Today I'd like to wrap things up with Helping take care of your cholesterol The good-start guidebook by focusing on foods that are healthy options for managing cholesterol levels.
Get more fibre
Fibre is a carbohydrate found in plants. Soluble fibre may help lower blood cholesterol and control sugar levels. Insoluble fibre can help you feel full and promotes regularity.
As a part of your healthy eating plan to lower your blood cholesterol levels, aim to get at least 30 grams of fibre every day, especially soluble fibre. Some of the best foods for soluble fibre are vegetables and fruit, like broccoli, asparagus, sweet potato, apples, pears and oranges. Leave the skins on whenever possible for extra fibre. Oatmeal, oat bran, psyllium, barley, beans, dried peas and lentils also have soluble fibre. If you're not used to eating beans, start with a small serving, and drink water with your meal to avoid excess gas.
- have a bean or veggie burger instead of a hamburger
- make lentil dal or chana masala
- enjoy chickpea hummus on pita bread or as a dip for vegetables
Add plant sterols to your diet
Plant sterols help lower cholesterol by partially blocking the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. For adults with high blood cholesterol, consuming 2 grams of plant sterols daily lowers LDL cholesterol by up to 10% starting within three weeks.
Plant sterols (also called phytosterols) are a natural substance found in very tiny amounts in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains and vegetable oils (such as sunflower, safflower and canola oils). To get enough from these foods alone, you'd need to eat 425 tomatoes, 210 carrots or 83 oranges! An easier way is to eat foods fortified with plant sterols. They usually contain up to 1 gram of plant sterols per serving.
Becel pro.activ, for example, is a calorie-reduced margarine with plant sterols. A single serving of two teaspoons (10 g) provides 40% of the daily amount of plant sterols shown to help lower cholesterol in adults. For optimal results, enjoy 2-3 servings of foods fortified with plant sterols every day.
Talk with your doctor if you are taking cholesterol lowering medications (such as statins). Statins and plant sterols work well together, but your medication dose may need to be adjusted.
Foods of the week
For the next four weeks, we'll look at some foods that are part of a heart healthy diet to improve your blood cholesterol levels. (I'll present all four here for you)
Food of the week - barley
Canada's Food Guide recommends choosing whole grains for at least half of the grain products you eat every day. Barley is a delicious whole grain with a slightly nutty taste and chewy texture. The fibre in barley is the type of soluble fibre, and research suggests that soluble fibre tends to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Look for barley at your grocery store next to the rice or dried beans section, or at bulk food stores.
TIP: Substitute barley for rice or pasta
- serve curry, stew and stir-fry meals with barley instead of rice
- add a handful of barley to your favourite soup or stew
- make a heart healthy salad with barley instead of pasta
Food of the week - nuts
There's good news if you like to eat nuts. All nuts contain the good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. A heart healthy diet includes more of these good fats in place of saturated and trans fats.
A meat alternative, nuts also provide important nutrients such as protein, iron, magnesium, selenium and fibre. Walnuts have the added bonus of being a source of omega-3 fats, a polyunsaturated fat.
Nuts do contain quite a lot of calories though, so keep an eye on the portion sizes. A serving of nuts is 1/4 cup (60mL)
TIP: Go Nuts!
- make your own trail mix with unsalted nuts and dried fruit
- toast nuts to bring out their flavour - add them to cereal, salads and baked goods
- add peanuts or cashews to a stir-fry
- try peanut butter, almond butter or another nut butter on low fat, whole grain crackers for a healthy snack
Food of the week - fish
Canada's Food Guide recommends eating at least two servings of fish each week. A serving of cooked fish is 2 1/2 oz or (75 g) or 1/2 cup (125 mL). For healthy omega-3 fats, choose fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, char, and sardines.
Canned fish is fine too. Look for options that are low in sodium and packed in water rather than oil.
TIP: Enjoy fish at least twice this week
- steam, poach, grill, bake or broil fish instead of frying
- use herbs and spices such as cumin, coriander and curry instead of store-bought marinades or salt to season fish
- add fish to a soup, stew, congee or curry
Food of the week - soybeans
Soybeans are high in fibre, low in saturated fat and contain good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They are a heart healthy meat alternative and a common ingredient in Asian cuisine.
- Look for soybeans in these forms at the grocery store:
- Edamame beans are soybeans - in the shell or hulled, usually found in the frozen vegetable section
- Tofu is made from soybeans and is usually found in the refrigerated produce area
- roasted soybeans can be found in the nut aisle or the bulk food section
Eating soybeans and tofu instead of meat is an easy way to substitute polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat.
A serving of soybeans is:
- 3/4 cup (175 mL)
- 3/4 cup (150 g or 175 mL) of tofu
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) roasted soybeans
TIP: Celebrate soybeans this week!
- substitute marinated firm tofu for meat in a stir-fry
- boil frozen soybeans (edamame) in the shell and enjoy them as a snack
- add a handful of cooked soybeans to salad or soup
- snack on roasted soybeans