitable for a low-cholesterol diet and have other benefits as well. They also pass the kid and picky eater taste tests!
- Turkey Pesto Meatballs – My cousin brought this dish to me after having my first baby. She called it her “go to recipe,” and I have adopted it as such, too. Watching your cholesterol does not mean you have to give up meat. You simply must make wise decisions on which meat products you choose. Turkey has a 7% fat content compared to ground beef, which can have 20%!
Not only that, but the olive oil in the pesto and the lycopene in the tomato sauce help lower LDL! To make it even better for fighting cholesterol, use the recipe for kale pesto instead of the traditional kind. This adds walnuts, which is known to help lower cholesterol.
Whenever a recipe calls for breadcrumbs, I automatically substitute at least part of the portion with wheat germ, an excellent source of fiber and healthy fats. You could also use uncooked oatmeal. My household follows a low carb diet. These meatballs are yummy enough to eat on their own. No side of pasta necessary. A nice salad is all that you need to make this a filling meal. Remember to take it easy on the parmesan, however. Fatty dairy products are high in cholesterol.
Catherine McCord offers many other nutritious meals for the family in her Weelicious cookbook available on Amazon.
- Hummus crackers – You probably already added hummus to your diet. I’m sure you’ve heard how the protein and fiber from its chickpeas and olive oil are much healthier for you than the saturated fat and sodium in dips. But what about when you’re craving carbs, not cut up veggies? These simple crackers satisfy your taste buds. All you need to add to the hummus is oat flour. I could not justify spending triple the amount of regular flour, so I simply ground organic oats in the food processor until they were fine like flour. It worked and added even more fiber to my cracker craving.
- One-Pot Chicken, Quinoa, Mushrooms, & Spinach – You’ll have to make some substitutions here, but they are simple and will not affect the taste. The original recipe calls for chicken thighs. Thighs are much higher in fat than chicken breasts. Use breasts instead. Also, make sure the chicken broth is low-sodium. Otherwise, this is a powerhouse of nutrition. Quinoa is a superfood high in fiber to help flush out cholesterol. The mushrooms, spinach, and onion all help lower LDL, as well. Try other cholesterol-friendly foods in place of mushrooms if they are not your favorite. The original recipe suggests eggplant. This is also linked to lower cholesterol levels, so it’s a fair substitution.
- Baked Broccoli Tots – Cooks who are concerned about cholesterol levels are often interested in health in general. Diets that are low in carbs and high in vegetables are one of the most well-known ways to achieve optimal health. Turning a dish that is typically made from potatoes into one stocked with green vegetables is a definite win in my book. To make your carb intake count, play around with the ingredients again. You can use wheat germ or uncooked oatmeal for part of the breadcrumb portion. (I only used Italian breadcrumbs. I did not have panko on hand. They turned out great.) Shop wisely for your cheese. Cheddar is a cheese whose cholesterol level is higher than most. Search for a low-fat bag or substitute low-fat mozzarella or parmesan for the cheddar. Unfortunately, some cheese is needed to melt and hold the rest of the ingredients together.
- Chicken Avocado Burgers – I look forward to good, juicy burgers every now and then. You can still have the great taste and texture without the beef! Avocado moistens the meat and adds healthy fat. Garlic is another great ingredient to help lower cholesterol. These are simple but delicious. In fact, I found that I did not want condiments on these burgers because they have so much taste on their own.
As these recipes show, eating right for your cholesterol levels does not have to be tasteless. They have also shown that a recipe does not have to be completely off limits because of one or two ingredients. Play around with the ingredients. Make substitutions. Keep the list of cholesterol-friendly foods in your mind and you can make most recipes into good choices. Best of all, cooking with cholesterol levels in mind will also lead to other health benefits as well, thus making you feel your best all around.