Ripu Singh, M.D.
Our calendars are filled with annual celebrations this time of the year, and many of our traditions include delicious foods. The holidays encourage us to overindulge in holiday goodies that often are high in calories and fat. This is because some foods are only served during the holidays, and we don't want to miss out on the tastes and memories that are associated with the holiday favorites.
However, what you eat and drink affects your health. This includes your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If you have a high amount of cholesterol in your blood, your health care provider may recommend following a cholesterol-lowering diet. This is because high cholesterol could cause your heart arteries to harden, which is called atherosclerosis. This condition could lead to coronary artery disease. In addition, hardened arteries may allow a coating called plaque to build up and partially block your arteries. Blocked arteries can lead to low blood flow in the heart and chest pain.
Triglycerides and cholesterol
Triglycerides and cholesterol are types of fat, or lipids, which circulate in your blood. Triglycerides store unused calories and provide your body with energy. Cholesterol is used to build cells and certain hormones.
Cholesterol is made mostly by the liver, but it also can enter your body in the foods you eat that contain animal fat. Foods that come from animals or contain animal fat include meat, egg yolks, lard and dairy products. The type and amount of fat you eat can influence how much cholesterol your body makes.
Your body makes triglycerides from excess calories, regardless of the calorie source, such as fat, protein or carbohydrates. Triglycerides also are made from excess sugar and alcohol. High triglyceride levels are a risk factor for heart disease.
Lifestyle choices for improving your levels
Your health care provider may recommend some of these lifestyle changes to improve your blood cholesterol levels and lower your triglyceride level:
- Eat a plant-based diet.
Eat more high-fiber foods from plants. Choose 100% whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables.
- Lower your total fat intake.
All oils and fats are high in calories.
- Lower your saturated fat intake.
Saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol.
- Limit or avoid trans fats.
Trans fats can raise blood cholesterol.
- Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats can lower your blood cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats are preferred. Polyunsaturated fats are OK.
- Limit your intake of high-cholesterol foods.
Reduce consumption of foods like egg yolks, organ meats, animal fat and high-fat dairy.
- Get to and stay at a healthy body weight.
- Get regular exercise.
Enjoying the holidays
The average adult will consume more than 4,000 calories during Thanksgiving, including many high-fat items that don't align well with a cholesterol-lowering diet. You can still enjoy the foods you love during the holidays, but you could prioritize and plan to spend your calories and fat intake wisely. For example, if stuffing with gravy is your priority, then cut out green bean casserole or white dinner rolls. In addition, you can celebrate the holiday in a healthier way and lower the effect on your cholesterol by making ingredient substitutions. Your meal still can be bountiful and delicious, but lower in calories and fat.
Consider these better choices and what to avoid:
|Whole-grain bread||Commercial quick breads, such as croissants, canned refrigerated biscuits, pastries and sweet rolls|
|Plain fresh or frozen vegetables||Vegetables with butter, cream or sauces|
|Skim or low-fat (1%) milk||Fruits with cream, sauces and dip|
|White turkey meat without skin||Dark turkey meat with skin on|
|Fresh cranberry sauce||Canned cranberry sauce|
|Gravy made from turkey or chicken stock||Gravy made from cream or fat drippings|
|Margarine (with liquid oil listed as first ingredient, such as soybean or canola oil||Butter|
|Baked goods made with nonfat yogurt or applesauce||Baked goods made with saturated fats, such as shortening, coconut oil or stick margarine|
|Reduced-calorie or fat-free salad dressing||Regular salad dressing|
|Nonfat frozen yogurt||Regular ice cream|
|Carbonated or flavored water (sugar-free)||Sports or soft drinks|
Here are some heart-healthy Thanksgiving recipes to try this year:
- Acorn squash with apples
- Apple-cranberry tart
- Artichoke dip
- Baked apples with cherries and almonds
- Black bean and corn relish
- Braised chicken with mushrooms and pearl onions
- Brown rice pilaf
- Cauliflower mashed "potatoes"
- Carrot and spice quick bread
- Creamy green beans and mushrooms
- Crustless pumpkin pie
- Fresh cranberry sauce
- Green bean casserole
- Herb-rubbed turkey au jus
- Low-fat stuffing
- Low-fat turkey gravy
- Pasta with pumpkin sauce
- Pumpkin cream cheese dip
- Pumpkin-hazelnut tea cake
- Roasted potatoes with garlic and herbs
- Roasted turkey
- Roasted winter squash with wild rice and cranberries
- Shepherd's pie
- Sweet and spicy snack mix
- Turkey and broccoli crepe
- Vegetable, lentil and garbanzo bean stew