10 Foods to Break Your Low-Cholesterol Diet Rut

From the WebMD Archives

Life’s too short to settle for a stale diet.

It's fine to rely on a few key heart-healthy foods for your cholesterol-friendly diet, but you want to avoid burnout.

If you can recite your daily menu by heart, swap in some new foods, says Tara Gidus, RD, of Orlando, FL.

There's a perk. “By mixing up your food choices you’ll get a wider array of nutrients on a daily and weekly basis,” says Gidus, who co-wrote the Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies.

Try these 10 ideas to tickle your taste buds once again.

1. Old Fave: Olive Oil. New Fave: Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is pressed from the pulp that surrounds the avocado pit. It's got a buttery flavor. "Good" monounsaturated fat makes up about 72% of its calories, the same as olive oil.

“The monounsaturated fat in avocado oil helps protect your heart by reducing LDL cholesterol levels and improving your blood pressure numbers,” says Washington, DC, dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield, RD.“Avocado oil is also high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that can help to reduce inflammation.”

Serve it up: Use avocado oil as you would extra-virgin olive oil in vinaigrettes, pesto, dips, or drizzled on sliced tomatoes. It can also take medium-high heat, so you can use it to saute meats and vegetables.

2. Old Fave: Salmon. New Fave: Sablefish

Sablefish, also called black cod, hails from the deep waters of the North Pacific. It's got pearly-white buttery flesh and texture similar to that of halibut.

Like salmon, it's rich in omega-3s. Wild sablefish from waters off the Alaskan coast are a sustainable seafood choice, too.

Serve it up: You can grill, steam, broil, poach, bake, or sear sablefish fillets. It takes well to sauces, salsas, and spice rubs, too.

3. Old Fave: Carrots. New Fave: Parsnips

These root vegetables have a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. They have 60% more fiber than Bugs Bunny’s favorite veg.

Fiber is good for your cholesterol and keeps you feeling full longer. You'll also get nutrients like vitamins C and K, folate, and potassium.

Serve it up: Unlike carrots, parsnips are almost always better when cooked. Roast to boost their natural sweetness, or chop and add to stews and soups.

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4. Old Fave: Peanut Butter. New Fave: Almond Butter

Almond butter is sweeter and has more monounsaturated fat, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Look for a brand that lists one simple ingredient: almonds.

Serve it up: Make your toast tastier, spoon some into your oatmeal, or add to smoothies.

5. Old Fave: Green Lentils. New Fave: Black Lentils

Black lentils, sometimes called beluga lentils because of the beluga caviar they resemble, are less earthy-tasting than most other lentils. You'll get about 12 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber in a half-cup cooked. They also have anthocyanins, antioxidants that are also in dark berries.

Serve it up: Black lentils hold their shape and texture once cooked. Try them in soups or in salads mixed with chopped veggies and vinaigrette.

6. Old Fave: Flaxseed. New Fave: Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds (also called hemp hearts) are blessed with a toothsome, nutty flavor like that of pine nuts. They have more protein than many other seeds: about 10 grams in 3 tablespoons.

“They’re also rich in vitamin E, iron, potassium, fiber, and magnesium,” Scritchfield says.

A Harvard School of Medicine study found that people who have more magnesium in their diets may lower their odds of getting heart disease by up to 30%. Scritchfield praises hemp seeds for their healthy ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which your body needs.

Serve it up: Sprinkle hemp seeds on cereal, yogurt, fruit salads, stir-fries, soups, salads, and cooked whole grains.

7. Old Fave: Green Tea. New Fave: Matcha Tea

Green tea is a great source of antioxidants called catechins, which improve blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. Matcha includes the whole tea leaf, ground into very fine powder, which you drink. It can have 137 times the amount of an antioxidant called EGCG in a traditional green tea, University of Colorado researchers found.

Serve it up: Whisk matcha powder with steamed water for a warm drink. Or add it to a smoothie, salad dressing, or homemade ice cream or baked goods.

8. Old Fave: Banana. New Fave: Plantain

Popular in Latin American and Asian cuisine, the plantain is a big brother to the banana. It’s rich in vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium. “Our heart muscles require potassium to keep it beating strongly,” Scritchfield says.

Serve it up: Green plantains are best for thickening stews. If they're yellow with a few black dots, you can saute them, simmer in curries and stews, roast, or grill them. Once their skin is almost completely black, they’re sweet enough for you to blend them into smoothies, pancake batters, and oatmeal.

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9. Old Fave: Whole Wheat Pasta. New Fave: Soba Noodles

These nutty-tasting Japanese noodles are made from buckwheat, a whole grain rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and an antioxidant called rutin.

Despite its name, buckwheat isn't related to wheat and is gluten-free. Still, if you’re on a gluten-free diet, check the ingredients list, since some soba noodles are made with a mix of buckwheat flour and wheat flour.

Serve it up: You can cook soba like other pasta, but it cooks faster. Drain it and rinse with cold water to remove extra starch.

10. Old Fave: Oatmeal. New Fave: Quinoa Flakes

Are you so over oatmeal? Make a warm bowl of quinoa porridge. Like rolled oats, quinoa flakes are steamed and then rolled to flatten them. They cook faster than regular quinoa without losing nutrition.

Serve it up: Add 1/3 cup quinoa flakes and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to 1 cup simmering water. Stir until creamy in texture. Top with your choice of nuts and fruits. Also use quinoa flakes instead of oats when making granola or fruit crisps.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on August 06, 2014

Sources

SOURCES:

Tara Gidus, RD, dietitian, Orlando, FL; co-author, Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies, For Dummies, 2013.

University of Michigan Health System: "Healing Foods Pyramid: Fish and Seafood."

La Tourangelle Artisan Oils: "Avocado Oil."

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch: "Sablefish."

U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Basic Report: 04053, Oil, olive, salad or cooking," "Basic Report: 04581, Oil, avocado," "Basic Report: 15074, Fish, sablefish, raw," "Basic Report: 11124, Carrots, raw," "Basic Report: 11298, Parsnips, raw," "Basic Report: 12195, Nuts, almond butter, plain, without salt added,” "Basic Report: 16398: Peanut butter, smooth style, without salt," "Basic Report: 20011, Buckwheat flour, whole-groat," "Basic Report: 09277, Plantains, raw."

Barry Farm: "Black Beluga Lentils."

InHarvest: "Black Beluga Lentils.

North Bay Trading Co. "Black Beluga Lentils."

Takeoka, G. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, June 15, 2005.

Manitoba Harvest: "Hemp Hearts," "FAQs."

Nutiva: "Organic Shelled Hempseed."

Del Gobbo, L. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2013.

Khalesi, S. European Journal of Nutrition, May 2014.

Onakpoya, I. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, August 2014.

Weiss, D. Journal of Chromatography, Sept. 5, 2003.

National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin B6 Functions."

Eden Foods: "Soba, 100% Buckwheat."

Sedej, I. Journal of Food Science, September 2012.

Guo, X. Molecules, December 2011.

GoGo Quinoa: "Quinoa Flakes (pre-cooked)."

Rebecca Scritchfield, RD, nutrition counselor, Washington, DC.

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