Cholesterol is a waxy substance made by the liver.
We can also get in dietary cholesterol from animal foods like meat, dairy, and eggs.
Some cholesterol in the body is needed as cholesterol plays an important role in cell membranes and hormones.
There is good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) which is beneficial to our health, and bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).
Too high bad LDL cholesterol for long periods can slowly build up along the inner walls of our blood vessels.
If left unchecked, this can form a thick deposit around the vessel wall, creating a block in the artery to the heart or brain.
This is why uncontrolled bad cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Eating less of the bad fats and more of the food fats, increasing up your fibre intake, and eating colourful fruit and vegetables is a good start to help pump up the good HDL cholesterol while keeping bad LDL levels in check.
Other lifestyle changes to manage cholesterol include maintaining a healthy weight, drinking alcohol in moderation, stopping smoking, and being active most days of the week.
The good news is that with the help of FitChef there is a lot you can do with a healthy diet to manage and lower your cholesterol levels.
Eat less of the wrong fats
The most common cause of high cholesterol is a diet too high in saturated fat like fatty meat, chicken skin, butter, ghee, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil (found in coffee creamers).
- Prepare fresh, wholesome meals each day to limit takeaways and processed meals.
- Limit high fat treats like droewors, fatty biltong, crisps, chocolates, and pastries to only on occasion.
- Grill or steam foods instead of frying and deep-frying in too much butter, ghee, or coconut oil.
- Choose mostly lean protein such as skinless chicken, fish, game, ostrich, and lean red meat.
- Remove the skin from chicken and visible fat from meat before cooking.
- Include more beans, chickpeas, lentils in place of animal protein.
- A moderate amount of eggs (i.e. 3 -4 per week) can form part of a healthy diet.
At FitChef, our animal proteins are skinless chicken breasts, lean meat, and ostrich to help keep saturated fat levels low in our meals.
The bad fats like processed seed oils ( coconut oil and palm kernel oil are also a no-no in our meals as we use extra virgin olive oil.
Eat more of the right fats
To maintain ideal cholesterol levels, choose more of the healthier monounsaturated fats, which are particularly beneficial when replacing the less healthy fats mentioned above.
- Eating omega-3 rich flaxseed oil* or fish protects the heart by lowering bad LDL cholesterol and reducing the risk of blood clots. Aim for 2-3 portions of salmon, trout, pilchards and sardines each week.
(*Flaxseed oil is a source of omega 3, not a rich source, as it contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a form of omega-3 fatty acid that is only converted in small amounts to active forms of omega-3, like EPA and DHA found in fatty fish).
FitChef note on fish and our seas: We have to protect our seas and fish from overfishing, pollution and corporate greed. Be aware that around 60% of salmon is farmed salmon.
- Nuts, rich in monounsaturated healthy fats, help lower bad LDL cholesterol and raise healthy HDL cholesterol. Nuts also contain compounds that keep blood vessels healthy. Sprinkle raw and unsalted nuts over breakfast cereals, oats, or salads, serve as a healthy snack in lunch boxes, or blend into a fruit smoothie.
- Flavour up salads and other meals with avocado and olives.
- Use heart-healthy oils like olive and avocado oil to prepare food and drizzle over salad and vegetables.
FitChef proudly uses heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil as the oil of choice in our EatClean Range meals.
Yummy fats like peanuts, peanut butter, macadamia nuts and avo provide a healthy dose of heart-healthy fats in some of the FitChef smoothies.
Healthy fats may help improve good HDL cholesterol, decrease inflammation, and lower heart disease risk.
Try the PB3 Smoothie as an on-the-go breakfast or snack on some raw and roasted nuts or our SuperSnack Trail Mix.
Eat the Rainbow
An easy way to keep cholesterol in check and the heart healthy is to include a variety of all colours of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet, offering up a healthy mix of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
- Nibble on vegetable crudités like carrots and celery as a snack.
- Include fruit as a snack in lunch boxes.
- Aim to make half of your plate salad and/or vegetables at each main meal.
- Where possible, leave the skin of fruit and vegetable for extra fibre and nutrients.
Our FitChef smoothies are made from a variety of fresh fruit like apple, banana, blueberries, strawberry, orange, and pineapple.
The whole, fresh fruit is diced, chopped, and blended with other natural ingredients to ensure our smoothies retain as much nutrition and fibre as possible.
We also use fruit to add natural sweetness to foods like our FitChef Soups. Not a fresh fruit fan?
Try some fruit like the FitChef Pine Nibbles or frozen fruit like the FitChef Mixed Frozen Berries blended with yoghurt for a healthy smoothie.
It is also a go for veggies at FitChef with spinach, carrot, celery, butternut, and beetroot blended into FitChef smoothies, and our meals loaded with colourful vegetables.
You can also try out the assorted veggie-loaded FitChef Soups for a warning winter meal.
Focus on Fibre
A diet rich in fibre can help to control cholesterol levels. This is because fibre binds to cholesterol in the gut to help it be excreted easily.
- Replace low fibre breakfast cereals like cornflakes or rice crispies with high fibre options like bran and oats (FitChef note: but not the commercial processed brands as they are just full of sugar and additives. FitChef has an excellent range of wheat flakes and Swiss-style muesli without added-sugar). Oats is rich in a cholesterol-lowering compound called beta-glucan.
- Swap white rice, bread and pasta for brown rice, high fibre bread, and whole-wheat pasta. Experiment with high fibre starches like spelt, barley, quinoa, or millet.
- Bulk up stews, soups and mince with beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
- Many South Africans fall short of their fibre intake. Reading food labels is a great tool to help improve your nutrient and fibre intake. For a product to be high in fibre, it must have more than 6g of fibre per 100g of the product.
Refined, fibre-poor starches are a no-no at FitChef. We choose to include only fibre-rich starches such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice, and quinoa.
The FitChef Toasted Wheat Flakes offer a high fibre start to your day and the FitChef Luxury Rolled Oats will ensure you get in cholesterol-lowering beta-glucan.
For a real fibre boost, try the FitChef Vegan or Vegetarian Kits, loaded with high-fibre beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
It is not just fat that affect cholesterol, but sugar can too.
This is because consistently high blood sugar levels are detrimental to the health of our blood vessels.
Limit refined starches like white bread and white pasta, and sugary items like baked goods, sweets, chocolates, and soft drinks.
Rather try fruit-infused water or homemade iced teas, and snack on fruit, nuts, and yoghurt instead of sugary sweets, chocolates, and biscuits.
Our FitChef EatClean Range meals are mostly free from added sugar in the quest for better health, cholesterol management included.
Occasionally, for added sweetness, we use a touch of honey but mostly rely on the natural sweetness of fruit in our FitChef meals and smoothies. Need a snack? Try one of FitChef’s Snacks such as cholesterol-lowering nuts, dried fruit, and trail mix.
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