In this article I am going to explain how to prepare a suitable weekly menu for people with high cholesterol and I will also share an example of a menu that takes this metabolic situation into account.
What factors can cause you to have cholesterol?
High cholesterol is a parameter that increases cardiovascular risk . Some risk factors can be suffering from hypertension, diabetes, stress, having a sedentary life, a poor diet or smoking.
There are other situations that can increase inflammation in the body and that can also increase cardiovascular risk, such as periodontal disease that affects our gums or high uric acid.
In women, during pregnancy they can suffer alterations in cholesterol and in menopause, the decrease in estrogen favors the increase in cholesterol, which increases cardiovascular risk at this stage.
Why is having high cholesterol a health problem?
We have two types of cholesterol, the “bad cholesterol” or LDL and the “good cholesterol” or HDL. LDL is the “bad cholesterol” because the excess can bind to the walls of the arteries forming plaques that cause inflammation in the body. This happens without manifesting itself with pain and when these plaques grow they can cause an obstruction of the artery in which that plaque is located until it completely obstructs it and causes death or a serious cardiovascular event.
Cholesterol can be controlled with a series of healthy habits such as a healthy diet , for example, the Mediterranean diet, physical exercise and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle or, what is the same, many hours sitting or lying down.
Factors to consider in a menu to control cholesterol
1. Increase fiber intake
For the menu that I have prepared as an example, I have chosen versions of whole carbohydrates that increase fiber intake , regulate the glycemic response and fill you up more: wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, oatmeal, etc.
If you don’t like any version of whole-grain carbohydrates, you can opt for its version made with refined flour, but try to make at least 2 whole-grain, for example, always whole-grain bread and whole-grain pasta or rice.
Avoid breakfast cereals rich in sugars, because they are coated with cocoa, honey or have added sugar. Choose cereals like oatmeal or opt for breakfast with slices of whole wheat bread.
2. Increase the intake of vegetables
At least 3 servings of fruit and 2 servings of vegetables per day are recommended. In grams, it would be about 400g of fruit per day (in 2 or 3 doses) and about 300g of vegetables per day.
Vegetable foods provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidant substances that are very beneficial for health. In addition, the fiber they provide can help reduce blood cholesterol and improves the metabolism of sugars. And the minerals they contain, such as magnesium or potassium, help reduce blood pressure , something that reduces cardiovascular risk.
3. Decrease sugar intake
It is important to reduce the consumption of sugar or sugars (honey or syrups) that you add to your dishes.
By doing so, you can gradually reduce what you add to yourself and not make this change all at once. During this process, you can flavor your dishes with cinnamon, pure cocoa, anise, cardamom or vanilla. Avoid sugary drinks because this makes the consumption of sugars greatly increase the amount of sugar ingested. For example, putting sugar in a yogurt is 5 grams and drinking a can of soda provides 30 g of sugar.
4- Reduce fat intake
Another very important change is to reduce the consumption of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. This is achieved by promoting the consumption of low-fat foods such as white meat and avoiding fatty meats, the visible fat of cuts of meat and processed foods such as sausages and other processed meats that are also rich in salt.
By consuming legumes as a source of protein, we can displace the consumption of meat and thus reduce the intake of cholesterol in the diet .
As for cheeses, encourage the consumption of softer cheeses or fresh cheeses. Avoid cream sauces, mayonnaise or butter. As for eggs, when healthy people consume them, cholesterol does not increase, but once your cholesterol is high, you should reduce your consumption of eggs to 1 or 2 a week, especially if you consume meat and dairy products. Keep in mind that egg white does not contain cholesterol and you can consume it.
For cooking, fat intake is controlled by reducing the oil in salads to a maximum of 1 tablespoon, making stews with less oil and promoting cooking in the oven, steam, grill or griddle.
To flavor the dishes I advise you to use less salt and enhance spices such as paprika, black or white pepper, thyme, oregano, curry or the ones you like the most.
Promote the consumption of fresh and little processed foods. And when you buy processed products, read the labels and avoid saturated fats such as palm oil, coconut or hydrogenated fats that you can find in pastries, cookies, milk bread or soft buns or cakes, among others.
The most recommended fats for packaged products are olive oil, sunflower, high oleic sunflower and canola or rapeseed, because they are rich in monounsaturated and unsaturated fats.
In this sense, another important recommendation is to replace foods that provide saturated fats with foods that provide mono and unsaturated fats . Fish provides healthy fats and is rich in omega 3 essential fats, so I recommend consuming fish at least twice a week, including oily fish, and 4-5 times a week legumes , unsalted nuts or seeds.
How to transfer these recommendations to the menu?
In the menu that I show as an example I have taken into account the reduction of foods with saturated fats:
- There are three foods with white meat : chicken and turkey
- Healthy fats are enhanced with two days of oily fish : salmon and peas. You can serve any oily fish from your area or fish of preference.
- Nuts for breakfast, walnuts, peanut butter, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and oil for cooking and dressing provide healthy fats .
- The milk is skimmed, the yogurts natural and without added sugars and the fresh cheeses.
- The legumes on the menu help us to displace proteins of animal origin: stewed lentils, chickpea salads and white beans.
- I have included the eggs once in an omelet and remember that you can use whites freely, in a soup or making a cake with vegetables.
In order to enhance the fiber intake:
- On the menu you’ll find whole grains on whole wheat bread, oatmeal for breakfast, brown rice with vegetables on Thursday, and whole wheat pasta salad on Saturday for dinner.
Lunches and snacks outside the menu
Between hours consume fruits, you can include them at breakfast, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, for dessert in your main meals or in salads.
Yogurts or vegetable yogurts, take them for dessert or between meals. And if you need to eat more between meals, choose healthy snacks : for example, instead of putting cured cheese and sausage on your sandwich or toast, put peanut butter, tahini, avocado, vegetables with pickled tuna or roasted peppers with sardines . You can also make toast with fresh cheese with banana or other fruits.
If you have high blood pressure , buy cooked ham and tuna or other low-salt preserves .
I recommend that the basis of your diet follow these principles and you should not forget other positive habits: hydrate yourself well, sleep enough hours, control stress and exercise. The body must move, remember that.
Remember that this menu is just an example and, if you suffer from other pathologies or are unable to lower your cholesterol, a qualified dietitian-nutritionist must personalize your diet so that your diet is adequate.