Tips for Enjoying Thai Food on a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet

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David Pereiras Villagrá, istockphoto

 With more Thai restaurants opening up around the US, Thai food is quickly gaining popularity. This delicious cuisine uses a variety of healthy foods – including vegetables, lean proteins, fruit, and legumes. Additionally, Thai cooking also employs the use of many types of spices that make these foods a flavorful addition to your cholesterol-lowering diet. Unfortunately, Thai cuisine may include some unhealthy food items that may derail your heart-healthy diet.

These healthy tips will show you how to enjoy this tasty cuisine without greatly affecting your cholesterol levels.

Appetizers

Thai-inspired appetizers can be a great hit at parties, since they are not only healthy, but packed full of flavor. If you’re serving – or partaking – in Thai foods, you should include appetizers that contain a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, and lean meats, such as poultry or fish. However, you should avoid any of these appetizers that have been “deep fried” or have a crispy outer coating, since these foods may be high in saturated fat (and, in some cases, trans fat). Here are healthy examples of Thai-inspired appetizers to include in your diet:

  • Thai Fresh Rolls
  • Spicy Roasted Green Peas

Hearty Soups & Salads

Many of the soups and salads found in Thai cooking are chock-full of many cholesterol-friendly ingredients. The produce used in these foods, such as lemongrass, cucumber, pumpkin, and lime, is filling and gives dishes a vibrant taste.

If you are looking to give these sides a little more flavor, you should take advantage of the many spices that Thai cooking employs – including turmeric, cumin, ginger, and cloves. Spices can help liven up your dish without affecting your heart-healthy diet. Some of these soups may be prepared with coconut milk, which is high in saturated fat.

If your soup calls for this ingredient, you can use a low-fat version of coconut milk that is commercially available. Alternatively, you can use low-fat milk to substitute for this. 

  • Thai Chicken-Noodle Soup
  • Cucumber Salad

Main Course

The main course in Thai cuisine consists of mainly lean proteins, vegetables, legumes, and noodles. Although these foods are mostly healthy, there are some ingredients that can adversely affect your heart health if you consume them too often, such as:

  • Fish sauce -  Many of these dishes may use fish sauce, which may be a little high in salt. If you are watching your salt intake, you can select a low-sodium version of fish sauce or halve the amount of fish sauce that the dish calls for if you are following a recipe. Alternatively, you can also use a low-sodium soy sauce, a miso or hoisin sauce, or a combination of these components – all of which are available in your grocery store.
  • Beef and pork – Some of these dishes may use beef and pork, which have a tendency to be a little higher in saturated fats compared to leaner poultry or fish. To lower the fat content of these dishes, make sure that you remove any visible pieces of fat before serving. Alternatively, you can substitute the beef or pork with chicken, turkey, fish or soy products.
  • Coconut milk – Because coconut milk may have a higher fat content, using a low-fat version of this ingredient will help cut some of the saturated fat out of your dish.
  • Butter and margarine – Some dishes are prepared using these ingredients.  By using a phytosterol-rich spread instead of butter or margarine, you can introduce the flavor of these ingredients into the dish – without the additional saturated fat.

Here are good examples of cholesterol-friendly, Thai-inspired main dishes:

  • Larb Chicken Salad
  • Thai Rice Noodle Salad
  • Baked Salmon with Black Bean Sauce

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