February is American Heart Month, so it’s a good time to make some lifestyle changes to lower your cholesterol and keep your heart healthy. Your diet is the best place to start, and it’s far easier to prepare cholesterol-lowering recipes and meals than you think.
Here are some basic cooking tips to help reduce both your cholesterol and blood pressure, along with 20 of my favorite, easy, heart-healthy recipes that you’ll love to eat no matter what month it is.
Heart Healthy Cooking Tips
Stick to heart-healthy fats. Wherever possible, use olive oil instead of butter or margarine. Also, all nuts, (and nut butter), seeds, olives, and avocados are very rich in heart-healthy fats, so eat a few servings each day. Just remember all are high in calories, so mind those portion sizes!
Choose mostly lean proteins like fish, chicken, turkey, tofu, or eggs. And aim to eat at least two servings of fish each week. They’re low in saturated fats, which helps to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. They’re also a good source of omega-3 fats which are great for your blood pressure.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. At least 5-7 servings each day. They’re high in soluble fiber and can lower your cholesterol. And purple fruits and vegetables, like berries or purple sweet potatoes, contain polyphenol antioxidants that protect your blood vessels.
Incorporate a few meatless meals each week that feature legumes and whole grains with vegetables. They’ll help bump up your cholesterol-lowering fiber even more.
Limit sodium by cooking from scratch rather than using packaged foods and go easy on the saltshaker. Cooking from scratch is probably the best thing you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease – and so many other chronic lifestyle diseases. Processed, packaged, and fast foods are all full of salt, sugar, unhealthy fats, and chemicals that promote inflammation in your blood vessels and throughout your body.
Easy Cholesterol-Lowering Breakfasts
Oats are my number one tool for heart-healthy eating. They’re packed with soluble fiber which acts like a sponge and mops up bad cholesterol so it can quickly exit your body. Pair them with fruits, nuts, and seeds for an even bigger punch.
And by all means, don’t be afraid of eggs! They’re full of protein and research shows they can boost HDL (good) cholesterol.
Easy Cholesterol-Lowering Lunch REcipes
Lunch is a great opportunity to add more colorful vegetables and fruits. Incorporate them into your salads and sandwiches whenever possible.
Heart Healthy Dinners
Lots of vegetarian options in these cholesterol lowering dinner recipes. Try to make more meals that include beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables as often as possible. They contain a nice mix of healthy fats and cholesterol-lowering fiber. Plus, they’re high in potassium which helps lower your blood pressure.
Easy Heart Healthy(ish) Desserts
It’s OK to save room for dessert when it’s made with healthy, wholesome ingredients. Try to add whole grains, fruits, nuts, and even some dark chocolate into your sweet treats.
What lifestyle changes have you made to reduce your cholesterol?