Vegetables are an important part of your cholesterol-lowering diet. They contain many heart-healthy ingredients that can help keep your cholesterol levels healthy, such as phytosterols and fiber. Additionally, vegetables are low in fat and contain a variety of nutrients.
Unfortunately, vegetables are also a neglected ingredient of the American diet, comprising at most two servings a day in some cases. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that you incorporate at least three to five servings of vegetables into your heart-healthy diet daily. There are many ways to sneak veggies into your everyday meals and snacks, whether they consist of a quick nosh or as part of your main dish:
Include a Salad with Your MealSalads are a delicious way to sneak veggies into your cholesterol-lowering diet. Salads just don’t have to consist of the traditional "iceberg lettuce and carrots" combination - you can get creative and add just about any vegetable to your salad.
If you want to add additional ingredients to your salad, make sure they do not add fat or other ingredients that could increase your cholesterol, such as creamy dressings. If you like dressing on your salad, make sure that you have it on the side and that it is a low-fat variety.
Use Them as a Quick SnackFresh vegetables can also be the answer to the mid-morning or afternoon hunger you experience between meals. Veggies that are easily accessible, such as carrots, celery and broccoli pieces, would be excellent selections for snacks. But practically any vegetable can be used to satisfy your cravings. Vegetables can be paired with fruits, low-fat cottage cheese or whole-grain crackers to add a little variety to your snacktime treat. If you want to dip your veggies into a dip, just make sure that you avoid or limit dips made with heavy creams – which can add fat to your diet. You can also opt for low-fat varieties of your favorite dips.
Get Creative with Your Side DishesVegetables should be included in every meal you prepare. However, eating solely vegetables at every meal may not be too appetizing, either. In this case, you can use vegetables to add color to some of your traditional sides, such as rice or stuffing. Not only will you be adding a little flavor to your side dish, you are also sneaking some extra veggies into your dish.
Make Them Your MealWho said vegetables couldn’t be used as your main course? Although only salads are commonly thought of as the main course, there are also other varieties of vegetarian dishes that are filling and delicious. This also ensures that you are getting the recommended amount of vegetables per day. You can combine the vegetables and create a savory stew or you can sauté them with heart-healthy olive oil and spices to create the perfect dish.
Which Veggies Should I Select?Fresh vegetables are always best to use; however, you should make sure to wash them carefully before preparing and consuming them. Although there are frozen and canned vegetables widely available for use, you should always check the ingredients list on the back of the package, since some of these veggies may have salt added to them.
Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF), July 2004, The National Institutes of Health: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 3rd ed 2005.