Christmas time is often a time of over-indulgence for many of us and, while we're not saying you should change the way you celebrate this year, if you're concerned about high cholesterol, there's plenty of ways you can keep a healthy balance between staying healthy and enjoying the holidays to their fullest this Christmas and throughout the New Year. Nutrition isn't about giving up all the foods you love (and trying to do that is usually counter-productive anyway), so this Christmas, forget about extreme low cholesterol diets and instead focus on simple heart-healthy swaps that you can incorporate into all your holiday meals to reap the most benefits and build some healthy habits that you can bring with you into the New Year.
Eat This, Not That
Red meat can be particularly high in cholesterol, so if you're looking to eat heart-healthy this year, a delicious roast chicken or turkey for your Christmas dinner is the perfect option. Here on the Costa del Sol, Christmas dinners traditionally include plenty of fish and seafood too, which is naturally high in cholesterol-fighting omega-3s so you should have a plethora of tasty (and fresh!) cholesterol-friendly options on any holiday menu, whether you're picking something up at the supermarket to make at home, are eating at a friend's house, or are enjoying a meal in one of Marbella's incredible restaurants.
Butter is a notorious cholesterol foe but also a staple in many recipes at Christmas time so try to skip pastry-based foods when possible and opt for fruit-based desserts or chocolate (especially dark chocolate) treats. Cookies can be heavy in butter too, so if given the option between the two, cakes are a safer bet when it comes to keeping your cholesterol in check. When cooking at home, butter can be swapped for plant-based margarines that are lower in cholesterol or cook up savoury dishes using avocado oil, coconut oil or olive oil instead. Coconut oil is also a great alternative to goose fat when roasting potatoes to go along with your Christmas dinner and will still give you an amazing crispy-crunchy outside and fluffy inside too.
Eggnog, especially if not the low fat variety, isn't the best option if you're watching your cholesterol intake this holiday season, but if you're looking to ring in the new year with a little tipple, cider or wine (or better still, a wine spritzer) is a better, lower cholesterol option.
Other easy lower-cholesterol swaps you can look to make this holiday season include swapping greek yoghurt for sour cream, making home-made stuffing and gravy instead of pre-packaged or instant versions from the supermarket, and snacking on nuts (particularly walnuts) instead of crisps. It's all about finding a healthy balance between foods you know you love and delicious lower cholesterol alternatives so you don't even realize just how healthy you're eating over the holidays!
Heart-Healthy Christmas Habits
Even if you're not willing or able to change up the foods you eat this holiday season, or find yourself slipping in your heart-healthy diet plan more often than you'd like, you can still make a healthier change in your diet by shifting your focus from what foods you're eating to serving sizes of your favourite foods instead. Even non cholesterol-friendly foods can be eaten in moderation, so choosing smaller portion sizes (grab a smaller plate to trick your mind into thinking you have more), and knowing it's ok to leave food on your plate when you feel full are both great mindsets to be in when trying to eat healthier this Christmas. A short walk every day to admire Christmas lights, an on-foot Christmas shopping spree (or window shopping spree), and making your New Year's resolution to quit smoking are all great non-dietary ways to lower your cholesterol and live a heart-healthier life this holiday season and beyond.
Should You Even Worry About Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a naturally-occurring substance in everybody's blood that's essential to healthy body function. When it comes to cholesterol though, it's possible to have too much of a good thing. In this case, if too much cholesterol forms in the body, it can block arteries, reducing blood flow to essential organs, particularly the heart, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. In terms of nutrition, this means that even if you haven't been diagnosed with high cholesterol, it's still a good idea to be aware of your cholesterol levels and strive for a heart-healthy diet. Regular check-ups with your family doctor or GP are also beneficial for staying aware of your cholesterol levels and, if you have a family history of or are at higher risk of heart disease or diabetes, maintaining a low cholesterol diet can make a big difference in staying healthy before any problems arise.
For those who have already been diagnosed with high cholesterol, lifestyle changes including a diet low in unsaturated fats, sodium and carbohydrates but high in fibre, omega-3s, wholegrain cereals, fruits and vegetables is the best start to lowering your cholesterol, alongside increasing heart-healthy exercises and quitting smoking. These lifestyle changes are often the first and only step needed to lower and maintain your cholesterol to healthy levels, but for some, these measures aren't effective or aren't effective enough and cholesterol-lowering medications may also be prescribed by your cardiologist. High cholesterol can lead to a number of cardiovascular issues though, so no matter what treatment options you're pursuing, if you have high cholesterol, annual check-ups are always recommended to keep a close eye on your cholesterol levels so that treatment can be adjusted as needed and interventions can take place should any complications to your heart or cardiovascular system arise.
Keeping Your Cholesterol In Check With CardioCare
CardioCare Marbella is a private cardiology clinic on the Costa del Sol with expertise in all aspects of cardiovascular health, including high cholesterol. Our internationally-trained doctors, cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists can help you assess your risk of high cholesterol, diagnose high cholesterol or cardiovascular complications due to it and offer world-renowned treatment options including nutrition advice, medication options and, when necessary, minimally-invasive interventions using the latest technology. As experts in the cardiovascular system, our preventative and early detection check-ups are also specifically designed to offer heart-healthy care before serious issues arise, so you can stay on top of your health, and our specialized cholesterol consultations, cardiovascular clinics and continuous care programmes are specifically designed for those who have or are at risk of chronic conditions like high cholesterol, so you have complete, on-going support in getting your health to where you want it to be. In short, your heart is in the best of hands with CardioCare.
If you're concerned or simply have questions about your cholesterol or heart health, book a consultation with our cardiology doctors today. At CardioCare, we pride ourselves on providing answers to whatever question you have or solutions to any symptom you're experiencing.
You can reach CardioCare on +34 677 759 003 or by sending us an appointment request online through our website.