Southeast Asian Cuisine Can Be Heart-Healthy

Southeast Asian Cuisine
Bongkarn Thanyakij, istockphoto

Southeast Asian cuisine encompasses a variety of flavors from countries within the region, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia. This type of cuisine typically includes many types of vegetables, fruit (such as citrus fruit), noodles, and lean proteins. Nuts, such as peanuts and cashews, are also sprinkled on top of some of these dishes or made into a thick paste. There are also many heart-healthy spices included in this cooking, such as coriander, mint, cinnamon, and turmeric. Although there are plenty of healthy foods used in this regional cuisine, there are some foods that could introduce excess saturated fat and calories to your dish. These tips — and recipes — will show you how to prepare delicious, Southeast Asian dishes if you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet.


Southeast Asian-inspired appetizers can be healthy and ​filling to the point where they can serve as a small meal, however, there are some things you should watch out for if you are watching your heart health. Some of these appetizers call for added sugar — which can pack on calories to your dish. You can limit the addition — or completely eliminate — sugar without significantly compromising the taste. Some appetizers may be served with fish sauce. Since fish sauce may be high in salt, you should limit the addition of this ingredient if you are watching your salt intake. 

Side Items

There are also many, flavorful side items in Southeast Asian cuisine. Many of these sides are chock-full of fresh veggies, nuts, fruit, and spices.  Some salad dressings may contain mayonnaise, which may introduce saturated fat into your diet. To lower the amount of fat introduced, you should use the dressing sparingly or use a version that is made with a low-fat mayonnaise (if available). You can also use fruit or spices to flavor the food, such as lime, papaya or mint, instead of using a dressing.

Additionally, some of the cooking methods used to prepare your sides may affect your heart health. Some vegetables may be fried, which is another way of introducing fat into your diet. To get the same crispness that is comparable to frying, you can grill your veggies or roast them in the oven. 


Southeast Asian-inspired entrees can also be a delicious addition to your cholesterol-lowering diet. Due to the region this cuisine covers, fish are often incorporated into the main courses — including those that are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fats, such as salmon and tuna. Additionally, the combinations of whole grains, nuts, spices, chilis, and vegetables provide many of these dishes with a healthy and filling meal. There are some commonly included foods in this cooking that could potentially derail your efforts to keep your lipids in check if consumed regularly:

  • Proteins — Although Southeast Asian cuisine includes a lot of lean proteins in their main dishes, there are some high-fat proteins you should limit if you are following a lipid-lowering diet. These proteins include pork and beef. Leaner proteins, such as fish, poultry, and soy products, are healthier foods to include if you are watching your fat intake.
  • Sauces, seasonings, and other flavors — Some sauces, such as those that use a coconut base, can also introduce saturated fat into your dish. Therefore, you should limit the use of these in your dish or have the sauce served on the side. You should feel free to use as many spices as you like — cinnamon, tarragon, cilantro, garlic, and chilies are widely used and add a lot of spice without adding calories or fat to your meal.
  • Grains — Rice and noodles are also included in some dishes. If you are looking to increase your fiber intake, opt for whole grain or whole wheat products to include in your meals.
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