Whether you eat out at a restaurant or dine in at your place, Italian food can make a satisfying meal. Although Italian food includes plenty of cholesterol-friendly spices, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, this delicious cuisine also contains creams, butter, and cheese, all of which could increase your fat intake. Fortunately, despite following a cholesterol-lowering diet, you can enjoy all of your favorite Italian foods in a healthy way, without adding a lot of fat and calories to your diet.
Use Whole Wheat Pasta
When you think of Italian food, you most commonly think of pasta. Although pasta is generally low in fat, you should include whole wheat pasta in your Italian cooking. 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 contain many veggies, including lettuce, spinach, and tomato, all of which contain many nutrients and fiber and no fat. Many times, nuts and black or green olives will also be included in these salads, both of which are high in unsaturated fatty acids that could help keep your cholesterol levels in check. So, heap on the salad, regardless of the ingredients as long as they are healthy. If you like dressing on your salad, opt for olive oil-based or vinegar-containing dressings instead of cream-based ones, since these also contain more saturated fat. In fact, you may not even need dressing due to the many flavorful combinations.
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 cause your lipids to increase if you consume these foods regularly. When looking for cheeses to prepare your dishes, or select from the menu, select dishes that contain low-fat cheeses, such as ricotta or a cheese made from skim or low-fat milk, including certain brands of parmesan or mozzarella cheese. The following recipes 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 often 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 to the dish. If you enjoy cream-based risottos or alfredo, there are ways to enjoy these dishes without having to completely eliminate them for your cholesterol-lowering diet. If you are wanting to prepare your own Italian dishes using these products, you can substitute your full-fat creams with low-fat milk, olive oil, or low-fat ricotta cheese that mimic the creaminess, but 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 or even using spices combined with other meat products produce the same type of flavor, without increasing your lipids.
Add Garlic to Your Foods
Many Italian dishes utilize garlic as an ingredient. Previous 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 food in many of your Italian dishes.