The key to reducing your risk for diseases such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease is adapting a healthy lifestyle that includes getting plenty of exercise and rest and eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This involves more than avoiding foods high in both. You must distinguish between foods containing mono/polyunsaturated, or “good,” fat and foods containing saturated or trans, or “bad” fat. You should eat more foods that contain the good fats, which also are low in cholesterol, and will help you lower your cholesterol numbers.
Breads and Grains
Whole-grain breads, rolls and cereals are low in fat and cholesterol, and are a good source of fiber. Other low-fat/cholesterol grains include brown or wild rice, whole-grain pasta; homemade or low-fat muffins, waffles, biscuits or pancakes using non-fat milk or polyunsaturated spread; or unsalted crackers or popcorn prepared with mono/polyunsaturated oil.
Meats and Protein
Poultry, such as chicken and turkey without the skin, is low in fat and cholesterol. Lean meats are also good choices, provided you trim away the excess fat and grill or broil rather than frying. Beans, peas and lentils are also good low-fat, low-cholesterol choices. When eating eggs, omit the yolks, or opt for egg substitutes. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, fish such as salmon, tuna, swordfish and mackerel are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have a number of heart-healthy benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and improving blood vessel function. Try to get at least three servings of fish per week.
A low-fat/low-cholesterol diet should include low-fat or skim milk and dairy products made with such. Your healthiest options for cheese are low-fat cottage, ricotta, mozzarella or Swiss cheese.
Fruits and Vegetables
All fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and cholesterol. Eat them fresh or frozen for the full nutritional benefit. When buying canned vegetables, choose those labeled “low-sodium.” Canned fruits packed in water or their own juice are healthier than those packed in syrup. Fruit juices are good, but watch out for added sugars.
Nuts and seeds are good sources of poly/monounsaturated fats. Almonds, pecans, walnuts, and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame are all good options. Oils such as canola, peanut, olive, safflower and sunflower oil are all healthier alternatives to butter, shortening or stick margarine, which are all saturated fats. Stick to tub-type vegetable spreads made with mono/polyunsaturated oils.
If you have a relentless sweet tooth, choose homemade desserts prepared with unsaturated spreads or oils, low-fat or skim milk and egg whites or substitute. Other options are sherbet, low-fat frozen yogurt, low-fat puddings or custards, ginger snaps or angel food cake.