Lettuce is lettuce, and when it comes to salad, you have plenty of lettuce leaves to choose from: romaine, iceberg, green leaf, etc. All lettuce leaves are cholesterol-friendly; however, they could vary in the amount of phytosterols and other nutrients that they contain. However, the varying nutrient content should not discount a particular lettuce as not being salad-worthy -- especially when it comes to its low-calorie benefits.
Switch it up: Are you are getting bored with lettuce? If so, try using cabbage, fresh spinach leaves, arugula or spring leaves instead. They are also low in calories and fat.
The great thing about salads is that you can change them up, giving yourself a lot of flexibility in the types of foods you can include in them. However, you have to be careful about which ingredients you include. While you might have the best intentions by selecting salad in the first place to keep your cholesterol-lowering diet healthy, adding fatty ingredients could actually reverse any low-fat benefit of the salad. When deciding on which ingredients to add to your salad, here are some simple tips on what to include -- and what to limit.
Ingredients You Should Include:Vegetables
There are many types of vegetables you can include in your salad, without adversely affecting your cholesterol levels. While tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers are most commonly used, you can use any type of vegetable in your salad for variety. If you get bored with the same veggie medley of ingredients typically added to your salad, try adding avocado or peas to give your salad a different texture.Fruits
Fruits can also be a delicious addition to any salad. These can add a lot of flavor to a tasteless salad -- sometimes even replacing salad dressing altogether. There is no fruit that would not be ideal to throw into your salad. Try adding fresh strawberries, chopped mango, apples or raspberries into your next salad. Adding a squirt of fresh lemon or lime can also add a little life to your salad -- and a lot of taste.Nuts
Instead of using the traditional crouton, add a handful of nuts to your salad. Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and peanuts, are composed of good fats (unsaturated fat) that can keep your cholesterol levels in check. Studies have shown that just a handful of nuts each day can lower your LDL cholesterol by 10%. Seeds (sunflower, flaxseed, sesame, etc) would also be a delicious alternatives, since they also contain unsaturated fats.
Ingredients You Should Limit:Meat
If you would like to include meat in your salad, try mixing leaner cuts. Fattier and fried cuts of meat should be avoided, since these have a tendency to be higher in saturated fats, which could increase your cholesterol levels. Healthy alternatives include tofu, beans and fish, which are heart healthy.Cheese
Cheese can be a tasty addition to salads, but it could also be a fatty addition to your salad if you add too much of it. Cheese also contains saturated fat that could increase your cholesterol levels. If you are interested in including cheese in your salad, try using low-fat alternatives. Additionally, low-fat cottage cheese can also be used in moderation.Croutons/Chips
These ingredients can also add fat and refined carbohydrates to your diet. If you are looking for a healthier carbohydrate to your salad, try foods like quinoa, whole wheat croutons, wheatberry or barley. These ingredients are less refined and chock full of soluble fiber, which can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
A Word on Salad Dressing...
To some, the dressing that tops the salad is just as important as the salad itself. However, if you are not careful, it can be the very ingredient that can pile on additional calories and fat to your salad. For a healthier salad, try some of these helpful tips:
- Avoid creamy dressings if at all possible, since these may contain a high amount of saturated fat, which can increase your cholesterol.
- Look for low-fat alternatives of your favorite salad dressing.
- With any type of salad dressing, place it on the side instead of putting it directly on your salad. By lightly dipping your salad into the dressing with each bite, you can reduce the calories and fat you put into your body.
- Forgo traditional salad dressing altogether -- use fruits, fruit juices, vinegar, olive oil or spices as a cholesterol-friendly approach to add additional flavor to your salad.
Wardlaw GM, Hampl JS, DiSilvestro RA. Perspectives in Nutrition 6th edition. 2004. McGraw Hill Publishers. New York, NY.