Coronary heart disease is the largest killer of Americans, every possible means of reducing its toll must be explored.
Cholesterol is one of the fatty substances normally present in the blood and plays an important role in many bodily functions. Generally speaking, its level is low in underdeveloped and high in affluent communities.
It is significant in the development of coronary heart disease because of the part it is believed to play in causing the narrowing, or blockage, of arteries, particularly the coronary arteries which supply the heart.
The National Heart Foundation believes it is prudent for each individual from the age of 30 onward to have a periodic health check by his doctor, in the course of which tests on the blood can be arranged to find if the levels of cholesterol and other blood fats are high.
If they are, planning the diet is necessary to reduce the levels.
The diet plan should be carried out in conjunction with a doctor, because variations in diet or perhaps other forms of treatment may be necessary, depending on the results of the blood tests. Repeat tests from time to time can check progress.
Other risk factors, of course, may also need to be reduced. Your doctor will advise you on weight reduction, increasing physical fitness, and giving up cigarettes.
Dietary Fat and Cholesterol
Saturated fats tend to increase blood cholesterol. These are mostly of animal origin, are often semi-solid or solid, and include the fats in whole milk, cream, cheese, butter, meat, coconut oil, chocolate, many solid cooking fats, and most margarine.
Monounsaturated fats have a very little effect one way or the other on blood cholesterol. Olive and peanut oils are well-known examples.
Polyunsaturated fats can lower blood cholesterol and are usually liquid oils extracted from plant seeds. Examples are maize, cottonseed, soybean, sunflower, and safflower oil.
As well as changing the type of fat, it is necessary to reduce the quantity of cholesterol in the diet.
Foods that contain a high content of cholesterol are butter, cheese, cream, egg yolk, organ meats such as liver, brain, kidneys, and kinds of seafood such as shellfish, crabs, lobster, prawns, etc.
Fat from all sources is limited to about 35 percent of each day’s calories. As much of this fat as possible is to be polyunsaturated.
Saturated fats and cholesterol are not eliminated entirely, because this would require an excessive change in your eating habits, and would deprive you of important protein, vitamins, and essential elements found in meat and eggs.
However, eggs are limited and organ meats and certain kinds of seafood are excluded.
You can include non-fat foods according to your appetite and custom, but they should be regulated to the extent necessary to maintain your weight at a suitable level – on which point your doctor can advise you.
You can eliminate still more saturated fat from your diet through careful selection and preparation of meat.
What meats can you eat on a cardiac diet?
The lean cuts of beef are the ones to look for – such as round, rump, topside, and fillet steak.
Veal cutlets, chops, and roasts and yearling steaks and chump chops are also good choices because the fat can be easily removed. Leg of lamb, trimmed of fat, is also a satisfactory choice.
Avoid cuts such as rolled roast and porterhouse, blade, or T-bone steak, loin and shoulder chops, and fat pork, where the fat is distributed throughout and cannot be removed. Also avoid organ meats such as liver, kidney, brain, or tripe.
After you have selected your meat, have the butcher trim away all visible fat. When you get home, cut off any he may have missed.
Have mince ground to order from the lean round. Do not buy it already ground.
Do not use canned or frozen cooked-meat dishes, luncheon sausage, salami, or frozen fish fingers. You have no way of knowing how much fat, or what kind of fat, they contain.
Remember that fish, chicken, and turkey are good selections because they contain less fat than most meats.
How to cook meat for heart health
Meat, fish, and poultry may be prepared in almost all the familiar ways. But you can further reduce the saturated fat in your chosen lean meat (and in poultry, too) by following a few simple rules in cooking:
- Use a rack when grilling, roasting, or baking so that the fat can drain off.
- If possible, do not baste, since basting returns some of the fat to the food. To keep the meat moist, pour wine, tomato juice, or clear soup over it.
- When you make stews, boiled meat, soup stock, or other dishes in which fat cooks out into the liquid, do your cooking a day ahead of time. After the food has been cooled the hardened fat can be removed.
- You will find when using oils that food is much better cooked at lower temperatures. It is also best to avoid overheating to a point where smoking occurs.
How to use seed oils for heart-healthy cooking
Because of their high content of polyunsaturated fat, seed oils are extensively used in the cardiac diet. They are not taken as medicine but are used in food preparation and cooking. Good quality safflower oil and maize (corn) oil are particularly suitable and are available at most grocery stores.
As you gain experience in heart-healthy cooking with seed oils, you will probably discover new ways to use them. As a start, try the following:
- In grilling or baking fish or poultry.
- As an ingredient in barbecue sauces and sauces for marinating meat, chicken, or fish.
- In french dressing and mayonnaise.
- In cooking vegetables with little or no water. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of the oil for each serving. Put oil and vegetables in a saucepan with a tight cover, season, and cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are done – about 5 to 15 minutes. Add a little water or other liquid during cooking, if needed.
- As a seasoning with herbs and vinegar or lemon juice, if desired, for cooked vegetables.
- In browning meats for stews, pot roasts, etc.
- In pan-frying or oven frying meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables such as potatoes and eggplant.
- In white sauces made with skim milk.
- In mashed or scalloped potatoes, with skim milk added.
- For making hot bread scones, etc.
- In browning rice before adding liquid and in making Spanish rice, curried rice, or Chinese fried rice.
- In cooking “instant” potatoes and other prepared foods in which the fat is added at home.
- In making pie crust and cakes.
Healthy choices when eating out
Get into the habit of saying no to white sauces, fried foods, casseroles, and other mixed dishes, creamed foods, gravies, cheeses, ice-creams, puddings, cakes, pies, and similar desserts.
Choose from these items if you can: clear soup, juices, fish or chicken (baked or grilled without butter), sliced turkey or veal, lean corned beef, fish salad (with dressing or mayonnaise served separately), vegetables (if the butter has not been added).
- Poultry, fish, and veal: Use chicken, turkey, fish, veal.
- Skim milk: Use skim milk, non-fat dry milk powder, or buttermilk made from skim milk.
- Vegetables: Use any vegetables you wish.
- Fruit: Use any fruit and fruit juices you wish.
- Bread and cereals: Use as you usually do.
- Sugars and desserts: Use sugars, jams, jellies, syrups, etc., in moderation.
- Miscellaneous: Use as desired: coffee, tea, soft drinks, cocoa powder, fat-free soups, pickles, relishes, vinegar, mustard, and seasonings. Ask your doctor about alcoholic beverages.