Health experts recommend limiting cholesterol intake, but many high-protein foods also contain high levels of dietary cholesterol. How do you get the protein you need without going over your limit? Here are 5 low-cholesterol foods that are also high in protein.
Beans are an excellent choice for protein that is cholesterol-free and full of fiber. Don’t be afraid to try different beans, and get creative with how you use them in recipes. Stewed garbanzo beans, pinto beans, or cannellini beans are ideal with a side of sautéed kale and brown rice. They are also delicious blended into bean dips. Seek out fun, heirloom varieties and experiment with cooking dried beans in the slow cooker. Cranberry beans and black Calypso beans are two varieties that can add fun to your meal. (1 cup cooked black beans: 227 calories, 0 mg cholesterol, 15.2 g protein)
Many of the healthy, whole grains eaten today are considered grains for culinary purposes, but they originate from protein-rich seeds. In fact, quinoa is considered a complete protein meaning it contains all the essential amino acids. Other grains that provide protein include amaranth, millet, and wheat berries. (1 cup cooked quinoa: 190 calories, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein)
Similar to beans, lentils provide protein while also being low in cholesterol. An added bonus is that they contain over 15 grams of fiber in one cup cooked. Don’t get stuck in a lentil rut. There are numerous types available that will add variety to salads, soups, and stews. Try French green lentils, black lentils, or yellow lentils. (1 cup cooked lentils: 229 calories, 0 mg cholesterol, 17.9 g protein)
Nuts and Seeds
Shelled nuts and seeds require no preparation -- making them a great protein-rich snack. They also provide plenty of heart-healthy fat without cholesterol. Try cashews, pistachios, or walnuts. Protein-rich seeds include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. (1 ounce of pistachio nuts: 157 calories, 0 mg cholesterol, 5.8 g protein)
Minimally refined soy products, such as fermented tofu, offer plenty of protein without cholesterol. The benefit of soy-based foods for protection against cancer and heart disease is still a topic of scientific debate. However, tofu is full of vitamins and minerals, and can serve as a high protein, low cholesterol substitute for meats. Tofu can be grilled, roasted, or cooked in stir-fries. (3 ounces firm tofu: 70 calories, 0 mg cholesterol, 8 g protein)
Foods eaten at the peak of their season not only offer the best flavor, but they overflow with nutrients. Scientists continually discover new components in these fresh foods that benefit our health. The healthy qualities of these fall foods will give you even more reasons to fill your plate.
Always considered a nutritious food, apples have more recently made health news due to quercetin. This antioxidant not only helps to prevent cellular damage, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin prevents the release of histamines leading researchers to believe it could reduce symptoms of allergies.
Tip: Keep the skin on. According to University of Illinois Extension, almost half of the vitamin C in an apple is located just under the skin. The skin also contains nutritious fiber.
Move over carrots, pumpkins promote healthy vision too. Pumpkin contains lutein and zeaxanthin which are associated with preventing cataracts and reducing risk for macular degeneration. Pumpkin is also rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.
Tip: Orange-flesh winter squash share these health benefits. A few varieties to look for: Cinderella pumpkins, Kabocha, Cushaw, Butternut squash, and Delicata squash.
Crunchy purple cabbage contains sinigrin, which is converted to an isothiocyanate compound with unique properties linked to cancer prevention. The purple variety has a slight advantage over green cabbage due to anthocyanin pigments. These polyphenols act as antioxidants to protect against chronic disease. Cabbage is also packed with vitamin C, and because cabbage is often eaten raw in salads and slaws, the vitamin C isn’t destroyed during cooking.
Tip: Top tacos with shredded purple cabbage instead of iceberg lettuce for a boost of nutrients, flavor, and texture.
Related to garlic and onions, leeks are part of the allium family, but they get much less attention for their star nutrient content. Leeks contain the flavonoid kaempferol which has been shown to prevent damage to the lining of blood vessels making leeks beneficial for cardiovascular health. Leeks also provide folate. Folate has been found to balance homocysteine levels to protect against cardiovascular disease.
Tip: The whole leek is edible, but the highest concentration of nutrients are found in the lower leaf and bulb.
Tart, red cranberries contain polyphenols with anti-bacterial properties, which reduce risk of urinary tract infections. Whole cranberries also have anti-cancer properties and provide antioxidants. This berry promotes a healthy cardiovascular system and digestive tract because it reduces the inflammation that is associated with disease.
Tip: Chop fresh cranberries in a food processor, and add them to salads and cereals for tart flavor and extra crunch.
A snack helps you push through a tough workout, but eat the wrong thing and you may have to check out of the gym early. Everyone is different, so determining the best foods and the best time to eat them is a learning process. These tips will help you pick the right snack whether you exercise morning, noon, or night.
Before Your Workout
The Mayo Clinic suggests that large meals be eaten at least 3 to 4 hours before a workout, small meals 2 to 3 hours before, and small snacks about 1 hour before. Choose foods that are balanced in carbohydrate and protein, and low in fat and fiber. Each person tolerates fat and fiber differently so experiment with food options to find what works best for you.
½ of an English muffin topped with 2 scrambled egg whites. (94 calories)
½ cup of cherry tomatoes with a ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese. (112 calories)
1/4 cup of oatmeal prepared with water and mashed with a ½ of a banana, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. (135 calories)
20 mini pretzels with 2 tablespoons of hummus. (156 calories)
2 slices of unsweetened dried mango and 2 tablespoons of shelled pumpkin seeds. (140 calories)
1/4 cup of low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt topped with a ¼ cup of brown puffed rice cereal, and a ¼ cup of blueberries. (118 calories)
After Your Workout
Eat within two hours of finishing a hard workout to replenish muscle glycogen stores. Depending on the time of day you exercise, this may be a full meal, or it might be a small snack that gets you through to lunch or dinner. Choose foods that are balanced in protein and carbohydrate, but add more heart-healthy fat and fiber during your recovery. Also, include foods with high water content such as fruits and vegetables for rehydration.
A smoothie made with 1 cup of low fat milk, a ¼ cup of vanilla Greek yogurt, a ½ cup of frozen blackberries, a ½ cup of kale leaves, and 1 teaspoon of honey. (286 calories)
3 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of honey, with 1 cup of red grapes for dipping. (219 calories)
A wrap with 1 whole wheat tortilla, 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado, 2 slices of smoked turkey, ¼ cup of shredded romaine lettuce, and 2 teaspoons of spicy brown mustard. (232 calories)
1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes mixed with 2 tablespoons of diced olives, a ½ cup of white cannellini beans, a ½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and two chopped basil leaves. (212 calories)
1 cup of prepared black bean soup, and 1 piece of whole wheat bread topped with avocado spread (2 tablespoons of smashed avocado mixed with 1 tablespoon of prepared salsa). (270 calories)
1 cup of chopped, grilled summer squash drizzled with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 2 ounces of chopped, cooked chicken over ½ cup of whole wheat pasta. (302 calories)
As long as you stay within your daily caloric requirement, a bedtime snack will not ruin your efforts to lose weight. If you eat an early dinner, and can’t stomach a snack before a morning workout, a snack before bedtime can be beneficial. Be sure to keep it light so that it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
1 sliced banana drizzled with 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter that has been heated for 20-30 seconds in the microwave. (215 calories)
1/4 cup of dried tart cherries and a ½ ounce of raw walnuts. (220 calories)
Hot chocolate made with 1 cup low fat milk, 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. (144 calories)
Replacing high-sugar soft drinks with low-calorie beverages is an easy dietary change that can impact your health in a big way. A 12-ounce soda contains 9 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. Extra-large drinks with nearly 48 ounces of soda contain 36 to 48 teaspoons of sugar. They also have 600 or more calories! It is easy to consume one-third to one-half of the calories your body needs on a daily basis through soft drinks alone. Choosing a lower calorie option will help you maintain a healthy weight.
One characteristic of soda that many people enjoy are the bubbles and fizz that come from carbonation. You don't have to give this up. There are many drinks that will satisfy your craving without the excess calories and sugar, or artificial sweeteners.
Carbonated waters come plain or lightly flavored with fruit essence, such as citrus or raspberry. Be sure to read labels and check for added sugar, artificial flavors, and sweeteners.
Reduce your use of plastic bottles, and purchase a home carbonator unit that allows you to carbonate water from your tap. This is an economical and environmentally friendly way to enjoy carbonated drinks. Add a slice of citrus fruit, or fruit essence flavors that can be purchased with the unit.
Spritzers are a great way to add variety. Mix one half carbonated water with one half fruit juice. Experiment with orange, grape, pineapple, grapefruit, and cranberry juices until you find a satisfying combination. Spritzers contain vitamins and half the calories compared to soda.
Juice mixed with shaved ice is another delicious option. There are many different snow cone makers and ice shavers available. Food processors and blenders can also pulverize ice cubes.
Tea is a good option if you are after a drink to quench your thirst, and do not want the carbonation. There are many varieties ranging from caffeine-free herbal teas to green and black teas. Enhance the flavor with a twist of lemon and mint leaves.
Creating a more exciting drink will make breaking the habit easier. Throw out the paper cups and treat yourself to a new set of brightly colored tumblers or elegant drinking glasses to celebrate your healthier drinks. You'll find it is much more satisfying to indulge in a nicely prepared drink than it is to pop open a sugary drink from a can.
A breakfast made up of simple carbohydrates causes a spike in blood sugar which is followed by a drop in blood sugar. This creates a roller coaster ride of hunger, cravings for carbohydrates, and decreased energy levels.
Simple carbohydrate breakfast items may include:
low-fiber sugared cereals
white toast with jelly
Does that mean that you can never eat these items? Of course not. But to reduce hunger, aim for a nutrient-rich breakfast with a high satiety factor. Satiety is the ability of a meal to offer a feeling of prolonged fullness. Including fiber, fat, and protein in your meal can slow the overall release of glucose into the blood, which allows an appropriate release of insulin. This increases the overall satiety of the meal -- keeping you full longer.
High fiber, complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains) have low glycemic loads, and they are packed with vitamins and minerals. Eating these healthy carbohydrates in combination with healthy fats and lean protein further improves the satiety of the meal. For instance, choose whole-grain toast with a slice of low-fat cheese or salmon, or a whole-wheat muffin or waffle with fruit spread or almond butter.
Also try varying the size of your breakfast. For example, you may find that increasing the amount of food eaten at breakfast, and balancing this out by decreasing the amount of food eaten at dinner, more closely matches your personal hunger profile.
Experiment with various combinations until you find a variety of meals that provide you with satiety for a few hours. Remember, being hungry 3 to 5 hours after eating is normal. Individuals vary in their sensitivity to blood sugar swings so it may take some time until you find what meals provide optimal satiety for you.