Your cholesterol is high. What do you eat?
March 20, 2014 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Recipe filter: My partner is sad that recent blood work indicated slightly high LDL counts. My googling has brought me to some OK recipes for healthy eating, but not much that thrills either of us. What are your favorite heart healthy meals and decadent tasting snacks/desserts?

Favorite foods*: ice cream, butter, cheese, beef
Dislikes: anything that "tastes" low-fat, yogurt, mushrooms.

I'd love to find foods that taste creamy and fatty but are actually healthy! I know, I know.

Bonus: As this is all new to me (I'm vegetarian and my health needs are different from my partner's, as my dietary considerations seem pretty simple: get enough protein and vitamins, organic when possible, avoid processed foods, etc.) any pointers toward a great website for the cholesterol-conscious would be appreciated!

*Favorite foods list = stuff he obviously needs to avoid, but will sorely miss.
posted by little_dog_laughing to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Put halved, cored apples cut side down on a baking sheet and roast until the juices caramelize and they're as softened as you like. Scoop the flesh out of the skins and you have a fantastic fruit thing. Blend to make applesauce, or leave chunky. This stuff is awesome on pancakes, as a fancy dessert component, or on its own, and tastes deceptively rich, considering it has no fat or added sugar - it's just apples.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

For ice cream, you have to try the frozen banana ice cream. My favorite is to make it with Justin's Maple Almond Butter.

Butter, cheese, and beef are just things you have to get over, in my experience. A slight improvement over straight butter that still tastes almost exactly like butter is to whip it half and half with canola or grapeseed oil and refrigerate. But it's still all fat.
posted by HotToddy at 9:42 AM on March 20, 2014

If I may make a suggestion: there is some real evidence that apples can improve your cholesterol even in the absence of other factors. Anecdotal evidence: I went from quite high cholesterol elevated to the point where I was going to start medication to cholesterol just within acceptable parameters with the only major life changes being more exercise, apple every day and carrots every day. That is, I do not take cholesterol medication, have not lost meaningful amounts of weight and have made relatively few dietary changes except for replacing some foods with apples and carrots but my cholesterol is dramatically better. (I found this all out because I decided to belt up and start taking medication since I hadn't really succeeded in making any "lifestyle changes", only to find that my cholesterol had improved enough that I didn't need to.)

My sense of the research is that only a relatively small percent of cholesterol comes from diet; most of it is manufactured by the body.

In addition to whatever other dietary strategies you adopt, I would suggest adding soluble fiber via diet plus the various other foods that have been found to lower cholesterol levels. So: apples, walnuts, oatmeal and lentils in particular.
posted by Frowner at 9:45 AM on March 20, 2014 [12 favorites]

There is so, so much room between "ice cream, butter, cheese, and beef" and anything "low-fat, yogurt and mushrooms". It makes it difficult to answer this question! But some of my favorite heart-healthy meals are:

Twice-baked southwest sweet potatoes: bake a sweet potato, scoop out the insides, mash insides with greek yogurt (tastes like sour cream), cumin, chili powder, maybe some chipotles in adobe sauce, black beans (can of no-salt-added), corn if you've got it, put back into the sweet potato, top with a bit of cheese - maybe 1/4 cup shredded cheddar. Bake till cheese is melted.

Burrito bowls: black beans, salsa, meat of some kind (and lean cuts of beef in moderation should be okay!), a bit of cheese

Roasted chicken breast - no skin - and roasted veggies.

Cinnamon bun smoothie

Good chocolate
posted by lyssabee at 9:50 AM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can puree cottage cheese to a very nice consistancy and use to make cheesecake or as a substitute for sour cream (I like cottage cheese on baked potatoes, great lunch!)

Grassfed beef and dairy products are said to have more heart healty properties so decrease amount of meat per serving and frequency, but use really high quality when you do eat it.

Spring is the perfect time to wean off of ice cream and onto yummy fresh fruit. Melons, plums, necterines are all coming into season now and putting them on skewers on the grill will bring out natural sweetness (or just munching away on them...I love summer!)

Sorbets are higher in sugar, but naturally fat free. If you're looking for something fun and frozen, try popsicles or my favorite Missiles (Kroger makes a great one, pineapple and cherry flavored!) There are also frozen fruit pops on a stick.

Any cake mix can be made with just 12 oz of liquid (no egg or oil required.) You can use a 12 oz can of soda or fruit juice or water. A lighter, airier cake to be sure, but people love 'em.

Try new veggies. Fennel baked in the oven with olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesian cheese, or chopped in a slaw is great.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2014

So cholesterol levels are affected by a couple of things -- diet and genetics. Your partner could be genetically predisposed to have high LDL, but the way to figure that out is by changing diet.

I personally lowered my total cholesterol from low 200s to mid 160s in 8 weeks simply by cutting out all animal products.

However, there is also some evidence that a high protein, low carbohydrate diet will lower total cholesterol. I have also had some results with that strategy.

No food will in and of itself lower your cholesterol. Foods lower your cholesterol in contrast to the other foods you might have eaten in their place.

My suggestion, from my personal experience, is that your partner buckle down and try different dietary strategies on a short term basis, going in for blood tests every two to three months after being absolutely religious about certain changes, and see what works. If cutting out animal products works, then see about finding yummy alternatives. If cutting out carbs works, then fat is less of an issue.
posted by janey47 at 10:00 AM on March 20, 2014

Take a look at the 'Eat Right For Your Blood Type' diet. Essentially, we each have different body chemistry, which is why some folks consume red meat their entire lives with no problem, and others should by nature be vegetarians. There are books available, and plenty of information is on the internet.
A friend of mine was told by his physician that he needed to start on a statin. He lowered his cholesterol significantly by following the diet for his type for three months, at which point his doctor told him that as long as he continued on that diet, no medication was necessary.
As a little bonus, he (and others I know) lost weight and kept it off by following the diet for their type. I think the idea behind the weight loss is that the body functions more efficiently when we consume the right food, and what's right for you may not be the same for me.
posted by elf27 at 10:01 AM on March 20, 2014

I love kale in soup, or roasted, and a friend who eats it daily just introduced me to kale salad. Make it ahead - the oil and vinegar (or lemon juice) soften up the kale. I've just been adding sliced almonds and/or mandarin orange slices. A little bacon, sesame seeds (toasted or not), dried cran or cherries, hard boiled egg, are all nice options. And a little bacon or egg on a salad is a nice way to feel like you didn't have to give up nice things, while not being horrible for you. Maybe I'll start adding apples.
posted by theora55 at 10:06 AM on March 20, 2014

Cut out refined carbs, sugar, and anything that isn't "real food". Don't worry too much about animal products but do try to look for leaner cuts of meat and grass fed beef and avoid processed or cured meats. A little cream in your coffee and lean beef are not harmful. Neither are eggs.

Cut out the ice cream (don't need that sugar) and try full-fat Greek yogurt (I know he doesn't like yogurt but has he tried full-fat or 2%?) with fruit (frozen no sugar or fresh) and a little sprinkling of nuts (nuts like walnuts can lower LDL). It's quite delicious. If he doesn't like yogurt he can find another sweet alternative like sugar free pudding with a tiny bit of real unsweetened whipped cream.

Olives, olive oil, nuts, will satisfy the need for fat and are safe to eat.
posted by Fairchild at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Maybe I'll start adding apples.

My go-to lunch salad these days is fresh ribboned kale, cooked quinoa, chopped apples, and canned tuna, tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. I try to eat it only once or twice a week because of the mercury concerns with the tuna, but it's hella filling and healthy. Plenty of protein, too, from the tuna and quinoa.
posted by suelac at 11:45 AM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cutting total fat intake might be a good idea, but a big recent study suggests that the degree of saturation may not matter:
The study was part-funded by the British Heart Foundation, whose associate medical director, Prof. Jeremy Pearson, says:

"This analysis of existing data suggests there isn't enough evidence to say that a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats but low in saturated fats reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease."

Lead author Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury of the University of Cambridge, who describes the findings as "interesting," says they could open new lines of enquiry that carefully question our current dietary guidelines, and adds:

"Cardiovascular disease, in which the principal manifestation is coronary heart disease, remains the single leading cause of death and disability worldwide. In 2008, more than 17 million people died from a cardiovascular cause globally. With so many affected by this illness, it is critical to have appropriate prevention guidelines which are informed by the best available scientific evidence."

Researchers pooled data from 72 separate studies
To arrive at their conclusions, Dr. Chowdhury and his colleagues pooled and re-analyzed data from 72 separate studies that included over 600,000 participants in 18 different countries.

The studies had assessed total saturated fatty acid in two ways: one as a component in participants' diet, and the other way was by measuring levels in the bloodstream.

The results of the pooled analysis showed that whether measured in the bloodstream or as a component of diet, total saturated fatty acid was not linked to coronary disease risk.
So giving up his favorite foods altogether may not be necessary after all.
posted by jamjam at 1:12 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

A ketogenic diet might improve your partner's cholesterol profile. A ketogenic diet is minimal carbohydrates, adequate protein, high fat. The body will break down stored fat for energy because there is no glucose available. This diet is used for treating epilepsy but is also used for weight-loss and general health improvements.
posted by RandyWalker at 7:44 PM on March 20, 2014

I lowered my LDL significantly with soluble fiber in the form of almonds and apples. Lots of both.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:55 AM on March 21, 2014

posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:57 AM on March 21, 2014

Forget special foods/diets. Fast twice a week.

I used to have elevated LDL and low HDL. Not anymore.

I have changed nothing else in my diet (I eat pizza, cheese, butter, red meat, ice cream, etc.), and by 'fasting' twice a week, I have lost 10 pounds, decreased my LDL, and increased my HDL. The nurse explaining my blood test results to me was confounded that my numbers were all excellent and yet I eat those "bad" things, even the night before the blood test.

See for yourself. Take a look at this PBS documentary about intermittent fasting: Eat, Fast, and Live Longer.
posted by sazanka at 12:26 PM on March 21, 2014

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