Watching what you eat is an important part of keeping your cholesterol levels in check – as well as preventing or managing any other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Especially when you begin to experiment with including healthy foods in your diet, the healthiest way to prepare them inevitably comes up. Can you roast your potatoes? How harmful is frying your food? Which type of oil should I sauté my vegetables in? Although watching what you eat is an important part of keeping your cholesterol levels healthy, the way that you prepare the food you eat is even more important.
No cooking method is absolutely ideal for keeping your cholesterol levels healthy, but there are many ways you can keep your foods more cholesterol-friendly when you prepare them. Here are some healthy tips on how to prepare your foods in a more heart-healthy way:
The process of baking is not harmful to your cholesterol levels, however, the ingredients you use to prepare your baked goods can add unwanted calories – and fat – to your diet. Although there are many ingredients you can use to prepare your baked goods, there are some high-fat ingredients that you should limit in your cooking, such as:
- Heavy cream
- Oils high in saturated fat
- Whole milk
If a recipe calls for one of the above items, there are ways you can modify the recipe to make it lower in fat. Additionally, using parchment paper – instead of butter or oil -- on the surfaces of your pans for baking can also help to reduce unwanted calories.
Roasting vegetables, fish, or lean cuts of meat can also make a delicious and flavorful meal. However, adding ingredients higher in fat could also have an adverse effect on your heart health over time. When roasting your foods, follow these healthy measures that will help lower the amount of fat added to your dish:
- Instead of adding a large amount of oil to your foods to be roasted, drizzle a small amount over the top of the dish. This will ensure that only a small amount of additional fat is added to the dish.
- Use healthy oils when roasting your food items. Oils, such as olive oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil are higher in unsaturated fat, which will not have as significant of an impact on cholesterol levels.
- If you plan on roasting vegetables and your fish or meat for a meal, roast them together in the same pan to add additional flavor.
- To add even more flavor to your foods, add spices and season to taste. Spices, such as thyme and rosemary, are a low-fat, low-calorie addition that can enhance flavors in your dish – without enhancing your waistline.
Sautéing involves placing your ingredients into an oiled, heated pan or skillet over a short period of time and cooking them until they have softened. Although this cooking method produces a nice texture and delicious taste in certain foods, it could also be a source of added fat to your diet. Although all oils are considered to be fats, some of these are healthy fats, also known as unsaturated fats, can have positive benefits on your cholesterol levels. So, next time your recipe requires you to sauté vegetables or other ingredients, sauté them with a small amount of healthier oil, such as olive oil or soybean oil, that contains unsaturated fat. Make sure that you drain any extra oil before serving.
If possible, frying your foods should be avoided, since this can introduce saturated fat and trans-fat into your diet – both of which are known to increase cholesterol levels. There are ways to consume some of your fried favorites without having the added fat to your diet:
- Oven-baked foods – some foods, like thin-cut potatoes, can taste just as delicious as French fries fried in a restaurant.
Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 3rd ed 2005.