5 Tactics To Reduce Cholesterol Quickly

Did you know that for every 10% drop in your cholesterol level, your heart attack risk drops by 20% to 30%? There’s more good news: Most of us can reduce cholesterol quickly, and without the need for medications. Simple lifestyle strategies can be very powerful.That’s what several studies on thousands following the Pritikin Program of diet and exercise have found. Within three weeks, people were able to lower their cholesterol levels on average 23%, which translates into a 46% to 69% drop in heart attack risk.1Below are 5 of the key lifestyle-change tactics taught by the physicians, registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, and other faculty at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami for fast, significant lowering of cholesterol levels, particularly LDL bad cholesterol.

If you’re serious about lowering your cholesterol and taking good care of your heart, these 5 tactics are a great place to start. They’ll also help you shed excess weight, which will also improve heart health.

1. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans

Our typical American diet is now abbreviated as SAD (Standard American Diet) by scientists nationwide because it’s full of foods that do sad things to both hearts and waistlines. Hyperprocessed foods like potato chips and French fries. Sugar-saturated drinks. And fatty, artery-clogging meats and full-fat dairy foods like cheese.

We don’t have to become complete vegetarians to get our cholesterol levels into healthy ranges, studies on the Pritikin Program have found, but clearly, the more vegetables, fruits, potatoes, and other naturally-fiber-rich plant foods we eat, the healthier we’ll be.

Plant foods high in soluble fiber are especially beneficial in lowering total and LDL bad cholesterol levels. Good sources include beans (pinto beans, black beans, etc), yams, oats (yes, eat your oatmeal!), barley, and berries.

For simple tips on bringing more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans into your life, here is a 5-day sample healthy meal plan from the doctors and dietitians at Pritikin Longevity Center.

2. Eat far fewer of the following fats…

  • SATURATED FATS

    Foods with a lot of heart-damaging saturated fat include butter, meat, palm oil, coconut oil, and full-fat and low-fat dairy products, such as whole milk, low-fat milk, cheese, and cream.

  • TRANS FATS

    If you see partially hydrogenated fat in the Ingredient List of a food label, that food has trans fats, which not only raise bad LDL cholesterol, they also lower good HDL cholesterol.

  • DIETARY CHOLESTEROL

    Top sources of dietary cholesterol include egg yolks, organ meats, and shellfish.

One type of fat – omega-3 fatty acids – has been shown to protect against heart disease. Excellent sources are cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, halibut, trout, herring, and sardines.

But do keep in mind that limiting fat intake, even so-called “good” fats like omega-3 fat or Mediterranean-style fats like olive oil, is a good idea because any fat is dense with calories, which means heavy consumption can easily lead to a heavy body. That’s bad news not just for our weight but our hearts because being overweight adversely affects blood cholesterol levels.

Excess weight is linked not just to heart disease but to a staggering list of other woes, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, gout, dementia, and many cancers.

3. Eat more plant sources of protein…

Excellent plant proteins include beans – all beans, like lentils, red beans, pinto beans, and soybeans. Rather than raising blood cholesterol levels, as animal sources of protein do, beans actually help lower cholesterol.

Beans also help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, and may even lower cancer risk.

When choosing products made from soybeans, stick to:

  • SOYBEANS

    (available in most grocery store freezer sections, often described as edamame)

  • SOYMILK

    vanilla, original, or unsweetened

  • TOFU

    (unflavored/unmarinated – found in refrigerator cases)

All the above are great choices for your cholesterol profile and overall health.

4. Eat fewer refined grains, such as white flour.

We’re a nation of “white food” eaters – white bread, white rice, white pasta, and white-flour foods like muffins, croissants, bagels, crackers, dried cereals, tortillas, pretzels, and chips. Yes, more than half of many Americans’ typical diets are made up of hyperprocessed refined white flour, often injected with sugar, salt, and/or fat.

That’s a real problem in part because the more white, or refined, grains we eat, the fewer whole grains we tend to take in. Research has found that eating whole grains can help lower both total and LDL cholesterol, and improve heart health.

In Harvard University’s Nurses’ Health Study, for example, women who ate two to three servings of whole-grain products (mostly bread and breakfast cereals) each day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease over a 10-year period than women who ate less than one serving of whole grains per week.2

When first starting to make the switch from refined to whole grains, many people often feel a bit confused. Where to begin? What’s whole? What isn’t?

The registered dietitians at the Pritikin Longevity Center start with one very simple rule. When looking at products like breads and cereals, they recommend turning the package around and making sure the first word in the Ingredient List is “whole.” If you see the word “whole” at the top of the list, it’s a good bet that what you’re buying is in fact 100% whole grain, or close to it.

3 Healthy Crockpot Recipes

 

3 Healthy Crockpot Recipes

A CROCKPOT (ALSO CALLED A SLOW COOKER) COOKS FOOD VERY, VERY SLOWLY, BUT THE AMOUNT OF TIME YOU’RE ACTUALLY SPENDING IN THE KITCHEN IS OFTEN VERY, VERY QUICK.

That’s the beauty of crockpots. They truly are a “set it and forget it” kind of cooking. There’s absolutely no need to tend to it. The steam inside condenses on the lid and returns to the pot to keep food moist, even after cooking many hours.

Easy to Prepare Healthy Crockpot Recipes

Turn on your crockpot. Then walk away!

And, oh my, what you’re rewarded with is deep, savory, slow-cooked flavor – what many restaurants now describe as “kettle cooking.”

In particular, healthy crockpot recipes do wonderful things for dried beans, rendering them creamy-buttery on the inside while firm and  intact on the outside.

Our Executive Chef Anthony Stewart is also a big fan of crockpots. In his “Becoming a Pritikin Chef” lecture at the Pritikin Longevity Center, he points out that many of the Pritikin recipes, particularly the soups and stews, lend themselves well to crockpot cooking.

“You have better control, you don’t need to be hanging around the kitchen supervising the cooking, the nutrition and flavors are locked in, your meal stays warm until ready to serve, and you serve it directly from the crockpot to your dinner plate or bowl, so there’s a lot less clean-up.”

Crockpot cooking is just a lot less work overall. The following 3 healthy crockpot recipes can help you get started.

Healthy Crockpot Recipes…

Salsa Chicken – Two Ingredients. That’s it!

Here’s the easiest recipe ever! It’s just two ingredients: chicken breasts and salsa. (Do read labels to make sure you’re getting low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties of salsa.)

You simply put a pound or two of boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the bottom of the crockpot. Then pour salsa over the top of the chicken, enough to cover the chicken about one-half inch.

Then turn on the crockpot. You’re done!

If you’re new to slow cooking, do read the user manual so that you’re aware of any requirements regarding your particular crockpot.

For Salsa Chicken using my crockpot, I simply set the temperature to LOW. In four hours the chicken breasts are nicely cooked.  I then remove the lid and with a fork shred the breasts so that the salsa soaks in everywhere.

I put the lid back on and let the shredded chicken sit there in the nice warm crockpot for a few minutes, heat turned off, while I get the rest of dinner ready.

What emerges from the crockpot is a deliciously juicy chicken that can be used in all sorts of ways.

  • Make fajitas by ladling some of your chicken into whole-wheat tortillas with sliced green bell peppers and onions, stir-fried or raw.
  • Use your Salsa Chicken as a topping over a big green salad (you don’t even need salad dressing) laced with sliced radishes and cucumbers, or any crunchy-style veggies you have on hand.
  • Ladle your chicken over a cooked whole grain like brown rice. It works really well as a potato topper, too.
  • Or whip up a super easy Mexican-style soup by adding your Salsa Chicken to a pot on the stove with some low-sodium chicken broth, pinto beans (canned, no salt-added), and corn (just pour in a cup or so from a bag of frozen corn). Heat your soup for about 15 minutes, and enjoy.

Feeling a little more ambitious and want completely vegetarian? And some of those creamy beans?

Try this…

  • Lentil and Barley Soup
  • Want the deep, slow-cooked flavors of rich, creamy beans and barley without spending a lot of time in the kitchen? Try our delicious crockpot Lentil and Barley Soup.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
6 2-cup portions 20 minutes hours

Ingredients

Servings:  2-cup portions

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a 4-quart or larger crockpot. Cover. Cook on HIGH setting 5 to 6 hours or until lentils are desired tenderness. If using LOW setting, cook 10 to 12 hours or until lentils are desired tenderness.

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Setting the heat

The cooking temperature for crockpots is the same on all settings – about 210 degrees. So the setting you choose (usually LOW or HIGH) merely dictates how quickly your slow cooker gets to that temperature.

I like using the LOW setting as often as I can because I find that its slower, gentler cooking does a really nice job of bringing out flavors. And with 8-plus hours of cooking time, I can be gone all day from the house and not worry about dinner overcooking.

One more note: Most modern slow cookers will automatically convert to a “warming” setting at the end of cooking. So if you’re getting home a little later than expected, you know dinner isn’t overcooking.

Prepping the night before

There’s no need to get up early in the morning to chop up ingredients for your evening’s crockpot dinner.

Instead, prepare everything the night before. Put your ingredients into your slow-cooker’s ceramic pot, and cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. Come morning, get it out, lower it back down into your slow cooker machine, turn it on, and walk out the door.

Converting recipes

For converting recipes you already have into crockpot-style cooking, here are some general guidelines:

  • If a dish usually takes 1 to 2 hours on the stove, cook it in your crockpot for 3 to 4 hours on HIGH or 6 to 8 hours on LOW.
  • If a dish usually take 2 to 4 hours on the stove, cook it in your crockpot for 4 to 6 hours on HIGH or 8 to 12 hours on LOW.
  • Root vegetables such as beets, carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, and turnips can take longer than other vegetables, so put them near the heat source – the bottom of the pot.

Here’s our third healthy crockpot recipe. It takes just a few minutes to assemble but delivers loads of hearty, snappy flavor.

Healthy Crockpot Recipes…

  • Cajun-Style Red Beans and Rice
  • Our Cajun-Style Red Beans and Rice takes just a few minutes to assemble but delivers loads of hearty, snappy flavor.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
6 one-cup servings 20 minutes hours

Ingredients

Servings:  one-cup servings

Instructions

  1. Add all your ingredients to your crockpot, veggies on top. Cook on LOW for around 7 hours. Cooking times may vary depending on your crockpot.

As Chef Anthony and his fellow chefs at the Pritikin Longevity Center have always taught, don’t constrain yourself with written recipes.

Go with what you like – any ingredients you like! Some experiments may not first turn out as well as you imagined, but that’s okay. Make notes. Incorporate them the next time. When it comes to cooking – any kind of cooking – practice makes perfect.

FOR HEALTHY CROCKPOT COOKING, HERE ARE 4 GENERAL GUIDELINES:
  1. Put your dried beans, root vegetables, and seasonings on the bottom of your crockpot.
  2. Add enough stock or water to cover your ingredients about one-quarter to one-half inch.
  3. Then add your other veggies – a nice hefty pound or two.
  4. Turn on your crockpot. Then walk away!