How to Cut Calories and Cholesterol at the Same Time
When you cut calories and lower cholesterol at the same time, it’s what you might call a win-win-win situation. The three wins include losing weight, reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, and as a result, improving quality of life.
For many people, being overweight and having high cholesterol (or being at risk) go hand-in-hand. Rather than turn to a statin drug (and its many side effects) to help lower cholesterol, making lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes to lower cholesterol and reduce calories is recommended as the first line of defense.
How should you begin? Think two words: whole and natural. If you stick with foods that fit into these two categories all or most of the time, chances are you’ll be eating foods that are lower in calories and cholesterol.
How bad is cholesterol?
Although the liver makes all the cholesterol the body needs (and you need it for hormone production, to form cell membranes, and to synthesize vitamin D and bile, for example), it also produces more if you eat foods high in saturated fat and trans fat. Since cholesterol and saturated fats are found in animal products (e.g., meat, fowl, fish, dairy products, eggs), limiting or even eliminating them from your menu will put a significant dent in your cholesterol intake.
Most of the cholesterol in your blood is transported by low density lipoproteins, or LDL. This “bad cholesterol” joins up with other substances to clog the arteries. Thus a diet high in saturated fats and trans fats elevates your LDL levels, increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s disease. Genetics also can play a role.
Time to make positive changes
Once you reduce or eliminate foods containing cholesterol, you will need to replace them by expanding your dietary selections. Make those choices from categories of whole, natural foods—more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes.
You may need to step out of your food comfort zone; that is, try new foods and food combinations. For example:
- If you usually only eat two or three different fruits or vegetables, try a new one each week for a month. Explore new ways to enjoy them by asking friends or family, looking for information and recipes online, or watching cooking videos
- Make new substitutions, such as switching to whole grain pasta and putting veggies in the sauce instead of meat or using tempeh in chili instead of meat
- Try low-fat, low-calorie (and cholesterol-free) dairy substitutes, such as different plant milks (e.g., rice, hemp, almond, soy)
- Replace dairy-based dips with tasty choices such as salsa, hummus, or guacamole
- Substitute olive oil and balsamic vinegar, vegetable purees, salsas, and fresh herbs and spices for gravies and dairy-based dressings
- Create low-calorie, no-cholesterol roll-up “sandwiches” using lettuce leaves or nori sheets (only 10 calories per sheet!) and packing them with beans, grilled tempeh, sautéed veggies, crushed nuts, and soy sauce
- Build a dynamite dinner salad using fresh red leaf lettuce and spinach, black beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, red onion, fresh garlic, and cubed marinated tofu—the possibilities are endless!
- Start your day with a nondairy smoothie made from soy yogurt or a nondairy plant milk along with fresh fruit, a handful of spinach leaves, and ice
- If you use margarine, choose one that contains plant sterols, which helps lower cholesterol
Are you ready to cut calories and lower cholesterol at the same time?
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