Making the right dietary choices keeps your heart healthy and reduces cholesterol, particularly “bad” cholesterol or lipoprotein (LDL). While eating cholesterol-lowering, heart-healthy recipes in and of itself may not be enough to bring numbers to healthy levels, the impact can be profound. Prevent dietary restrictions from becoming drudgery by getting creative with how you get your daily dose.
Try nuts. Both walnuts and almonds are tasty snacks. These nuts—when eaten as 20 percent of calories in a cholesterol-reducing diet—also play a role in lowering blood cholesterol up to 12 percent, according to The Mayo Clinic. Because nuts are high in calories, no more than two oz. daily should be eaten to avoid weight gain. A great way to incorporate a handful into a diet is use them instead of meat or cheese in recipes. Use nuts to top salads, make a homemade trail mix or use nuts as a finishing touch for casseroles.
Use soy protein. The New England Journal of Medicine found that swapping soy protein for animal protein can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides while keeping HDL at its current level. A no-brainer way to do this is to snack on soy nuts or steamed edamame. Or, consider adding tofu to a stir-fry or other one-pot meals.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, trout or albacore tuna, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol and blood pressure while reducing the risk of blood clots. In order to receive these heart-healthy benefits, it’s a good idea to eat least two 3 to 4 oz. servings of baked or grilled fish a week. Flaxseed oil also is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts are, too. So anyone who’s not a fan of fish can consider eating an ounce of walnuts or incorporating a drizzle of flaxseed oil into vinaigrette.
Naturally occurring plant sterols/stanols are found in plants as well as in a number of fruits, veggies, legumes and nuts, and they can help reduce the risk of heart disease and LDL, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Clevelandclinic.org notes that ingesting 2 to 3 grams plant stanols daily can produce positive effects. One of the easiest ways to do this is to cook with a light margarine that’s fortified with plant sterol/stanol; however, this means eating 2 to 4 tbsp. of margarine a day. Try using it as a topping for steamed veggies, or finish a pan sauce with a pat of fortified margarine. Plant sterol-fortified orange juice is another option. Switch things up by making a smoothie loaded with fruits, some yogurt and crushed ice.
Olive oil contains a powerful blend of antioxidants that can help lower LDL while allowing “good” cholesterol (HDL) to remain constant. The Food and Drug Administration suggests using 2 tbsp. of olive oil daily in order to reap its rewards. There are countless ways to do this, from incorporating olive oil into salad dressing to making a quick marinade for fish or vegetables.