Because coronary heart disease is the largest killer of Americans, every possible means of reducing its toll must be explored. This article is concerned with reducing high blood cholesterol and other blood fats as a measure toward avoiding possible coronary heart disease.
Cholesterol is one of the fatty substances normally present in the blood and plays an important role in many bodily functions. Generally speaking, its level is low in underdeveloped and high in affluent communities.
It is significant in the development of coronary heart disease because of the part it is believed to play in causing the narrowing, or blockage, of arteries, particularly the coronary arteries which supply the heart.
The National Heart Foundation believes it is prudent for each individual from the age of 30 onward to have a periodic health check by his doctor, in the course of which tests on the blood can be arranged to find if the levels of cholesterol and other blood fats are high.
If they are, planning the cardiac diet is necessary to reduce the levels.
The cardiac diet plan should be carried out in conjunction with a doctor, because variations in diet or perhaps other forms of treatment may be necessary, depending on the results of the blood tests. Repeat tests from time to time can check progress.
To reduce blood cholesterol appreciably, it would be little use simply to change a few items of the diet, for instance, to substitute margarine for butter (even if it were a polyunsaturated margarine). The whole diet must conform to the principles set out.
Types of fats
Saturated fats tend to increase blood cholesterol. These are mostly of animal origin, are often semi-solid or solid, and include the fats in whole milk, cream, cheese, butter, meat, and coconut oil.
Monounsaturated fats have very little effect one way or the other on blood cholesterol. Olive and peanut oil are well-known examples.
Polyunsaturated fats can lower blood cholesterol and are usually liquid oil extracted from plant seed. Examples are maize (corn), cottonseed, soy bean, sunflower, and safflower oils.
Because of their high content of polyunsaturated fat, seed oils are extensively used in fat-controlled cardiac diets. They are not taken like a medicine, but are used in food preparation and cooking. Good quality safflower oil and maize (corn) oil are particularly suitable, and are available at most grocery stores.
Certain margarines contain a relatively large amount of polyunsaturated fat. (Ordinarily, margarines are composed partly of liquid oils treated to make them solid and suitable for storage; but in the process the polyunsaturated content is greatly reduced.)
These special polyunsaturated margarines on the market are helpful in reducing blood cholesterol, but because of incomplete information on package labels it may be difficult to know which to select.
Consult your doctor on which special margarines to buy for the purposes of your diet.
Cholesterol in food
As well as changing the type of fat, it is necessary to reduce the quantity of cholesterol in the diet.
Foods which contain a high content of cholesterol are: butter, cheese, cream, egg-yolk, organ meats such as liver, brain, kidneys, and sea foods such as shellfish, crabs, lobster, prawns, etc.
Cardiac diet plan
Fat from all sources is limited to about 35 percent of each day’s calories. As much of this fat as possible is to be polyunsaturated.
Saturated fats and cholesterol are not eliminated entirely, because this would require excessive change in your eating habits, and would deprive you of important protein, vitamins, and essential elements found in meat and eggs.
However, eggs are limited and organ meats and certain sea foods are excluded. Butter and ordinary margarines are excluded, but the special margarines are allowed.
You can include non-fat foods according to your appetite and custom, but they should be regulated to the extent necessary to maintain your weight at a suitable level – on which point your doctor can advise you.
You can eliminate still more saturated fat from your diet through careful selection and preparation of meat.
The lean cuts of beef are the ones to look for – such as round, rump, topside, and fillet steak.
Veal cutlets, chops, and roasts and yearling steaks and chump chops are also good choices, because the fat can be easily removed. Leg of lamb, trimmed of fat, is also a satisfactory choice.
Avoid cuts such as rolled roast and porterhouse, blade, or T-bone steak, loin and shoulder chops, and fat pork, where the fat is distributed throughout and cannot be removed. Also avoid organ meats such as liver, kidney, brain, or tripe.
After you have selected your meat, have the butcher trim away all visible fat. When you get home, cut off any he may have missed.
Have mince ground to order from lean round. Do not buy it already ground.
Do not use canned or frozen cooked-meat dishes, luncheon sausage, salami, or frozen fish fingers. You have no way of knowing how much fat, or what kind of fat, they contain.
Remember that fish, chicken, and turkey are good selections, because they contain less fat than most meats.
Meat, fish, and poultry may be prepared in almost all the familiar ways.
But you can further reduce the saturated fat in your chosen lean meat (and in poultry, too) by following a few simple rules in cooking:
Use a rack when grilling, roasting, or baking so that the fat can drain off.
If possible, do not baste, since basting returns some of the fat to the food. (To keep the meat moist, pour wine, tomato juice, or clear soup over it.)
When you make stews, boiled meat, soup stock, or other dishes in which fat cooks out into the liquid, do your cooking a day ahead of time. After the food has been cooled the hardened fat can be removed.
You will find when using oils that food is much better cooked at lower temperatures. It is also best to avoid overheating to a point where smoking occurs.
As you gain experience in cooking with seed oils, you will probably discover new ways to use them. As a start, try the following:
- In grilling or baking fish or poultry.
- As an ingredient in barbecue sauces and sauces for marinating meat, chicken, or fish.
- In french dressing and mayonnaise.
- In cooking vegetables with little or no water. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil for each serving. Put oil and vegetables in saucepan with tight cover, season, and cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are done – about 5 to 15 minutes. Add a little water or other liquid during cooking, if needed.
- As a seasoning with herbs and vinegar or lemon juice, if desired, for cooked vegetables.
- In browning meats for stews, pot roasts, etc.
- In pan-frying or oven frying meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables such as potatoes and eggplant.
- In white sauces made with skim milk.
- In mashed or scalloped potatoes, with skim milk added.
- For making hot breads scones, etc.
- In browning rice before adding liquid and in making Spanish rice, curried rice, or Chinese fried rice.
- In cooking “instant” potatoes and other prepared foods in which the fat is added at home.
- In making pie crust and cakes.
When eating out
Get into the habit of saying NO to white sauces, fried foods, casseroles and other mixed dishes, creamed foods, gravies, cheeses, ice creams, puddings, cakes, pies, and similar desserts.
Choose from these items if you can:
- For first course, clear soup, tomato juice, fruit cup.
- For main dish: fish or chicken (baked or grilled without butter), sliced turkey or veal, lean corned beef, fish salad (with dressing or mayonnaise served separately), vegetables (if butter has not been added).
- For dessert: fruit and jellies.