Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tips & Tricks

Before I can start posting recipes, I need to clear the air about just *why* those recipes are heart healthy.  I'd also like to note a few tricks for around-the-house munching, since those things are so important to lowering cholesterol but aren't recipes.  Here's my list, and my shout-out to Cholesterol DOWN for having been so influential:
  1. Soluble Fiber.  Soluble fiber is the key to lowering cholesterol, but you have to make efforts to consume it.  Ordinary non-soluble fiber (just "fiber" on nutrition info) has many health benefits but lowering cholesterol is not one of them.  Soluble fiber is found most easily in beans but also in certain veggies (okra, eggplant) as well as apples and pears.  The only types of breakfast cereal allowed to make a soluble fiber claim on their nutrition labels are oatmeal, oat bran, and Kashi cereals.  Kashi cereals actually have significantly more soluble fiber than oatmeal. 
  2. Metamucil (psyllium husk).  This is soluble fiber in a powder form.  It actually doesn't taste bad at all.  My husband had a glass of water with soluble fiber in it every day when we lowered his cholesterol.  Costco has the best price; the generic of Metamucil is "psyllium husk."  Check Amazon as well.  Benefiber Powder also makes a soluble fiber claim and it is truly tasteless - if you despise the taste of psyllium husk (or if you get sick of it), use it instead.  You can also add Benefiber Powder to all your baked goods and cooking.  It literally vanishes.  We do a combination of pysllium husk and Benefiber.  I'm not sure why... maybe Benefiber Powder almost seems too good to be true!
  3. Smart Balance Sticks.  Use these in lieu of butter for all your cooking and baking needs.  I'm a big time purist when it comes to cooking, and I cringed the first time I went to bake cookies with these.  But to my shock and delight I found that they actually make almost all of your baked goods *better*.  This is because they're a blend of butter and oil and they therefore make everything slightly more moist than using butter alone.  I now prefer them, even if I'm baking for a group that doesn't include my husband.
  4. Almonds.  Eat a handful every day.  They have heart benefits; see Cholesterol DOWN.
  5. One Apple Each Day.  This also helped us.  You can substitute pears if you get sick of apples.  For tastier apples try Honey Crisps (August-December), Pink Ladies, Fuji's.
  6. Antioxidant-rich Foods.  These basically benefit everything, including heart health.  So berries are great.  Make a smoothie!
  7. Beans, Beans, Beans.  A lot of my recipes include beans or lentils.  The fact is that chicken is actually not much better for your heart than red meat.  If you look at the nutrition info, you'll see that cholesterol and saturated fat (that's the bad type for heart health) are actually just about the same between ground beef and ground turkey, lunch meat turkey and lunch meat roast beef, etc.  I'm not saying not to eat chicken... or even beef on occasion (though do avoid processed meats like salami or bologna, as those actually do have significantly more saturated fat).  But if you can avoid both by having your protein come from something you should eat to lower your cholesterol, that's big time.  Because they actually lower your cholesterol, beans are a better meat substitute than tofu.  
That's all I'm listing for now.  

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