Foods to Lower Your Cholesterol

An extremely common and dangerous health issue is high cholesterol.  Your cholesterol levels tell you how much at risk you are to heart disease.  Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, followed by cancer. 

How cholesterol causes heart disease:

  • When there is too much fat substance (cholesterol), it builds up in the walls of your arteries
  • Over time, it hardens within the arteries, called atherosclerosis
  • The arteries become narrower and blood flow is stopped or slowed
  • If blood cannot flow freely to the heart, the heart will not receive enough oxygen, resulting in heart disease and higher risks of heart attacks and strokes.
This is why it is necessary to maintain low cholesterol levels!  Although, high cholesterol can be due to genetics, there are many other things you can do to lower your risk such as—being active, not smoking and eating a fiber-rich diet.  

*Fiber slows the rate at which cholesterol is absorbed.  It also latches on to cholesterol, clearing it from your arteries and eventually clears from your body through excretion.

Cholesterol Levels:
<200 mg/dL– Desirable
200-239 mg/dL— High
> 240 mg/dL — Very High
Here are a few foods that have been shown to lower cholesterol:

  1. Oats: they contain beta-glucan, a substance that absorbs LDL, which your body then excretes 
  2. Salmon: the omega-3 fats do wonders and have been shown to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, dementia, and many other diseases. 
  3. Nuts: a study showed that people who noshed on 1.5 ounces of whole walnuts 6 days a week for 1 month lowered their total cholesterol by 5.4% and LDL Cholesterol by 9.3%.  Get those omega-3s!
  4. Beans: their substantial amounts of fiber contribute to lowering LDL cholesterol 
  5. Dark Chocolate: the antioxidant in chocolate builds HDL levels (Dark has 3 times as many antioxidants as milk chocolate.
  6. Spinach: It contains lutein, which not only prevents blindness but also helps clear cholesterol clogging.
  7. Avocado: these contain monounsaturated fats, a type of fat that helps raise HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL.
  8. Garlic: it has been found to lower cholesterol by preventing cholesterol particles sticking to artery walls.  In addition, it prevents blood clots, reduces blood pressure, and protect against infections

 

Now, get eating!!

    The Farmer’s Market

    This past weekend, I had a great yoga session and capped it off with a visit to the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market.  Going to the farmer’s market is one of my all-time favorite things to do.  I get so excited over all the sights, the smells, the farmer’s stories, and the tastes… it’s all so fresh.

    I get one of those feelings where I feel genuinely happy, completely alive, and grateful for everything around me.  Where I feel so happy in that moment, I wish I could stop time, embrace the joy, and hold onto it for weeks. I couldn’t have had a better start to my day!

    I always make a stop at the hummus and indian spread vendors for a quick bite and buy… they are divine!

     

    I didn’t have a crepe this week, but the savory and sweet crepes, cooked by the authentic, French-speaking chefs are just too tantalizing.

    Spinach, Goat Cheese, Sundried Tomatoes, Mushroom Crepe

    All the vegetables are so colorful and crisp.  I love to shoot up close to see the detailed patterns, and like the fingerprints on a hand, they make each one unique and individual.


    It is always best to buy fruits and vegetables seasonally—they are higher quality, cheaper and taste a whole lot better.  Here’s a little guide on picking on the freshest vegetables that are in season right now!

    In season in January and February

    • Brussels sprouts (Jan only)
    • Cabbage
    • Carrots
    • Kale
    • Leeks
    • Turnip
    • Spinach
    • Apples
    • Pears

    How to pick out brussel sprouts:
    Look for a fresh, bright-green color, tight fitting outer leaves, firm body, and blemish free.
    How to pick out cabbage: 
    Look for firm or hard heads of cabbage that are heavy for their size. Outer leaves should be a good green or red color, reasonably fresh, and free from serious blemishes
    How to pick out other greens: Kale, turnip, spinach, etc
    Leaves that are fresh, young, tender, free from defects, and that have a good, healthy, green color.
    Happy shopping!

    Wine-ing down

    WINE.  It’s the ultimate cherry-on-top after a long day of work.  I love everything about wine—the flavors, the smell, the color, the vineyards, the stories… and let’s not forget happiness it brings 😉


    Research (much to my liking) has indicated that moderate levels of alcohol improve cardiovascular health, with red wine being the most beneficial of the beverages.  It has been shown to protect against heart disease and cancer, prevent blood clots, reduce risk of kidney stones, and lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The health benefits can be attributed to the antioxidant compounds, flavonoids and resveratrol, which are present in the skin and seeds of red grapes.  Since red wines (over white wines) typically have extended contact with the grape’s skins during fermentation they will naturally have higher levels of these antioxidants. 
    • Flavonoids reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol levels and raising HDL cholesterol production.  They also help reduce blood clotting.  Flavonoids are most prevalent in Cabernet Sauvignon, with Petit Syrah and Pinot Noir following.
    • Resveratrol aids in the defense against free radicals, which are toxins that try to damage cellular functions (i.e. UV damage, pathogens, environmental toxins, etc).  Some studies even show that resveratrol may inhibit tumor development in some cancers.  

    So by drinking red wine, you are also benefiting from these antioxidants, aiding your health!  Although only one serving for women, and two servings for men, are needed to reap the benefits… it gives me an extra excuse to tip the wine bottle in the afternoon!


    Recently, I went to Malibu Winery and Sip Wine Bar to check out the wines with some of my girlfriends….only for our good health, of course!
    Malibu Winery’s Estate Flight Testing- $12
    a great addition to our outdoor picnic :)— Sembler’s Proprietor’s Blend 2006
    Sip Wine Bar


    Chocolate Pecan Pie

    I think it is important to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, but I also think it’s necessary to indulge in things you love every so often 🙂  I decided to make Chocolate Pecan Pie, which I have been wanting to do for a long time.  It was surprisingly really simple (granted, I did not make the crust myself).  I was a little nervous for it, but got great feed back from the party!

    1 unbaked pie crust
    2 cups of dark chocolate chips
    2 cups of pecan halves or pieces
    1 T flour
    1/2 c. butter
    1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
    2 eggs
    2 egg whites
    1/2 c. dark corn syrup
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1/4 tsp salt

    Beat butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl until well-blended.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add in corn syrup, vanilla and salt.  This may look a little curdled. Mix in one cup of pecans and all the chocolate chips.  (After my results, I recommend melting the chips before!)  Lay the other cup of pecans in the pie crust, and lay the mixture over it.

    Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes until outer edges are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just melted chocolate.  The center will still be jiggly.  Sprinkle powdered sugar when cooled, if desired.  Enjoy!

    Aerobic v. Anaerobic?

    In addition to eating healthy, it is important to maintain an active lifestyle.  I love to run outdoors, go to the gym, go on hikes, and do yoga.  It’s my ‘me time’, time for me to lose all my thoughts and enjoy myself.  Plus, the post-exercise high is always refreshing.


    Mammoth Springs
    There are two types of exercise– aerobic and anaerobic.  Aerobic exercise is generally long in duration and low to medium in intensity.  Aerobic actually means “with oxygen”— it causes the body to use oxygen –> breakdown glucose –> energy is produced.  Aerobic exercise has a greater impact on cardiovascular health and the circulatory system.
    • Running
    • Biking
    • Swimming
    • Kickboxing
    • Snowboarding/Skiing
    Anaerobic exercises are usually short in duration and high in intensity.  It means, “without oxygen”.  Your body creates the energy without oxygen. Although some energy is created in the same way in aerobic exercise, this is not enough energy to maintain intense exercise.  Instead, muscles utilize glycogen, the stored sugar from carbohydrates.  Anaerobic exercise will help you build muscle mass, increase bone density and decrease body fat. 
    • Weight lifting
    • Resistance training
    • Sprinting
    • Competitive sports
    Exercise is one of the greatest things you can do for your health.  You don’t need to hit the gym EVERY day. Simply getting outside and going for a walk or hike, or playing with kids, can be active and improve your health.  It can lead to an improved immune system, lower cholesterol levels, increase endurance and weight loss.  It also reduces risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and types of cancers.  Not bad huh?

    So go out, catch a breath of fresh air, and refresh.  You will feel better!
    “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people just don’t kill their husband.” – Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde
    Red Rock, Las Vegas

    Hollywood Sign Hike

    Santa Brownie attempt

    I saw these santa hat brownies on Pinterest from Daisy’s World, and fell in love!  I had to try to copy them and make them for our holiday party.

    I decided to make these strawberry brownies with cream cheese frosting instead (my favorite!)  I made a few other alterations to her instructions…

    1.  Make brownies according to package and let cool

    2. Wash and gut out the strawberry stems.  Slice the top of the strawberry so there is a flat surface.



    3.  Cream cheese frosting

    • 2 8oz packages of cream cheese, reduced fat
    • 1/2 c. butter, softened
    • 2 c. confectioner’s sugar
    • 1.5 tsp. vanilla extract

    By hand, cream the cream cheese and butter until creamy.  Add in the vanilla, then mix the confectioner’s sugar gradually until well-blended.

    4.  Cut out the brownies in circular shapes.  I used a small cup, and a spatula to get them out.  Also, using a plastic knife, instead of a metal knife, prevents the brownies from sticking to the utensil!


    5.  Place the frosting in a ziploc bag, and cut a small hole in the corner.  Squeeze a big dollop onto the brownies.  Push the strawberry on top of the frosting to mush it out to the edges to make it look like a santa hat.  Squeeze a tiny bit on the tip to top it off… voi-la!

    Nuts for Nuts

               Nuts are one of my favorite, favorite foods.  Many people are turned off because of the caloric content, but they are rich in protein, antioxidants, vitamins and other beneficial minerals for your body.  Their roasted, crunchy, delicious taste makes for a good snack or an addition to any baked good or entree.
               Their high-caloric content comes from the monounsaturated fats in the nuts… the healthy fat!  These help to lower LDL cholesterol, the ‘bad cholesterol’, and increase HDL cholesterol, the ‘good cholesterol’.  I remember HDL as the good type by thinking the H in HDL equals healthy.   Nuts are a great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids which by nature, are anti-inflammatories.  This helps to lower the risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, strokes and cancer. 

    Besides healthy fats, vitamins and minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, fluoride and selenium are provided in nuts:

    • Manganese helps keep bones strong and healthy, synthesize fatty acids and cholesterol, maintain normal blood sugar levels, and promote optimal function of your thyroid gland.
    • Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. 
    • Copper is required for the production of red blood cells.  
    • Iron is required for red blood cell formation.   
    • Fluoride helps protects bones and those pearly whites

    In general, nuts provide many health benefits, but each nut has its own unique characteristics and benefits. Go nuts on them!

    Almonds
    One ounce, 28g-167 calories, 15g fat, 3g fiber, 6g protein

    • Almonds have the most about of calcium of all the nuts, providing 9% of your RDI in one ounce.
    • They also have the most amount of magnesium (27% RDI) of all the nuts and combined with their calcium and fiber contents, are a huge fighter against cancer.
    • They also have one of the the highest fiber contents of the nuts.
    • The BEST almonds (and I won’t buy any other types) are the ‘Dry Roasted Unsalted Almonds’ from Trader Joe’s

    Cashew
    One ounce, 28g- 161 calories, 13g fat, 1g fiber, 4g protein

    • The cashew tree is native to Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and it was the Portuguese explorers that spread it around the world. 
    • Cashew nuts have a lower fat content and a higher protein and carbohydrate content than other types of nuts.
    • Cashews actually contain more iron per gram than lean steak!  One ounce has 9% of RDA

    Brazil Nut
    One ounce, 28g- 190 calories, 19g fat, 2g fiber, 4g protein

    • Brazil nuts come from the Brazil Nut tree which is in the forests of Brazil, Bolivia and Peru.  The tree is actually one of the tallest trees in the tropical forests!
    • These are typically the biggest nuts and are one of the highest caloric nuts.
    • They contain high levels of selenium. Just 100 grams of them provides 3485% of RDI. Selenium is an important factor for anti-oxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, which is the most powerful antioxidant. 
    • The nuts are also very good source of vitamin E; just 100 grams provides about 52% of RDI. Vitamin E is required for cell membranes and your skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen free radicals.

    Macadamia Nuts
    One ounce, 28g- 201 calories, 21g fat, 2g fiber, 2g protein

    • This delicious nut (which I always associate with Hawaii) is actually native to Australia! 
    • Of all the different types of nuts, macadamias are the fattiest… but they are good fats 😉
    • Macadamia nut oil is superior to cook with because of its lower level of polyunsaturated fat.

    Peanuts
    One ounce, 28g- 166 calories, 14g fat, 3g fiber, 5g protein

    • Although it carries many nut-like features, the peanut is actually not a nut, but is a legume.
    • Peanuts have a high concentration of a certain antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
    • Resveratrol, another antioxidant, has been shown to reduce stroke risk, and also has a protective function against cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

    Pecans
    One ounce, 28g- 199 calories, 21g fat, 3g fiber, 3g protein

    • Pecans are a part of the hickory family, and are native to the southern and central parts of the United States
    • Pecans are another nut high in vitamin E.  Vitamin E is required for cell membranes and your skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen free radicals. 
    • Pecans have a buttery consistency, but are sweet in taste… making them excellent additions to those dessert creations.  Stay tuned for my chocolate pecan pie recipe!


    Pistachios
    One ounce, 28g-160 calories, 13g fat, 3g fiber, 6g protein

    • These nuts are a great source of minerals like copper (19%) and iron (7% RDA)
    • Copper is an essential mineral that is required in neuro-transmission, metabolism, as well as red blood cell synthesis.
    • I hate stressing calories, but as their commercial states, they really are the lowest calorie nut!  But keep in mind that all nuts have healthy fats and calories that are very beneficial.

    Walnuts
    One ounce, 28g- 173 calories, 17g fat, 2g fiber, 7g protein

    • Of all the different types of nuts, walnuts are unusual as they contain polyunsaturated fatty acids of both the omega-3 and omega-6 families, as well as monounsaturated fats, but no cholesterol.
    • Walnuts are the main “non-fish” source of, which gets transformed into omega-3 fatty acids in our bodies. alpha-linolenic acid
    • Walnuts are packed with antioxidants! These compounds interact with free radicals to stabilize them and prevent them from doing damage to cells. They have almost twice as many antioxidant polyphenols as almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias and pecans!