Are you looking for a healthy heart? If so, you may want to look towards the east, and I don’t mean the east coast of the United States. Many of us are looking away from the typical Western diet and discovering healthy foods in the Far East. Not only are Asian diets extremely tasty and quite trendy at the moment, they are chock full of ingredients that are heart healthy too and can help you lower your cholesterol. Incorporating Asian foods into your weekly routine can add fiber and heart healthy fats. It can also help you limit your intake of saturated fat, typically consumed in higher than recommended amounts in the Western diet.
Appetizing Asian diet
Asia is a vast continent comprising of 48 different countries with cuisines ranging from Japanese and Chinese to Indian and several countries throughout the Middle East. Most of these diets are full of fiber containing vegetables and grains as the main part of the meal and include very little red meat. When meat is consumed in many of the coastal areas throughout Asia, fish is often the choice. Fish is high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to reduce cholesterol levels.
Focus on Fiber
Asian diets include a variety of vegetables, such bok choy in Chinese stir-fry, seaweed in Japanese miso soup, cabbage in Korean kimchi and snow peas in Thai curry. Grains in the form of rice and noodles are a staple in many South-east Asian countries while couscous is eaten throughout the Middle East in countries such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh locals dine on naan and lentils. Mung beans are eaten throughout Asia and peanuts are served in their whole form in a variety of starters or as a sauce. Fruit is often served as a dessert throughout the entire continent of Asia. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and free of cholesterol. Fiber found in plant foods have been shown to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Saturated fat found in many animal products can increase blood cholesterol, but fish is high in cholesterol lowering omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon and tuna are commonly used in sushi and are both fatty and rich in heart healthy omega-3s. Vegetables contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which keep cholesterol levels in control and can help to decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol. Although coconut is used in many different ways in Asian cuisine, and it is high in saturated fat, it’s mostly in the form of medium chain triglycerides and is primarily utilized as energy by the body.
Soy has made quite a splash in the west in recent years and options are a plenty! Several Asian countries consume a lot of soy products in the form of tofu, tempeh, and edamame. Tofu and tempeh are eaten in place of meat in many dishes and edamame is often consumed as a snack or side dish. The protein found in soy has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Soy is also low in saturated fat and rich in heart healthy polyunsaturated fats.
With such variety in flavors, ingredients, and food choices, the Asian diet provides something for everyone looking to lower their cholesterol or simply maintain a healthy heart. Kanpai!