Cooking & Cholesterol

 Keeping cholesterol levels in a healthy range is an important part of a person's overall health. Cholesterol levels are checked with a blood test called a Lipid Profile.

This profile checks LDL Cholesterol (low-density, “bad” cholesterol), HDL (high-density or “good” cholesterol), Triglycerides,   fat cells from the foods we eat and finally, total cholesterol, which is the overall number.
LDL Cholesterol can build up on the walls of the arteries and increase your risk of heart disease, which is why it is referred to as “bad”. If your LDL number is low, your heart disease risk is also low.

HDL cholesterol can help protect against the development of heart disease because it helps remove the bad cholesterol from your bloodstream, thereby preventing it from building in the arteries. Because of this, a higher HDL number is good – the higher the number, the lower the risk. Exercise can increase your HDL number.

Triglycerides are fat cells in food and in the body. High levels of these are linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease. A number less than 150 is considered to be the “normal” range.

One of the best ways to improve your cholesterol numbers is with proper nutrition. By avoiding excess fat in your diet, as well as fatty foods in general, you can improve your cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. There are low-fat or reduced-fat options for many of the foods we eat these days; salad dressings, cheeses, snack crackers and even coffee creamer. How we cook these food can reduce the fat that we consume, keeping our cholesterol at a healthy level.

A great way to avoid excess fat in our diet is to avoid fried and/or creamed foods. By choosing instead to bake or broil meats and using herbs and spices instead of butter or heavy sauces, you'll save excess calories and fat. Using a rack for roasting and broiling meat allows the fat to drip away from the meat and subsequently be thrown away. Be sure to trim any excess fat from the meat prior to cooking.

Choose non-stick sprays or vegetable oil instead of butter. Swap sour cream for plain, low-fat yogurt. Get creative with herbs and spices to flavor your dishes. Lemon juice adds great flavor to fish and chicken without adding any fat. When making soups and stews, excess fat can be skimmed off the top and discarded without affecting the flavor in any way.

Another thing to avoid is fatty meats and cheeses, like bacon, sausage and cream cheese. Select low-fat options like turkey bacon or part-skim mozzarella. If you are using eggs for cooking or baking, replace each whole egg with two egg whites. 

The yolk of an egg is where the cholesterol is, so limiting egg yolk consumption to three or four per week is a good idea. If you are going to have dessert, choose a low-fat option like jello or angel food cake. Fresh fruit is a great dessert option as it will satisfy a craving for sweets while still being a healthy option.

It's also very important to read labels. Food labels not only list all the ingredients in a particular food, but also show the calorie count and the amounts and types of fats.  This is important to know because some fats are healthy fats.  Olive oil and avocados both contain healthy fats, but are high-calorie foods, so reading labels is key to creating the healthiest diet possible.

Seeking advice from a professional, such as a nutrionist may help you improve your cholesterol numbers.  

At the University of Michigan, Dr. Katherine Rhodes, Ph.D, RD, studied 219 adults with high cholesterol. All 219 patients consulted with a registered dietician during the study, which ran for 17 months. During that time, the patients either were taking no cholesterol-lowering drugs or did not change to a different cholesterol-lowering drug.

By the end of the study, nearly 45 percent lowered their  LDL cholesterol by at least 15 percent and met the LDL cholesterol goal. 12 percent of the patients lowered their LDL cholesterol by 30 percent. The patients also lost an average of about 2 percent of their weight and reported exercising more often. This study suggests that consulting a professional could help you successfully reach your goals.

Paying attention to the foods we eat is one of the best ways to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and maintain good health overall. Limiting excess fat from our diet ensures we feel our best and remain healthy.