Do pictures of juicy burgers and luscious, decorated cakes make your mouth water? At the same time, does the worry about your cholesterol levels haunt you? Controlling your cravings is hard; you want to give in, binge on the potato chips, gorge on fries, and tuck into some cheese sandwiches.
The reason all these foods are considered “unhealthy” is that most of them contain saturated and trans fats. Saturated and trans fats can increase the ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein [LDL]) in your blood. However, there’s another type of fat, the unsaturated type, which can reduce this bad cholesterol and increase the ‘good’ cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein [HDL]) in your blood.
Thus the easy solution to your problem is to replace all the trans and saturated fats with unsaturated fats to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Research suggests incorporating the right fats in your diet goes a long way towards maintaining your cholesterol levels and heart health.[2, 3]
But how do I know what contains good fat, and what contains bad fat?
If you want to include the right fats in your food, you need to know how to differentiate between them. Usually, all animal fat is saturated, for example, full cream milk, butter, palm oil, coconut oil, cheese made from whole-fat dairy, and baked food made with butter. Among non-vegetarian foods, fatty cuts of meat and poultry skin contain saturated fats. Sources of trans fats include margarine, fast foods, and pre-packaged convenience foods like cookies and biscuits.
When it comes to good sources of unsaturated fatty acids, you can opt for olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, avocados, walnuts, and fish.
So, how do I make the switch from saturated to unsaturated?
Going from the routine use of saturated and trans fats in your food to using unsaturated fats is not very difficult. Here are a few ways you can change lanes:
- When cooking food, instead of using coconut oil, butter or ghee, use canola, olive, sunflower or safflower oil. You can use olive oil in salads as well. It will add flavour to your salad, and give you a sense of fullness that the greens don’t offer by themselves. Also, olive oil does not give a characteristic oily taste to your food and makes you feel light.
- Eat a quarter of a cup of your favourite nuts — walnuts, peanuts or almonds. They have tonnes of good fats, which will not only help reduce your LDL levels by 5% but also keep your heart healthy. A handful of roasted nuts can make a tasty evening snack. Mix them with some boiled and diced sweet potato to get a filling meal.
- If you are a seafood lover, you can eat freshwater fatty fish two or three times a week to lower your LDL levels. Fish are a rich source of omega-3-fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat.
- Avocados are full of nutrients and help you lower your LDL because of their unsaturated fat content. If you follow the trends, you know that avocado is in! Make guacamole out of it, or just add it on your toast. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 
There are numerous dessert and main course recipes available on the internet that use alternate, healthy fats. You can even find brownie recipes that use avocado fat!
Another way to cut the fats out is changing the way you cook. You could opt for grilling, poaching, and steaming as interesting alternatives to just roasting your foods. Being mindful at the supermarket and reading nutrition labels while buying “fat-free” products is another way to cut down on cholesterol. Read about how a reading habit could help you cut the cholesterol.
Incorporating fibre in your diet and having a healthy exercise routine is something that every doctor recommends. But we know how easily the foodie in us can be tempted to skip that. With these simple tips, you don’t have to worry about controlling your cravings. ; Just replace a few crucial ingredients and you can eat your heart out.
- Heart healthy eating to help lower cholesterol levels [Internet]. [updated 2018 Feb 16; cited 2019 Jul 31]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17281-heart-healthy-eating-to-help-lower-cholesterol-levels.
- LDL: The “bad” cholesterol [Internet]. [updated 2019 Apr 18; cited 2019 Jul 31]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ldlthebadcholesterol.html.
- HDL: The “good” cholesterol [Internet]. [updated 2019 Apr 18; cited 2019 Jul 31]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/hdlthegoodcholesterol.html.
- 11 foods that lower cholesterol [Internet]. [updated 2019 Feb 06; cited 2019 Jul 31]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/11-foods-that-lower-cholesterol.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers [Internet]. [updated 2018 Jul 17; cited 2019 Jul 31]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192.