Almost everyone loves a good pasta dish, and you shouldn’t be excluded from enjoying meals containing pasta every once in a while just because you’re following a cholesterol-lowering diet. However, you should be aware of the ingredients you add to your pasta dish. By not doing so, you can add extra calories and fat to your diet - both of which could cause your cholesterol levels to increase. With these healthy tips, the next pasta dish you prepare will be delicious and cholesterol-friendly.
Pasta noodles are the heart of the entire dish. While some forms of pasta can be healthy, other types of pastas may contain a lot of calories and have a high carbohydrate content, which could cause your cholesterol levels to increase. When selecting pasta , select grains that are labeled “whole wheat” or “whole grain.” These pastas typically appear a little darker compared to other noodles, and will contain a higher amount of fiber – a healthy ingredient that has been linked to lowering cholesterol levels. If in doubt, always check the package label of the product, which will display the carbohydrate and fiber content per serving.
The amounts and types of ingredients you can add to your pasta dish are endless. Some foods added to your pasta noodles can create a delicious and heart-healthy dish. However, there are some ingredients you may be adding to your pasta that could cause your cholesterol levels to increase. Here are healthy ways to incorporate healthy ingredients into your pasta dish, and reduce ingredients that could sabotage your efforts in keeping your cholesterol levels healthy:
Vegetables - Vegetables are a heart-healthy food, so you can select any type of vegetable to include in your pasta dish. Spinach, asparagus, onion, zucchini, and peppers are just a few of the many veggies you can add to your dish. Needing other ideas? Throw in a few olives, which contain healthy >omega-3 fats, or a few parsley sprigs or parsley leaves for added flavor. Even substituting sauce with mouthwatering, sliced cherry tomatoes can add flavor to an otherwise dull pasta meal. Mix veggies and pasta in equal amounts to get a balanced, fiber-filled dish that will keep your cholesterol levels – and heart – healthy.
Easy on the Cheese – Cheeses are incorporated into a lot of pasta dishes. While cheeses contain calcium and provide added flavor and texture to the dish, they can also provide added fat to your diet. Instead of incorporating cheese into your dish, why not sprinkle the cheese – whether it is parmesan, romano, or mozzarella – on top of the final dish. This will help reduce the amount of fat you ingest. Low-fat varieties of cheese are also wiser choices for your pasta dish, as opposed to full-fat versions that could introduce saturated fat into your diet.
Select Lean Meats – Sausages and ground beef are common additions seen in many pasta dishes. Unfortunately, these, too, are a source of saturated fat that could adversely affect your cholesterol levels. Sausages and red meats should be limited in your pasta dishes if at all possible. However, if you are looking to add a little protein into your dish, salmon or shrimp would be a delicious alternative. You can also add low-fat varieties of your favorite lean meats, such as turkey or chicken, to your dish.
A Word About Spices and Sauces
Although often an afterthought, spices and sauces can enhance the taste of your dish – sometimes even making the final difference between a scrumptious dish and a boring one. Many of the spices commonly used in pasta dishes, such as parsley, oregano, garlic, basil and bay leaves, contain healthy nutrients – without the added fat or calories. So, spice up your pasta dish to your own taste. Drizzle in a little heart-healthy olive oil with your spices to create a light coating on your noodles.
Sauces are also an important part of a pasta dish, and the wrong type of sauce could introduce extra sugar and fat into your cholesterol-lowering diet. Although plenty of sauces can be found in the grocery store, it isn’t too difficult to make your own pasta sauce from scratch:
If you opt for already-prepared marinara sauce, check out the labels on the product, since some of these products can contain extra salt, sugar, and fat added to them – all of which are not heart-healthy. Especially limit your use of creamy sauces, such as cheese sauce, since these can also serve as a source of added fat to your dish.
With the vast array of combinations you can create with pasta, you can have plenty of variety in your cholesterol-lowering diet. Whether you are looking for a pasta dinner or a light pasta dish on the side, you can create a pasta dish that is healthy, and won’t greatly impact your cholesterol levels.