Being overweight can increase your cholesterol levels and also your risk of Type 2 diabetes
The background to South Asian diets and cholesterol
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the UK's single biggest killer. It can affect anyone, but South Asian people are approximately 50% more likely to die prematurely from CHD than the general population. It is not completely understood why, but certain risk factors are common among South Asians. These vary between communities but include high levels of smoking (including shisha and tobacco chewing), low rates of physical activity and a diet high in fat and low in fruit and vegetables in certain groups.
Other risk factors include diabetes, which is up to 6 times more common in South Asians than in the general population, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are important in preventing or managing the above risk factors. You don’t have to give up your traditional foods…just small changes can make a big difference.
Many of the traditional South Asian foods such as dahls, pulses and all types of vegetables are healthy choices but the way that the dishes are prepared is very important.
Our Cholesterol Helpline is open Monday to Friday 10am - 3pm. Our dietetic advisor is available on Tuesdays for conversations in Hindi, Urdu or Punjabi.
Lowering cholesterol: the best approach
A combination of a low saturated fat diet alongside cholesterol-lowering foods, regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight is recommended.
Current guidelines recommend no more than 30g of saturated fat for men and no more than 20g for women per day.
Oil used for deep frying should not be re-used because of the chemical reactions that occur when oil is reheated, which result in the production of potentially harmful substances.
Check food labels. For saturated fat, look for foods with 1.5g or less of saturates per 100g (5g or more per 100g means the product is high in saturates). Some foods have a front of pack nutrition label which use red, amber and green colour coding. Aim to include more foods which are green for saturates, as this means they are a healthier choice. As a guide, for a food to qualify as a healthy choice on your menu look for a mixture of greens and ambers and very few reds.
Invest in a good quality non-stick frying pan and use to start your “turka” or “vagar”.
Brown meat in a non- stick pan, drain excess fat and then add the turka if necessary
Avoid adding ghee or butter to your chapatti dough and in your cooked dhal and avoid spreading fat on cooked chapatis
Skim off any oil that settles on top of the cooked curry
Use smaller portions of meat and add extra vegetables and pulses such as peas, beans and lentils
What foods should I be eating?
Vegetables and fruit can help keep your cholesterol down, whether they're fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Aim for at least 5 servings every day. Be aware when making vegetable curries to use small amounts of unsaturated fats. Partially replace some oil with small amounts of water to prevent them from sticking to the pan. Include a side salad whenever possible with your main meals.
Beans and pulses - aim for at least one portion of dhal/beans or soya daily. You can also add dhals to your meat dishes. However only add small amounts of oil during cooking and avoid adding butter to the cooked dish.
Have a handful (30g) of unsalted nuts like walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios and pecans daily.
Starchy carbohydrate foods should be based around wholegrain varieties:
Paratha, puri, kachori, pulao, biriyani,
Chapati, pitta bread, idli, boiled basmati rice, potatoes prepared with minimum oil
Creamed or fried vegetables
All vegetables cooked in minimal oil
|Meat and alternatives||
Dahl made with ghee
Dahl made with small amounts of unsaturated oil
Grilled chicken tikka or tandoori chicken
Lean saag lamb (lean cut bulked with spinach)
Baked/grilled masala fish
Whole milk and its products, Raita with boondhi, condensed milk
Semi-skimmed/skimmed milk, low-fat raita with cucumber, Kheer made with semi or skimmed milk
Shrikhand made with low-fat Greek-style yoghurt
Chevda, sev, gathia, dal moth, crisps
Potato vada, pakoras, samosas
Fried salted nuts
Biscuits, cakes, mithai
Plain puffed rice with spices
Chevda made with 1-part chevda mix and 3 parts puffed rice and spices.
Dry roasted chick peas
Roasted corn on the cob
Boiled potato chaat
Samosa baked in the oven
Microwave or grilled papad
Handful of mixed unsalted nuts
Fresh sprouted moon beans
Oatcakes, rye-based crackers with tomato salsa or cottage cheese
Omega 3-rich foods
Aim for 2 servings of fish per week, one of which should be oily, such as salmon, sardines and pilchards. Canned fish is convenient and cheap, frozen fish can be as nutritious as fresh. You can add traditional spices to suit your taste buds!
Vegetarian sources of omega 3s include nuts, linseeds (ailsi/flaxseeds), dark green vegetables and soya beans.