Want to cut cholesterol without cutting taste? Most people are afraid that “good for my cholesterol” means meals that are joyless (and tasteless). However, a low-cholesterol diet doesn’t have to be all oat bran and tofu.
Here are some simple substitutions that you can make to the food you already eat to help fight cholesterol painlessly.
1. Sprinkle walnuts, skip croutons
Carbohydrates can cause high levels of a type of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol. For a healthier salad, replace your carbo-laden croutons with walnuts, which are high in polyunsaturated fat—a good fat that can lower LDL while boosting HDL (aka good cholesterol).
2. Sip red wine, not cocktails
Research suggests that moderate alcohol intake can produce a slight rise in HDL cholesterol (a so-called good cholesterol). But that won’t do you much good if you’re tossing back margaritas or mixed drinks with fruit juice, which contain carbohydrates.
Switch to red wine; it has about a tenth of the carbohydrates of a margarita, and you’ll also get antioxidants such as flavonoids that are believed to lower LDL and boost HDL. Given the risks of alcohol, however, the American Heart Association recommends that you limit your daily intake to two glasses (for men) or one glass (for women).
3. Yes to edamame and nuts, no to cheese and crackers
For a predinner snack, skip the crackers and cheese, which are sky-high in saturated fat— — one of the prime culprits behind high cholesterol. Instead, put out some almonds, which have been shown to lower LDL, and edamame, the boiled baby soybeans that are a common appetite whetter in Japanese restaurants.
Edamame is low in saturated fat and one cup contains about 25 grams of soy protein, which is thought to actively lower LDL (although the evidence is conflicting). Buy them frozen, dump them into boiling water, and drain after 5 minutes: That’s all there is to it.
4. Vinegar and lemon juice beats salad dressing
As everyone knows by now, drenching a salad in high-fat salad dressing is like smoking cigarettes while jogging: It totally defeats the purpose. A low-fat alternative— — such as a shallot and grapefruit dressing — —is a step in the right direction, but the best option for lower cholesterol is drizzling your salad with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.
5. Ditch the butter for margarine spread
One tablespoon of butter contains more than 7 grams of saturated fat— that’s more than a third of the recommended daily value. It also contains 10 percent of your daily value for dietary cholesterol, which, though it isn’t as harmful as was once thought, is one of the main sources of high cholesterol (and atherosclerosis).
Switch the butter with a vegetable-oil-based spread such as Smart Balance or Olivio (which also contains olive oil); you’ll be replacing a bad fat with a good fat. And instead of using butter to grease the pan while cooking, try olive oil or white wine vinegar.
6. Use ground turkey, not ground beef
Red meat is a source of both saturated fat and dietary cholesterol — two of the main sources of blood cholesterol. Ground turkey contains half the saturated fat of 85 percent lean ground beef, and it can be substituted easily for beef in most recipes.
7. Skip the fatty sour cream, choose fat-free Greek yogurt
Whether it’s used as a garnish or in a sauce, sour cream adds a shot of saturated fat to otherwise heart-healthy meals. To cut out that excess fat without sacrificing taste or texture, swap the sour cream with no-fat Greek yogurt — one of the world’s healthiest foods. Just about any recipe that calls for sour cream can be made with Greek yogurt instead.