Cook for your life

By admin
11 February 2014

The people of Villiersdorp have committed to eating healthily – here’s your chance to do the same.



Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the main factors in keeping your cholesterol levels low. Getting enough exercise is vital, but so is choosing the correct food and eating the right portions. There are many ways to still enjoy the same delicious meals, by just adding a healthier twist to them – such as Flora pro.activ which can reduce your cholesterol by up to 15 per cent if you eat 25 g a day for 21 days.
As part of Flora’s 21-Day Cholesterol Lower-ing Challenge, the people of Villiersdorp were introduced to nutritional tips and cooking classes which could benefit them and their families. We asked Berna Harmse, a dietician at Panorama Medical Centre in Cape Town, to tell us more about cholesterol and good and bad fats.  

Which fats should we try to eat less of for lower cholesterol levels?

Saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and decrease high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). Sources of saturated fats include animal products such as butter, full-cream milk products, fatty meats, marinades, sauces, biscuits, cakes, pies, rusks, chips, chocolates, toffees and coconut and palm oil. Trans fats also pose a great risk for heart disease. They’re formed when fats that are liquid at room temperature are chemically altered  to harden them to make hard or brick margarine (not all brick margarines contain trans fats; check the label on the pack). They’re also formed when oil ages and when oil is re-used.


Which fats are good?

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) should replace the saturated and trans fats in your diet. PUFA include omega 3 and 6 fats, which should be an essential part of your diet because your body can’t make them. Sources of PUFA include sunflower, soybean, sesame, and cottonseed and safflower oils. Sources of MUFA include olives, olive oil, olive oil margarine, grape seed and canola margarines and oils, avocado, nuts and seeds. How-ever, these foods have a high kilojoule content and should be eaten in moderation if you want to lose weight.  

Which other foods play a role in lowering cholesterol?

Increasing your soluble fibre intake reduces LDL cholesterol levels more than a diet low in saturated fats and trans fatty acids.

Sources of soluble fibre include:

  • Oat, oat bran, psyllium and barley
  • Legumes: dried peas, beans and lentils
  • Pectin-rich fruits: apples, citrus, bananas and strawberries
  • Vegetables: sweet potato, green peas, carrots and broccoli

Give examples of a portion of fat

  • 1 t (5 ml) soft margarine
  • 2 t (10 ml) low-fat spread (such as Flora Extra Light)
  • 1 t (5 ml) vegetable oil (sunflower, olive, canola)
  • 1 tbs low-fat salad cream (such as Trim) or low-oil French dressing
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) peanut butter or 10 peanuts
  • 2 walnuts, 5 almonds, 5 cashews or 4 pecan halves
  • 1 tbs (15 ml) seeds
  • 1/8 avocado
  • 10 olives

How can I reduce my salt intake?

Don’t add salt to your food while cooking if you plan to add some at the table, and vice versa. Many processed products such as breakfast cereals, cheese, sandwich spreads and pickled and smoked foods contain salt, so take it easy with the salt when you have that cheese and ham sandwich.

Use condiments such as herbs, spices,

chilli, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice and black pepper instead of salt.

Avoid products with a high salt content such as marinades, soy sauce and packet sauces and soups.

Avoid salted snacks such as ready-made popcorn, crisps, nuts and crackers.

Learn to read labels. Low-sodium foods contain 140 mg or less salt per serving while sodium-free foods contain less than 5 mg salt per serving. Look out for the Heart and Stroke Foundation logo which indicates low-sodium products.  

 Is there an easy way to control portions?

An easy way to remember portions is to use your hand – palm-size for meats, your fist for carbohydrates (such as pasta), and your thumb for fats. Veggies and salads: two open hands full.  

What does the perfect plate of food look like?

Mentally divide you plate into two halves. One half should be vegetables and salads while the other half should be proteins such as meat. The challenge is to start seeing the carbohydrates and proteins as the side dishes and the vegetables and salads as the main event.  

Which cooking methods help to lower cholesterol levels?

Grill, bake on a rack or in foil, braai, microwave and steam, or “dry-fry” in a non-stick frying pan with a smear of oil.

Replace roast vegetables and fried chips with “dry-baked” items – cut vegetables such as potatoes, pumpkin or carrots into chunks, brush with a little oil and a mix of herbs and spices and oven-bake until cooked.

Foods in pastries are high in fat but phyllo pastry is a low-fat alternative that you can use in baking.Cook using reduced-fat ingredients – plain yoghurt instead of cream, skim milk instead of full-cream milk, and low-fat margarine instead of hard types.


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