Pick the Right Protein

We are not going to tell you to avoid red (or white) meat entire on the Plan. But we are going ti help you find healthier alternatives to hamburgers For, as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (( mPL) notes: “Ground beef adds more fat—and more artery-clogging saturated fat-—to the average American’s diet than any other single food. Plus. vou can’t trim away fat irom ground meat like you can with steak or pork.” And don’t think you’re safe if you stick with “lean” or even “extra lean” ground meat. The USDA allows ground beef that is up to 22.5 percent fat to be called “lean,” even though most other foods labeled “lean” must contain no more than 10 percent fat. One 4-ounce serving of lean ground beef still contains 16 grams of fat , 7 of them saturated.

Chose Your Cuts Carefully

Beef and pork per se are not bad. Today’s pork, for instance, is much leaner than il used to be, containing on average 31 percent less fat. 14 percent lewer calones. and 10) percent less cholesterol than just 20 years ago. Today’s beef is 27 percent leaner than 20 years ago, with more than 40 percent of beef cuts having no external fat at all. And although beef, pork, and lamb are high in saturated fat, about 30 percent of that fat comes from stearic acid, a type of saturated fat that does not appear to have the same heart-damaging effects of most saturated fal; some studies even suggest it can lower cholesterol.

One study compared the effects of the National Cholesterol Education Program’s Step Diet, which eliminated all beef and pork in favor of chicken and fish, to a diet that included 6 ounces of lean red meat five to seven days a week. The result? Both groups saw their total cholesterol drop 1 percent and their LDL 2 percent, while their HDL increased 3 to 4 percent.

While lean meat is no bad guy, you don’t want meat to make up most of your meals. Why not? Because that would mean you’re not getting as much fish or plant based protein from foods like beans, which have clear cholesterol-lowering benefits. So on the Plan you don’t have to scratch meat off your shopping list, but you’ll be limiting your consumption in order to make room in your diet for other heart-healthy foods. Here is a chart to help you choose the leanest cuts. Remember to watch your portion size: 3 ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards or a computer mouse.

Go Wild for Game

If you’re a meat lover, give some of the wild game meats turning up in grocery store a try. Grain-fed beef (which includes practically any beef you buy in the supermarket) has as much as 36 percent fat, while game meats such as bison, wildfowl, and venison have about 3 to 4 percent, like most fish. A 3-ounce serving of venison, for instance, contains 2.7 grams of fat, none of it saturated, while a 3-ounce serving of buffalo has just 2 grams of fat, less than 1 gram saturated. And game meats also contain more omega-3 fatty acids.

To get the most out of game

  • Marinate meats in low-fal marinades and sauces to improve tenderness.
  • When sautéing add a little olive or canola oil for tenderness and flavor.
  • Some game meats taste, well, “gamey.” If that doesn’t appeal to you, first try small amounts as part of stir-fries, casseroles, and rice dishes. See which meat suits your taste buds before stocking up your freezer.

Get Hooked on Fish

Not only are fish and seafood wonderful, low-fat replacements for higher-fat meats,but as we mentioned earlier, they’re the best source of omega-3 fatty acids you’ll find.

On the Plan you’ll be aiming to eat fish and seafood three to four times a week. (People who absolutely can’t stand fish and those who are allergic to shellfish can substitute other lean forms

You don’t have to get fancy; tuna-even canned-is per- fectly fine. In fact, in one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who ate 8 ounces or more of fish per week-mostly from canned tuna-lowered their risk of a having a fatal heart attack by 40 percent over those who didn’t eat fish regularly. But buy your tuna packed in water; when you drain oil-packed tuna, you also drain as much as one- quarter of the omega-3 fatty acids; draining water-packed tuna removes just 3 percent.

And don’t worry about the cholesterol in shellfish. When 18 men with normal cholesterol levels replaced the animal protein in their diet with protein from shellfish (oysters, clams, crabs, and mussels), their LDL/HDL ratios either dropped or remained the same, and their VLDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol dropped.

If eating three to four fish servings a week seems impossible, check out these simple ways to “go fishing”:

Can it. Canned tuna is terrific, but there are also canned salmon and sardines to consider. Sardines provide calcium from the easily digestible bones they include. Mix sardines with low-fat mayonnaise and spread on whole wheat crackers for a great snack or light lunch,

Get fresh. The flesh of fish should spring back when pressed, its surface should glisten, and it shouldn’t smell fishy. Frozen is generally a good bet, since it’s often flash-frozen on docks or on the fishing boats themselves.

Eat the “other” steak. Salmon can be broiled, pan-fried, or grilled just like a steak, only much quicker, If you’re  grilling salmon fillets, place them on alurninum foil andcook them skin-side up; the fat under the skin will bathe the fish beneath, which will add flavor and moisture.

Be a poacher. To poach fish, heat a quarter-inch of liquid (broth, wine, or even water flavored with a crab boil like Old Bay seasoning) in a pan, add the fish and gently simmer for 10 minutes or so.

Anchovies, anyone? Order them on pizza (and ask for less cheese). Mashed anchovies form the flavorful base for numerous Mediterranean inspired sauces, such as puttanesca, clam sauce, and even Caesar salad dressing.

Go clamming. Clams are packed with those sterols we talked about earlier, chemicals that prevent your body from absorbing cholesterol. Enjoy them in clam chowder, use canned clams for a quick seafood strew, or mix them with nonfat sour cream for a low-fat. veggie dip. And don’t forget about clam sauce over whole wheat linguine.

About shrimp. No need to shy away from this crustacean, Although shrimp are relatively high in cholesterol, they’re very low in saturated fat and are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. So enjoy them in stir-fries, chopped over a Salad, or thrown into that seafood chowder you’re making, Just skip the scampi style, which is usually laden with butter.

Meatless Meals

Let’s say you’re eating fish two nights a week (Congratulations!) And perhaps you’re choosing lean cuts of meat to cook on three nights. What do you do on the other two? Try going vegetarian. Now before visions of rabbit food or bulgur meatloaf swim through your heacl, rest assured: You can make a hearty and satisfying meal by using meat substitutes like the ones below. Besides adding diversity to your menus, theyalso bring cholesterol-lowering benefits all their own. Here are some ideas:
Soy. Okay, tofu may not top your list of favorite foods, maybe because you think it has no taste, or perhaps you don’t like the texture. We can solve both problems. If you think you don’t like tofu, it’s worth giving it another try—it’s an excellent meat substitute, and it will even help lower your cholesterol on its own if you eat enough of it. A word to the wise: Don’t buy tofu sold loose in open containers, as it may be contaminated with bacteria. Instead, buy packaged tofu in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

Here are some tasty ways to try soy:

  • Add firm tofu to stir-fries. The tofu will soak up the flavors you cook with and taste delicious.
  • Stir soy crumbles (found in the frozen food section) into spaghetti sauce or vegetable stews. They’ll provide some meat-like texture without altering the taste.
  • Try steamed edamame, the actual soybean, sprinkled with a bit of salt. Or look for roasted soy nuts, which make a fun, healthy snack and provide the perfect crunch to salads.
  • Add tofu and some fresh spinach to chicken broth and a bit of miso (fermented soybean paste, available in the Asian foods section of the grocery store) for a quick, light soup.
  • Try a soy burger. Some really do taste like meat,

Beans. Loaded with soluble fiber, beans are a powerful way to cut your cholesterol. How powerful? When one researcher had 20 men with high cholesterol eat about 1’/2 cups of pinto and navy beans a day, their total cholesterol dropped an average of 56 points, and their LDL an average of 51 peints. There are countless ways to make beans part of your meals. For lunch, try black bean or lentil soup, or toss garbanzo beans over a hefty salad. For dinner, make vegetarian chili or add a can of rinsed white beans to pasta dishes.

Eggplant. Few other vegetables can fool the palate and eye as well as eggplant. This fibrous purple vegetable soaks up flavoring like a sponge, (Unfortunately, it also soaks up oil the same way, so avoid frying it.) And eggplant is very filling, with virtually no fat. Try making eggplant Parmesan by baking slices of bread crumb-encrusted eggplant (instead of frying them) and covering with skim mozzarella cheese; using eggplant in place of meat in lasagna; and sauteing eggplant with tomatoes, onions, squash, and garlic and serving over brown rice for a delicious ratatouille,

Portobello mushrooms. These have a surprisingly meaty texture that is good enough to substitute for burgers on buns or beef in wraps. Grill them with a brushing of olive and balsamic vinegar and use them ayway you like. Several studies have found that mushroom high in fiber and plant sterols, can help lower cholestrol.

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