Tips for Enjoying African Cuisine on a Lipid-Lowering Diet

African Cuisine
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African cuisine encompasses flavors from different regions within the continent – including Western, Eastern and Central Africa. A variety of healthy foods comprise this delicious cuisine, such as fruit, vegetables, lentils, various fish and poultry, and whole grain rice. Spices such as coriander, cinnamon, curry, garlic and ginger are also used to liven up dishes. The ingredients included in these meals depend on what is available in the region – resulting in tasty meals with a lot of diversity.

 As with other types of cuisines, however, some African-inspired foods may contain ingredients that could increase your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These tips and recipes will show you how to enjoy African cuisine if you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Salads and Soups

The soups and salads found in African cuisine are so filling, that they can be considered a meal by themselves. These appetizers contain a wide variety of healthy ingredients – including plantains, cassava, corn, carrots, peppers, and leafy greens. Additionally, heart-healthy spices are generously added to these dishes – giving your dish a lot of flavor without adding fattening ingredients. Some soups and salads, however, may contain sugar – so if you are watching your calorie intake or your glucose levels, you may want to limit – or eliminate – the amount of sugar added to some of these dishes. Some soups and stews also may contain red meat, which can introduce saturated fat into your meal.

So, if you are following a diet to lower your lipids, you may want to substitute the red meat for a leaner protein. African-inspired soups and salads include ​Carrot and Cucumber Sambal, Sukuma Wiki Salad, and West African Spinach Stew.

Side Dishes

Side dishes prepared in African cooking include generous helpings of spice-infused vegetables, lentils, rice, beans, and, sometimes, even fruit.

These are either served separately or as a garnish for the main course. Some of these sides may be prepared with butter, so if you are watching your heart health, you may want to limit the addition of this ingredient. You can also substitute a phytosterol-rich spread for the butter if you are preparing the dish yourself. Some regional African foods also use milk to prepare some of these sides. If your recipe calls for milk, you can use a low fat or skim version of milk to lower the fat content of your dish. Veggies, whole grains, fruit, lentils, and beans are high in fiber and nutrients -  as well as low in fat – so feel free to include as many as you want in your meal. However, many of these side portions can be very large, so even if you are heaping the healthiest side dish on your plate, make sure that you are watching your portion sizes to reduce the number of calories consumed.​ These include Yassa Au Champignon, Lentil Bobotie, and Jollof Rice.

African Entrées

The main course is usually served with some type of meat, with lamb and various cuts of beef being the most common.

There are also many African entrées containing leaner proteins, such as poultry and fish. Some regional cuisines can also be exclusively vegetarian, using lentils or beans as the main protein in the dish. When watching your lipids, it would be healthier to substitute the red meat in some of these dishes with leaner cuts of chicken, turkey, or fish to reduce your fat and calorie intake. You can also insert your favorite lentil, bean, or soy product in lieu of using meat to cut out saturated fat completely. Some traditional foods may also be deep fried, including some meats and veggies. Since this preparation method can add extra saturated and trans fats to your meal, fried foods should be avoided if you are watching your heart health. These main courses include Durban Chicken Curry, Senegalese Poulet (Chicken) Yassa, Ethiopian Red Lentils, Grilled Tilapia.

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