Ways to Enjoy Turkish Cuisine on a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet

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Aviator70, istockphoto

Turkish food is a fusion of many regional culinary influences, such as Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. This delicious cuisine has found its way to the United States thanks to restaurants and recipes on the internet. Turkish cooking includes a variety of healthy foods, including whole grains, such as bulgur and rice, nuts, yogurt, plenty of vegetables, lean meat and fish, and spices. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid if you are watching your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

This article will show you how to enjoy Turkish cuisine when you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Appetizers

Appetizers are very diverse in Turkish cuisine – they could range from stuffed vegetables, meatballs, or a traditional hummus for dipping breads and veggies. Nonetheless, there are plenty of heart-healthy appetizers to include in your meal or for your next party. You should look for appetizers containing a variety of vegetables and whole grains since these foods contain are high in fiber. Additionally, lentils, fish, and lean meats are also good to include in your meals, since they are high in protein and more filling. However, you should limit your consumption of red meat, since some of these foods may contain extra fat. Some appetizers may contain fried pieces of meat or vegetables. These should also be avoided, since these may introduce unhealthy trans fats into your diet.

Salads

There are a variety of salads available in Turkish cooking. Although you might see an occasional green salad, Turkish salads also use a wide range of vegetables – including eggplant, tomatoes, pepper, and onions. Additionally, bulgur and lentils are sometimes included in these salads, which add filling protein and fiber to your meal.

Usually, dressings are not commonly used to top your salad; however, sometimes plain yogurt or fruit juices may be used. Although yogurt has been shown to have healthy benefits, you may want to swap to a low-fat yogurt instead to prevent excess saturated fat being added to the meal.

Sides

Turkish side dishes usually consist of vegetables and whole grains- with the occasional protein (such as red meat, poultry, or fish) mixed in. Vegetables are typically lightly sautéed in olive oil, baked, or served fresh. However, some preparation methods may call for using butter or margarine, which could be a source of added fat to your diet.  Additionally, milk is also sometimes used to prepare some sides. If you are trying to cut fat out of your diet, you should select a non-fat or low-fat variety of milk for recipes that call for this ingredient. 

Main Courses

Whether simple or elaborate, Turkish entrees can definitely be made healthy – and offer you a dish that can be satisfying and scrumptious. Turkish cuisine is also very versatile – allowing you to have a small fish dinner or going completely vegetarian.

  Many herbs and spices are used in Turkish cuisine and can help liven up your dish without affecting your cholesterol-lowering diet. Commonly used spices and herbs include cumin, mint, pepper, oregano, and paprika. On the other hand, other ingredients that are used to enhance flavor such as salt and sugar, should be used sparingly, especially if you are also watching your blood pressure or blood sugar levels, respectively.  Some dishes may be served with gravy or butter – both of which can pack on fat and calories to your dish. You should avoid these altogether, or request them on the side in a separate dish if you are watching your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. While vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish, and chicken are okay to consume on a lipid-lowering diet, you should limit the red meat that consumed. If are including red meat in your meals, make sure that you remove any visible fat from the meat before consuming. 

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