Enjoy Italian Food on a Cholesterol Lowering Diet

Whether you eat out at a restaurant or dine in at your place, Italian food can make a satisfying meal. Italian food includes plenty of low or no cholesterol spices, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. But this delicious cuisine also uses creams, butter, and cheese, all of which could increase your fat intake. Fortunately, if you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet, there are some ways you can enjoy your favorite Italian dishes in a healthy way, without adding a lot of fat to your diet. It just takes some planning and attention to ingredients.

Plate of pasta and clams on a table
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Use Whole Wheat Pasta

When you think of Italian food, you most commonly think of pasta. Pasta is generally low in fat, and including whole wheat pasta in your Italian cooking can be even better for your cholesterol levels.

Whole wheat pasta is higher in fiber in comparison to other types of pasta, which can help lower your cholesterol, especially your LDL levels.

Say "Yes" to Salad

Salads can be made in a variety of ways. Italian salads incorporate many veggies, including lettuce, spinach, and tomato, all of which contain many nutrients and fiber, and no fat.

Nuts and black or green olives are often sprinkled on Italian salads. These flavorful additions are high in unsaturated fatty acids that could help keep your cholesterol levels in check. So, heap on the salad, as long as the ingredients are healthy.

You may not even need dressing due to the many flavorful combinations in your salad. If you like dressing on your salad, opt for olive oil-based or vinegar-containing dressings instead of cream-based dressings that are high in saturated fat.

Watch Your Cheeses

Cheese is used in many Italian dishes. Although chock-full of calcium, cheese also contains saturated fat in varying amounts, which could increase your lipid levels.

When looking for cheeses to prepare your dishes or to select from the menu, use low-fat cheeses. These include ricotta or cheese made from skim or low-fat milk, including certain brands of parmesan or mozzarella cheese. The following are good examples of how cheeses can be incorporated into an Italian dish and still be low-fat, and tasty.

Consume Cream-Based Dishes in Moderation

Butters and creams are used in some Italian dishes to lend a little texture to the dish. Although this can make the meal scrumptious, it can also contribute extra fat and calories. If you enjoy cream-based risottos or alfredo, you can find a healthy compromise without sacrificing texture or flavor.

When preparing your own Italian dishes, you can substitute full-fat creams with low-fat milk, olive oil, or low-fat ricotta cheese that mimic the creaminess without the extra fat. Alternatively, you can also use a marinara sauce instead, which uses tomatoes and spices as a topping for many Italian dishes.

Limit the Sausage

Italian dishes are infamous for containing lean chicken pieces or fish, but some Italian recipes also call for the use of sausage. Although sausage can add a burst of flavor to your food, it can also add saturated fat, especially if the sausage is made from pork or beef.

There are ways to add sausage to your Italian dish without adding extra fat that could sabotage your diet, including substituting leaner chicken or turkey sausage instead of beef or pork sausages. You might even consider using spices combined with lean meats to produce the same type of flavor, without increasing your lipids.

Add Garlic to Your Foods

Many Italian dishes utilize garlic as an ingredient. Some studies have indicated that garlic can help keep your cholesterol, especially your low-density lipoprotein levels (LDL), within a healthy range.

If you’re cooking Italian food at home, there are many ways to incorporate this low-fat, heart-healthy ingredient in many of your Italian dishes.

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2 Sources
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  2. Sun YE, Wang W, Qin J. Anti-hyperlipidemia of garlic by reducing the level of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein: A meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 May;97(18):e0255. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000010255