Fighting cholesterol

Joined Jul 24, 2001
We have a new member in the family: Cholesterol. :(
I want some basic tips on how to cook cholesterol free.
I mean, when a recipe requires cream cheese, what shall I use instead?
Have in mind that there is no greek kitchen without feta cheese!

Please do not post an internet link. I am interested in advices from people who have the problem :)

PS Do you think that a diet, appropriate for diabetics would help?

Joined Nov 21, 2001
dear athenaeus,
your visitor resides in my house also. the only thing i found that lowered my cholesterol level significantly was aerobic work outs. i joined a new gym that has an intense 1/2 hour work out alternating 35 seconds of aerobics with 35 seconds of machine - resistance training. in 2 mos. i lowered my level from 248 to 213(total) and my bad cholesterol dropped from 170 to 146. diet changes didn't work for me before, as my high cholesterol levels seem to be heriditary.
good luck,
Joined May 30, 2002
a sad thread, as high cholesterol is insidious and when it starts, that's must constantly be on the alert. A few things to keep in mind:

1. different countries ascribe to different standards: while in the US, total cholesterol must be below 200, in Greece doctors are not worried until above 230. There are no studies to ascertain which works better, but latest news point to the ratio of bad (LDL)/good (HDL) as opposed to total. ALso, US physicians prescribe colesterol-lowering medications easier than greek physicians do.

2. high cholesterol may be a familial trait (i.e. runs in the family), may be a result of bad dietary habits or may just simply be there (idiopathic)

3. a combination of things is usually beneficial: dietary modifications are number 1, but not on your own: consult a dietician. It is amazing what mistakes a dietician can point out in the ways we consume our food. I do not say "the types of food we consume" because I assume you know very well which foods are junk, fat, bad, unhealthy. Even you, however, may not know the appropriate ways to spread meals during the day; and certainly, greek lifestyle will be a problem. Number 2 is excercise, as it helps elevate good cholesterol (HDL). Number 3 is cessation of smoking as it lowers good cholesterol.

It usually is a matter of modification of lifestyle. Not everything is applicable to everyone. You must find what works best for you, keeping in mind that even science is not definite on many issues, such as for example, which kinds of coffee elevate cholesterol: some say coffees prepared in percolators or greek style. Some say instant...we don't know yet.

Only as a last resort would I advise you to seek medication. While high cholesterol is a problem, it is not an acute thing, assuming that you have had regular check ups and it has not been running wild and unchecked for the last 10 years. Take the time to modify lifestyle first, otherwise, pill popping will just be another habit.

No self-respecting dietician will ban cheese from your diet: but they will modify the amounts you can eat, as they will the rest of fatty foods you consume. All in all, keeping someone away from fried foods (i.e. sauteeing in butter, frying meatballs, frying fish etc) is a very healthy advice.

good luck

Joined Mar 3, 2002
Commiserations Athanaeus. I'd like to add to the suggestions you've already been given by those with more experience in cholesterol reduction than I have.

I try to keep from getting the problem by moderating the amount of fat I take in. Get a good guide to the nutrional components of food. The one I use distinguishes between different sorts of a single food..

For example:
1 CUP of feta has 54.1g fat (11.8 mono-, 1.5 poly, 38 sat-)
a SINGLE OZ of Parmesan has 30g total fat (8.3 mono-, .66 poly- , and 19.1 sat-)

There are probably sites on the wesb that will give you this info(but I prefer using a book). Also, you might see a nutritionist to make sure your diet keeps its balance when you rearrange it.

On the bright side, olive oil is lots better than butter and yogurt can be had no-fat. Good luck
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Thanks for your inputs!

My problem is that It's not me that I have high Cholesterol because I can control myself and I exercise more than regularly.
My husband is the "patient" and he behaves like a five years old boy when it comes to food.:(
Joined Jun 16, 2002
We did everything we could to lower cholesterol dietwise.

We eat high fiber and low fat meals and take flax seed supplements.

( Except for butter on my homemade bread) :)

Finally we were both put on Lipitor. It really works.

Good Luck,

Joined Jan 15, 2001
I just switched jobs recently and am now baking for a retirement community. It's definitely different! LOL
Granted, being a baker, my ideas won't likely cover most foods, but maybe they'll help. :)

Some changes I'm making to my recipes to make them lower in fat include replacing from half to all of the oil in many recipies with applesauce (or a prune puree if I want it sweeter and then I can also cut out a bit of sugar).

I'm also replacing from half to all of the sour cream in recipes with plain non-fat yogurt. A heap of yogurt on top of a plate of nachos just isn't the same, but cooked inside something, it's not really obvious.

Half yogurt and half milk becomes 'buttermilk'.
I'll use whole eggs in a recipe that calls for yolks and I'll use egg whites in a recipe that calls for whole eggs. (the way I figure it, it's 5 eggs to a cup, 8 whites to a cup, and 16 yolks to a I figure out my measurments from there.)

To add more fiber, I'll replace some of the flour with whole wheat flour... depending on the recipe, usually anywhere from 1/8 to 1/4 of the flour. but if repacing AP flour with wheat, I take out the equivilent of 2 tablespoons per cup since it's so much denser.
Oatmeal is another great thing to throw into a recipe!

Hope this helps.
Dominique :)
Joined Aug 29, 2000
Here's a minority opinion. Some people react strongly to it, but I will post this anyway.

1. Reducing high carbohydrates in the diet can not only reduce overall cholesterol, but it can improve the ratio or LDL to HDL in the blood. This may not work for everyone, but it worked for me and others I know (including my physician brother). My cholesterol fell only about 10 points (from 230) on a 1700 calorie diet with only 10% fat, followed for 16 months.

2. Meat animals are fed extremely high carbohydrate diets. Why? TO FATTEN THEM. Consider that.

3. Some people do not achieve lower cholesterol by eating less fat; they may be producing high levels because of their genetics. Example: a friend (weight: barely 100 pounds, 5'5" tall) restricts her diet to 30 fat grams per day (almost no fat from animal sources at all), is on some type of cholesterol-reducing meds... her cholesterol is still above 300.

Please keep an open mind. It is dangerous to make generalizations about any one eating plan, just as not all medications are suitable for everyone. I would suggest you couldn't go wrong offering your husband a balanced diet and trying to get him to exercise more (chasing you around the kitchen? ;) ). Most of all, don't lose your kefi (spirit for life)!!
Joined Aug 4, 2000
A diet high in saturated fats will elevate the cholesterol.

Cholesterol is an animal product; if eating in vegan style, no cholesterol is consumed. However, blood cholesterol can remain elevated since the liver produces cholesterol. Hence mevacor and other pharmaceuticals designed to lower it.
Joined May 11, 2001
I've known that I have high cholesterol since I was 18. I was able to reduce my LDL (bad cholesterol) from 250 to 160 over the last three years simply by changing my diet slightly and walking more. I switched to a more "Mediterranean" diet (according to the nutritionist). Instead of beef and pork, I usually ate fish and sometimes lamb. I eat lots of vegetables and cook almost exclusively with olive oil rather than butter. Feta cheese is on my good list, so it is often used to punch up a salad or an entree. A 1/4 cup usually goes a long way for me. I generally don't buy whole milk or whole milk products. Instead of cream-based sauces, I choose a vegetable-based sauce or a thickened, herbed broth. An occassional steak, ice cream cone or an even more decadent dessert hasn't made matters worse for me. I just try to balance it out with more exercise.
Joined Jan 26, 2001
Saturated fat, which effects cholesterol levels, is largely found in animal products. I would suggest replacing some meals with plant-based dishes instead. If you do some research on vegan cooking, you will find many substitutes for common ingredients. I know that bananas can be used instead of eggs in baked goods, for instance, but I'm not familiar with the exact ratio.

No jumping off bridges, okay? I'm not saying you must go vegan to reduce your cholesterol, but you might find some great ideas within vegan recipes.

Fill up with veggies! Season with herbs and spices instead of cheese! Cook by steaming, boiling, etc, instead of oil! Or just choose healthier oils!

Joined Mar 3, 2002
Sometimes when people get threatening health news they react by vigorously taking control, combating it with changes in diet and exercise, etc. Dean Ornish's regimen for actually reversing heart disease, reducing cholesterol, etc. is an example of that approach. Perhaps getting your husband a copy of Ornish's book would inspire him if he is feeling overwhelmed and pessimistic.

Assuming from your post that the above probably will not work and that your husband may be among those who react almost perversely to such news, unwilling to make the needed changes. But also assuming that you, not your husband, are running the kitchen, perhaps you could gradually introduce foods and techniques that would be healthier for him without making a big deal of it, perhaps without his even realising it. Even if he's in the kitchen you could introduce changes without disturbing him.

As an accomplished cook, you could explore some of the techniques that minimize fats. Fortunately Mediterranean cuisine is not sat-fat heavy and good olive oil actually helps the good/bad fat ratio. For example, gradually reduce the amount of meats and cheese and explore those with less sat fat. For desserts, when fruits won't do, make filo desserts (I've seen them done with mostly oil and a touch of butter for taste) and expand your repetoire of oil rather than butter cakes. For tarts, use oil based crusts. (BTW: when you want a neutral oil instead of EVO, try grapeseed oil which is supposed to have the same good properties for cholesterol as EVO does - better than canola, etc.)

If you are subtle about it, keep your sense of humor, occasionally throw in a luxurious dessert, sauce, and/or butter dish now and then, --and don't have hissy fits at bad choices in restaurants-- his cholesterol will be down before he catches up to what you doing.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

Oh, and cream cheese: low fat, but add lots of herbs, zests, or spices in it. But in truth that's one cheese where low fat doesn't make much difference in taste. There's also a tofu "cream cheese" that I haven't yet worked up the courage to try. Maybe someone else has a report.

But you best ally will be a good nutritional guide that breaks down not just the total fat, or percentage of fat, but also the types of fat.
Joined Mar 3, 2002
Athenaeus, I just saw Marianne Esposito on TV doing a cookie made with oil rather than butter. In case it may be of use to you I found it on her website and post it below. There very well may be others. If you husband has a sweet tooth, this sort of cookie may be at least better than one made with butter or margarine. You could also experiment with that new sugar substitute, too, if weight is also a problem.

My guess is that she may have other Italian cakes, cookies, pie crusts, etc. that are made with oil instead of butter.

For her website:

CIAMBELLETTE (Aniseed Ring Biscuits): MAKES 4 DOZEN
...These little rings with the licorice flavor are a favorite of mine. They freeze beautifully.

5 large eggs
3 tablespoons Colavita (tm) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla or anise extract
4 tablespoons sugar plus extra for dipping the rings into before baking
2 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds, slightly crushed if desired
2 3/4 to 31/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a mixing bowl, combine 4 eggs, the olive oil, lemon zest, vanilla, sugar, and anise seeds.

On a sheet of wax paper, sift together 2 3/4 cups of the flour, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add to the egg mixture and combine to make a smooth but fairly stiff dough. If more flour is needed, add it a little at a time until the right consistency is obtained. All the flour may not be necessary, depending on the type of flour used and the size of the eggs.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces; work with one piece at a time; keep the remaining pieces covered so they do not dry out.

Roll each piece into a 12-inch-long rope and cut twelve 1-inch pieces from each rope. Roll each piece under the palm of your hands into a 5-inch long rope; form a circle and pinch the ends closed.

Beat the remaining egg slightly with a fork, then dip each ring into the egg wash, and then coat each of them in sugar. Place the rings on the parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake the ciambellette for about 20 to 25 minutes or just until they are golden brown. Cool on racks.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA N UMBRIA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2002.
Joined Jan 15, 2001
I've been reading a book about nutrition and they pointed out that not ALL fiber is beneficial for reducing cholesterol. It has to be a water-soluble fiber, such as that found in oats, beans, nuts, apples.... apparently it binds to the bile in the digestive system, halting the absorbtion and recycling of the bile. Now the liver has to make new bile, using it's cholesterol stores....
the book also warns not to go TOO nutty on eating fiber as too much could cause intestinal blockage.
Joined Oct 6, 2002
Here is the low down on cholesterol.

1) Cholesterol comes only from animal fat. So peanut butters that claim to be cholesterol free are not doing anything special to put this claim on their label
2) Your cholesterol can be significantly higher as long as the hdl/ldl ratios are ok
Joined Aug 4, 2000
Elevated cholesterol in the face of healthy HDL/LDL ratios can be an indication that the body is not metabolizing cholesterol as much as it should. Hence Mevacor. Although I've mentioned this before, it turns out that elevated cholesterol may be the result of deficient or defective receptor proteins for cholesterol which are located on the cell wall. Not necessarily the result of a poor diet, therefore.
Joined Nov 13, 2002
There is some excellent research out there about the benefits of eating a handfull of pecans every day to reduce cholesterol. I'm from the group that believes the dangers of cholesterol are mostly a fantasy based on some faulty science. I'm more apt to point to information like:

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Aug. 16, 1990) found that hydrogenated or hardened vegetable oil, the major ingredient of margarine, "may be" worse than saturated fats in raising cholesterol, especially by raising the supposed harmful LDLs and lowering the supposed beneficial HDLs. The effects of hydrogenated vegetable fats on human health are "particularly worrisome," said the article. "We are now faced with the paradox that a saturated fatty acid, stearic acid, does not increase serum cholesterol levels, whereas monounsaturated fatty acids of the trans variety do."...

This is one of the reasons I gave up trans fatty acids (shortening, margarine, vegetable oil) and eat a hand full of pecans every day. I also use the method of preparation found in "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon. The nuts are soaked overnight (sprouting begins), then I drain and place in the dehydrator to dry. This is done because nuts contain numerous enzyme inhibitors than can put a real strain on the digestive mechanism - especially if consumed in excess. If you are eating a lot of nuts, you might try eating a digestive enzyme after to help with digestion, or use nature's way and soak them.

I would prefer changing my consumption and adding a few nuts. My friend who took the drug route had a very bad experience. She's doing fine now that she reduced consumption of trans fatty acids and eats her pecans (I think almonds do the same thing and they are a nice boost of calcium, as well).
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