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Oct 19, 2001 11:50 AM

help needed with hideous new low cholesterol diet!!

  • f

Well, I've reached that awful age where one can no longer abuse ones body with impunity...Just had my annual physical and got a cholesterol count of 272 (gasp!), so clearly I am off the foie gras plan for the forseeable future!!

Anybody have any good recipes, hints about low-chol products that are actually edible, words of encouragment? It's going to be a sad time for my tummy and I'm gonna need all the help I can get!!

Thanks fellow Chowhounds!! May this never happen to you!!

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  1. Both my son and husband have inherited high cholesterol (hypocholesterlemia)and when the diagnosis came in they were immediately put in touch with a dietician. They've got lots of info on food fat content, as well as good listing of foods to be encouraged. It should take some of the guesswork out of your planning to sit down with one of these pros. I was surpised at the range of food you really CAN eat.
    Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: berkleybabe

      Wow!! I should have known that Chowhounds would come through for me!! I just checked the board after being away for a few days and was really happy and touched to see how many people had responded to my pleas for help -- not only with good, sensible advice, but lots of the sorts of tips that can keep my palate stimulated while undergoing this change. I thank you, my arteries thank you!!

      In the immortal words of a thirteen year old buddy -- "Y'all ROCK!!"

      1. re: Fargo

        I have high cholesterol too; diet didn't do it for me, but Lipitor did.....

        Of course, it's still a good idea to eat less cholesterol and saturated fat. One thing I haven't seen much posted about is the glories of fish....(although, alas, not shellfish). Low cholesterol, high protein, good types of fat (Omega 3, I believe) and it even tastes good all sorts of ways, and has lots of variety.

    2. I'm sure you're going to pursue every low-cholesterol avenue, but here's one that I think will be fruitful: Japanese food. The Japanese diet is naturally low in saturated fats and the Japanese eat virtualy no dairy. I think their has one of the world's lowest cholesterol rates. By exploring Japanese food you won't be subjecting yourself to pale imitations of high-sat-fat preparations; rather you'll be eating things that are naturally good for you. Besides becoming a regular at your local Japanese restaurants, a fine book on Japanese cuisine is The Japanese Kitchen by Hiroko Shimbo.
      Also Stonyfield low-fat ice creams and frozen yogurts.
      Good luck!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Erica Marcus
        Jessica Shatan

        Re: fat and japanese food--watch out for tempura (fried) and for avocado (this is "good" fat but you will still have to monitor the amount) in some of the rolls.

        1. re: Erica Marcus

          Actually, Japanese research has shown that there is such a thing as too low a cholesterol level (which, if you've been diagnosed as very high, won't ever apply to you) and that such people tend to have more problems such as strokes, and should not try to lower their cholesterol further through dietary changes.

        2. c
          Caitlin McGrath

          I feel your pain. I have an unfortunate genetic predisposition for high cholesterol that persists despite my dietary reforms--but would certainly be worse without them.

          You don't really need special recipes so much as you need to modify what and how you eat. So, yes, the foie gras-and-cheese-cart diet (or any permutation of the high-protein, high-fat diets) has to go, except, of course, for the occasional (and necessary, IMO) dietary splurge occasions.

          The major idea is to cut back on saturated fats; this is more important than dietary cholesterol itself, but the two often come in the same package. So try to fashion your diet around lean meats like chicken and duck without skin, lean pork, fish; low-fat dairy products; whole grains; fruits and veggies. Learn to avoid butter as an everyday staple. Solid fats like butter, margarine, and solid shortening are to be avoided, as are the hydrogenated oils used in a lot of commercial baked goods and such, as these are very high in saturated fat. Make your cooking, dressing, etc. fats of choice be olive, grapeseed, and canola oils. Use things like parmesan and goat cheese as condiments, so you can enjoy the flavors but keep the serving sizes small. If you're not overly concerned about fat intake (i.e., if you don't also need to shed weight), nuts and seeds, while high in fat, are good protein sources, and are high in unsatirated fat.

          While it's important to drop the total cholesterol count, it's equally important to achieve a good ratio between your levels of "bad" (LDL) and "good" (HDL) cholesterol, and to keep your triglycerides low. There are things you can do to help both drop LDLs and raise HDLs. Getting lots of cardiocascular (aerobic) exercise is one of the best ways to raise HDLs. Also, eating the unsaturated fats in olive and grapeseed oil; eating omega-3 fatty acids, the best dietary sources of which are fatty fish like salmon and mackerel and flaxseeds or flaxseed oil (incidentally, omega-3s have been shown to have a benefial complementary effect on antidepressive medications); eating lots of soy protein; eating whole grains, especially oatmeal and oat bran; and in general consuming lots of fiber through fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

          If you're used to high-fat dairy products as an everyday thing, it'll be a job to adjust, but you do get used to low-fat substitutes. Nonfat or 1% milk are musts; if the idea of skim milk makes you shudder, you might look for the enriched skim milks, which are regular skim plus nonfat milk soldis, and have the body, if not the richness, of 2% milk. Personally, after using low-fat and skim for a long time, whole milk is too rich for me to handle straight up. It's not that hard to learn to live with toast spread with jam but no butter and pancakes, etc. without butter; again, if you miss that taste, make it a special-occasion thing. Eggs are okay to have in moderation, but you need to keep it to a few a week. Egg substitutes like egg beaters (I always look for the brands with the least extraneous ingredients) work quite well when used *in* things, and I do eat them scrambled and in frittatas, etc. even though they're not the same. Low-fat ice creams and frozen yogurts can help with the sweets cravings, if you stick with the quality brands; Haagen Dazs vanilla, caramel vanilla, and dulce de leche low-fat ice creams and Stonyfield Farms are some of the best I've found. And of course, sorbet is ideal.

          Good luck! Take heart in knowing that at least you are most likely prolonging your life by keeping those arteries clear.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Good luck, I've inherited the problem too.

            I don't know how much prep of your own foods you do or are willing to pick up now, but you will be better able to control fat content as well as salt and so on when making your own rather than buying prepared foods. If time is an issue, try this. When I was working full time and also going to school full time, I used to make my own stocks (5 nights of takeout was expensive and often bad!) After cooling and skimming I'd freeze it in ice cube trays. Pop it out of the trays and store it in plastic bags - each cube is about an ounce. Thaws in no time. Makes it very easy to have home-made soup or a base for sauces.

            Play with herbs and spices: as fat is often where flavor is derived, you may find that foods don't taste as appealing when the fat is reduced. Intense flavor can be achieved by braised or poaching in infused liquids, and with much less fat. Also, search here on the boards for vegetarian cookbook suggestions, and start experimenting!

            And recently, a friend on a non-dairy diet introduced me to Soy-delicious - a ice cream-like dessert. It's quite good, especially the chocolate.

            Have fun!

          2. c
            Caitlin Wheeler

            A couple of good low-fat cookbook suggestions: Canyon Ranch makes a cookbook with great recipes, all low-fat, including one for satay with peanut sauce that I make pretty often. Nigella Lawson in "How to Eat" has a low fat section with some delicious recipes, mostly involving Asian ingredients (instant dashi, soba noodles) that are easy to make and really good. As for eating out, rediscover the joys of seafood, which can be just as satisfying as steak.

            1. If it is any consolation, can I say that I have found the same diagnosis totally liberating foodwise. Avoiding saturated fat doesn't have to mean a joyless regime of boiled lentils and rice cakes, but can be an opportunity to be creative with nearly all of the same foods that you were eating beforehand.

              Two personal experiences:

              I reduced my count and improved my HDL:LDL ratio quite significantly in the first months just by switching to a breakfast of muesli made with oats, oat bran, fruit and soya milk (surprisingly tasty) followed by a gentle cycle into work.

              There is no reason not to splurge once in a while. Last winter, I received a present of several ducks, which meant I was eating cassoulet for days afterwards. My dietician wasn't freaked: apparently duck fat is mono-unsaturated and the lycopenes in the tomatoes are good for your heart. Not to mention the regular accompaniment of two glasses of red wine, which is packed with all sorts of things which are thought to be beneficial.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Martyn

                One thing I've discovered recently is making sorbets in our ice cream maker. Great replacement for ice cream and very easy to make. We have the cuisinart ice cream maker and it's so great.