Food Is Not Your Enemy

Four Tips to Help You Lower Your Cholesterol
February 21, 2010, 3:05 pm
Filed under: Beans, Chronic Disease, Drugs, Eggs, Fruits, Grains, Oils, Vegetables | Tags: , , ,

Cholesterol research is an ever-evolving thing: One day we’re told that eggs are an absolute no-no if we have high cholesterol, and the next we hear that it’s actually okay to eat eggs. Doctors have been prescribing statin drugs like Lipitor left and right for patients with high cholesterol, but then recent research has shown that following a Mediterranean-style diet is just as effective at lowering cholesterol as these drugs. What to do?

Here are four tips to help you reduce your cholesterol without resorting to prescription drugs:

  1. Fiber, fiber, fiber. Fiber helps rid the body of cholesterol, and is crucial for overall good health as well. Beans are a terrific source of fiber, as are fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
  2. Cut out the white stuff. Refined carbohydrates–white breads, white pasta, white rice, white sugar–are wreaking havoc on our health, including our cholesterol. Replace these processed products with whole grains.
  3. Eat antioxidant-rich foods. Berries, dark chocolate, red wine, green tea–all of these are high in antioxidants and will help lower your cholesterol.
  4. Eat as the Cretans do. The model Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet of the island of Crete, a place where, until the recent influx of fast-food chains, heart disease was virtually non-existent. Their diet is rich in fish, olive oil, green vegetables, and whole grains.

Olga’s Vegetable Soup

I want to share this recipe for Olga’s vegetable soup–I’ve been making it for a few months now and it’s a truly great dish. Not only that, but it’s super good for you, packed with leafy greens and other veggies. Don’t fear all the olive oil–it’s part of what makes this soup so hearty and satisfying, and it will help lower your cholesterol!

Deepak Chopra Defends Oprah

While I recently expressed concern on my blog about Oprah recommending that her viewers go get themselves some free KFC grilled chicken, which is marinated in trans-fats and MSG, in general I do believe that Oprah’s heart is in the right place when it comes to health and wellness.

Deepak Chopra writes a nice defense of Ms. Winfrey in the Huffington Post this week, which is worth checking out because he goes into some depth about what’s wrong with our health-care system and the critical role that nutrition plays in preventing illness. I believe so strongly in what he’s saying, and will, as I often do, point to this fact, which I think sums up our problem: studies have shown that following a Mediterranean-style diet reduces cholesterol levels much more effectively than statin drugs (Lipitor and the like), and yet doctors continue to prescribe these drugs rampantly. This is something that has got to change.

Lentil Stew With Greens

This is one of my favorite recipes. It’s a Cretan dish, and comes from an eye-opening book called “The Jungle Effect” by Daphne Miller. Miller is a doctor who researched how the healthiest people in the world eat, and this dish is part of a cuisine eaten by a people who, until the recent influx of American fast food restaurants onto their island, essentially never got heart disease. This is the kind of food that’s at the heart of the Mediterranean diet (as opposed to the unlimited pasta bowl from the Olive Garden). I use kale when I cook this.

1 cup small dark lentils

8 cups chicken stock (or use water)

1 teaspoon salt

1 medium potato, peeled and sliced paper thin

1 cup sliced carrots

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 pound (1 packed quart) leafy greens (such as spinach, dandelion, arugula, kale, beet greens, or a mix)

1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Plain yogurt and lemon wedges for garnish

Wash the lentils. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with stock (or water) and salt. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam on top. Add the potato and carrots, partially cover, and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and slowly brown the onions. While the onion is browning, wash, stem, and chop the greens. Add the parsley and garlic to the skillet and saute for a minute or two, then stir in the greens and allow them to wilt, covered.

Scrape the contents of the skillet, including the oil, into the saucepan with lentils. Combine all ingredients, then continue cooking covered for another 20 minutes, or until thick and soupy. Garnish with a drizzle of yogurt and serve with a lemon wedge. Serves 4-6.

Variation: For a thicker soup, use less broth/water and mash some of the lentils and potatoes.