Cholesterol and Heart-Health: Not Nearly as Simple as We’d Like It To Be

Keep your cholesterol numbers down, particularly the “bad” cholesterol, and you’ll keep your heart healthy…at least that’s what we’d like to think. Sadly, Americans constant search for easy answers about eating and good health gravitate to simple solutions that, most of the time, are simply wrong.

That goes for cholesterol too, according to this article entitled What everyone gets wrong about cholesterol in food on Cnn.com.

The biggest issue, the article notes, “the amount of cholesterol in your food doesn’t necessarily translate to the amount of cholesterol in your blood vessels..”

To elaborate, the article goes on:

‘”Eating foods rich in cholesterol does increase blood cholesterol, usually by a small, but still significant amount,” explained Dr. Stephen Devries, a preventive cardiologist and executive director of the educational nonprofit Gaples Institute in Deerfield, Illinois. But the effect of eating foods that contain a lot of cholesterol “may not be as high as one might expect, because most of the cholesterol in blood actually comes from the body’s own production.” When you consume a bunch of cholesterol, your body will usually make less to compensate.’

Are eggs bad for us because of cholesterol? That’s a more complicated question than you might imagine.

So sorry, it’s not as simple as we’d like. Believe me, I know from first-hand experience. I’ve been on cholesterol-lowering medication since my first stent in 2012 but it didn’t prevent a second blockage in 2017 (and a second stent) and my blood pressure has been elevated recently, so a third blockage could be developing which may require a third angioplasty this summer.

Our bodies and their relationships with what with eat are still much more complex than we know, or would want them to be unfortunately.

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Pandemic Gardening: Here’s some tips for planting in pots

The Pandemic has changed American behavior in countless ways, but one healthy aspect of it has been that people started growing more of their own food.

Pandemic vegetable gardens sprang up across the country last year and it’s likely people already are planting again for this summer. Here’s a good piece for those with little space who rely on big pots for their planting, 10 Vegetables That Thrive in Pots, No Garden Required.

To be fair, I don’t know if I consider herbs and edible flowers as vegetables, but the story does list others like lettuce, tomatoes, kale and even min eggplants. And there is one I never heard of, cucamelons, also known as mouse melons.

The pandemic prompted me to clear out some space on the side of our house for a new raised garden this spring. I’ve planted it with green beans, which can grow even in shady spots such as where the garden is.

So even apartment dwellers whose only outside space might be a terrace can get into the gardening movement, enjoy.

Cucumbers everywhere — here’s 34 recipes to use them

Cucumbers have been on sale a lt lately at my local food stores, which is great since I love putting them in my daily salads. But you can do so much more with them too, as this piece, 34 Recipes to Use Up All Your Fresh Cucumbers shows.

It’s slide show of recipes, so it will take some time to scroll through them all, but you’re bound to find ones you can enjoy.

Chicken and cucumber lettuce wraps sounds good to me, for example. although I would leave out the penaut sauce, I can’t stand the taste of peanuts and many people are allergic to them.

You can find some of my favorite cucumber recipes on our recipe page, just click here.

Sabra Hummus recall — check the states to see if you’re affected

Salmonella has reared its ugly head again, this time in a tub of Sabra hummus. As a result, roughly 2,100 cases of the product ahve been recalled in 16 states by maker Sabra Dipping Company, LLC.

The states affected are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Details of which products are involved:

  • Product name: Sabra’s 10-ounce Classic Hummus
  • UPC code: 300067
  • Best by date: 4/26/21
  • Production date: On: Feb 10 Between: 18:00:27 and 23:49:00

If you have this in your fridge, you can return it to where you bought it or visit www.sabrahummusrecall.com for a refund. Consumers can also contact Sabra Consumer Relations at 1-866-265-6761 for additional information Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. eastern time.

A different take of making your own pizza

I was recently contacted about a new cookbook coming out, the No Sugar Baker Cookbook of Healthy Living and No Regrets. I just received a review copy and will be writing about it soon.

In the meantime, the author sent me a recipe to share. Recipes in the book are geared to diabetics and others watching their sugar/glucose intake. So I was interested to see if the sample recipe also would be low-salt, low-fat. Well, not exactly, I need to modify it a bit, as I often do. But I am intrigued about the idea of using almond flour for the crust. I usually buy a low-salt, super thin crust for mine, you can see that recipe by clicking here.

See my modifications in italic below

No Sugar Baker’s Sausage and Broccoli Pizza To Die For!

Ingredients for Dough:

1 and 3/4 Cs. Almond Flour

½ C. Pasta Sauce (Low Carb) — look for no-salt-added pasta sauce; Trader Joe’s sells one, as does Hunt’s

½ t. Xanthun Gum or Corn Starch

1 t. Baking Powder

2 Eggs — I tend to only use the whites of eggs, or low-salt egg-white substitutes

1 T. Melted Butter — try a lower-fat butter alternative or olive oil

Splash of Seasonings: Salt, Garlic Powder, Italian Seasonings, Onion Powder — leave out the sale and use salt-free versions of the others

Combine all ingredients in food processer into dough ball. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Using parchment paper, roll out dough to desired thickness. Place dough on sprayed baking sheet. Prick dough with fork. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Flip dough and repeat.

Ingredients for Topping:

1 Lb. Cooked Bulk Sausage — omit, too much fat. If you must add meat, try extra lean ground turkey

2 C. Fresh Broccoli

1 C. =Pasta Sauce (Low Carb) — see above

2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese – use reduced-fat or fat-free Mozzarella, Kraft makes both but the fat-free is difficult to find in most stores.

Fresh Arugula or Basil

Olive Oil

Spread pasta sauce onto crust. Top crust with sausage and broccoli! Finish by topping with mozzarella cheese. Bake for another 10-12 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut fresh arugula or basil to the top and lightly add a glaze of olive oil! Cut and enjoy!

Beware false claims, like this story promising 20 healthy Easter side dishes

Always beware of any claims that a meal, or a dish, is healthy. Healthy is a relative term. A high-salt dish isn’t healthy to me, yet main cooking sites routinely include them in lists of healthy meals, for example. I was wary when I saw this piece, 20 Healthy Easter Side Dishes, and rightly so as it turned out.

As I scrolled through the list, I saw many with potatoes (to be avoided if you’re worried about glucose levels, salt and creams/fat. Several also ahve nuts, which I can’t eat, so those are also out for me, though they may be ok for you.

Simple grilled veggies work as a side dish.

What did that leave for me? Maybe Asparagus and Tomato Skewers with Honey Mustard-Horseradish Sauce but a quarter of a cup of honey seems like a lot of sugar. The recipe did not include nutrition information, so I’m not sure.

The basic and always tasty steamed artichoke works, if you omit the melted butter to dip it in. The sautéed wild mushrooms with spinach will work if I substitute Mrs. Dash salt-free teriyaki for the soy sauce in the original recipe.

Eating truly healthy is always a challenge, try your best and don’t fall for healthy claims. And for truly low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar sides, check my recipe page.

A different idea for Easter dinner — roasted salmon with thyme and honey-mustard glaze

Easter is almost upon us again and, in the age of Covid, Easter dinners are likely to be smaller affairs with far fewer guests than in times past. So maybe put aside any ideas of a giant leg of lamb or turkey, and try something different, like this honey-mustard-glazed salmon recipe.

Place salmon on the lemon and coat with lemon-infused olive oil and spices.
Another way to prepare salmon — in foil with lemons.

Salmon is a great main course for people worried about salt, fat and sugar in their diets, given it falls into what is these days perceived as the “Good Fat” category. This recipe does include some salt, I’d leave it out. The honey might be an issue if you;re ona low-sugar diet, a mustard crust is a tasty alternative.

Here’s the information you need for the hoey-mustard recipe:

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • 1 (3-pound) skin-on salmon fillet (preferably sustainable), pin bones removed
  • ¼ cup country Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I’d leave this out)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions

  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Step 2 Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange thyme sprigs in a long row on parchment. Place salmon, skin side down, on top of thyme.
  • Step 3 Combine mustard, honey, and vinegar in a bowl. Brush mixture evenly over top of salmon. Sprinkle salmon with 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Arrange lemon slices over salmon.
  • Step 4 Bake salmon at 450° in center of oven 26 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Cooking Light includes nutrition information for this recipe, which is great for those of us watching our salt, fat and sugar intake.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving: 387 calories; fat 17.4g; saturated fat 4.1g; mono fat 7.6g; poly fat 4.2g; protein 48g; carbohydrates 6g; cholesterol 116mg; iron 1mg; sodium 527mg; calcium 29mg; sugars 4g; added sugar 4g.

American Heart Association offers healthy cooking help

The American Heart Association currently is offering what it calls a Healthy Cooking Starter Kit to those who donate. The kit includes the association’s newest heart-healthy cooking book and a kitchen conversion chart (I assume that’s for weights and measures).

The association has sometimes lent it’s endorsements to foods I consider too high in salt. But, that said, it’s cookbooks often have some tasty recipes and you can adjust salt down with the ingredients you use.

If you were planning to support the association this year, this offer gives an added incentive.

If you love the Mediterranean Diet, this post will make your day

While I never get overly excited about claims for eating and how it impacts our bodies, I do try to follow the current favorite when it comes to so-called healthy eating plans, namely the Mediterranean Diet. I’ve written about it before and likely will again.

Veggie plates are common in Italy, why can’t U.S. places offer the same?

So when I came across this post, 23 Mediterranean Diet Recipes That Support Healthy Aging, I thought I’d share it with all of you.

The post includes a slide show, which I tend to find tedious especially when many of the slide recipes, like Mediterranean Lentil and Kale Salad, don’t appeal to me.

But take a look, with 23 to choose from I’m guessing some, like one-pot garlicy shrimp and spinach, might strike your fancy.

Always hungry? Me too. Here’s a surprising possible reason why

It’s not an exaggeration to say I’m always hungry. It takes mountains of food to fill me up, mountains of foods that I can’t eat on my heart-healthy diet. So I’ve written before about possible causes of being hungry.

It takes a mountain of food to fill me up, so to eat healthy, I remain hungry most days.

Now I’ve come across a new one. My old nemisis salt can cause sensations of hunger, according to a piece I saw on CookingL:ight.com. I’ve cut my salt intake dramatically since my first angioplasty in 2012, so I don’t think salt is causing my problems with hunger.

But it may be for you if you’re still eating processed foods and restaurant foods that are high in salt.

“Experts say this counterintuitive discovery—that dietary salt boosts appetite but decreases thirst—upends more than 100 years of conventional scientific wisdom. The findings are published this week as a set of two papers in the Journal of Clinical Investigation,’ according to the Cooking Light article.

It’s a reminder that we don;t know as much as we think we do about eating and our health and how the two intersect.

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