Eating a well-balanced diet is essential for keeping your cholesterol levels within target range and your heart in good health.
To help manage your cholesterol levels and keep your cardiovascular system healthy, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats.
Common sources of saturated fats include red meat and high-fat dairy products, such as butter, cream, whole milk, and full-fat cheese. Trans fats are found in some animal products and used to be added to margarine, shortening, and store-bought pastries.
The AHA also advises that you should eat a wide variety of:
- whole grains
These plant-based foods are rich sources of cholesterol-lowering fiber and plant compounds, known as plant stanols and sterols.
Other nutritious choices include lean cuts of poultry and fish, which contain less saturated fat than red meats. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines are excellent sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
If you have a busy schedule, adding cholesterol-friendly slow cooker recipes to your menu is a convenient and delicious way to prepare nutritious meals.
Overwhelmed by all the options out there? We’ve got some tasty low-cholesterol slow cooker recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to get you started.
Apple Pie Oatmeal
Steel cut oats are high in soluble fiber, which may help improve your cholesterol levels and provide other heart health benefits. When combined with sweet apples, fat-free milk, and warm spices, oats offer a mouthwatering start to your day.
Start to finish: 6 to 8 hours
Makes: 5 cups of oatmeal
- 1.5 tsp. olive, sunflower, soybean, or corn oil
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 2 medium apples, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups fat-free milk
- 2 cups water
- 3 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds
- toasted pumpkin seeds
- fat-free or 2 percent unsweetened yogurt
- fresh fruit or unsweetened dried fruit
- Grease the inside of a small slow cooker or Crock-Pot with olive, sunflower, soybean, or corn oil.
- Add all ingredients except garnishes to slower cooker or Crock-Pot. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low until oats are creamy and tender, 6 to 8 hours.
- Top each serving of oatmeal with garnishes of your choice, such as chopped walnuts and a dollop of fat-free unsweetened yogurt.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.
Per 1 cup of oatmeal, no garnishes:
- Calories: 220
- Total fat: 3.5 g
- Saturated fat: 0.6 g
- Cholesterol: 2 mg
- Sodium: 154 mg
- Potassium: 177 mg
- Total carbohydrates: 43.3 g
- Dietary fiber: 5.2 g
- Sugars: 19 g
- Protein: 8.1 g
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Tomato Lentil Soup
Lentils are a great source of soluble fiber as well as plant sterols. This flavorful vegetarian soup comes together easily in the slow cooker and freezes well, making it a convenient make-ahead meal for hearty lunches or light dinners.
Start to finish: 8 to 12 hours
Makes: 10 cups of soup
- 1 tbsp. olive, sunflower, soybean, or corn oil
- 2 yellow onions, peeled and diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1.5 cups green lentils
- 14 oz. diced tomatoes
- 14 oz. crushed tomatoes
- 5.5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1.5 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. sweet paprika
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- Add all ingredients except lemon juice to a large slow cooker or Crock-Pot. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low until lentils and vegetables are tender, 8 to 12 hours.
- When soup is done cooking, add lemon juice. Season to taste with more salt, if needed.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.
Per 1.5 cups of soup:
- Calories: 196
- Total fat: 2.6 g
- Saturated fat: 0.2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 1,125 mg
- Potassium: 74 mg
- Total carbohydrates: 34.9 g
- Dietary fiber: 11.5 g
- Sugars: 9.1 g
- Protein: 8.6 g
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Shredded Chicken Tacos
Chicken is much lower in saturated fat than beef and other red meats, especially when you use skinless cuts. This shredded chicken makes a delicious filling for tacos and wraps. It also tastes great on salads, in brown rice bowls, or atop baked sweet potatoes.
Start to finish: 6 to 8 hours
Makes: 4 cups of shredded chicken
- 2.5 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 3 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. ketchup
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- toasted corn tortillas
- shredded cabbage
- sliced avocado
- hot sauce
- Combine chili powder, ground cumin, and salt in a bowl. Toss chicken thighs in this spice blend, then add spiced chicken thighs to a slow cooker or Crock-Pot. Add ketchup and orange juice. Cover and cook on low until chicken is tender and cooked through, 6 to 8 hours.
- When chicken is done cooking, shred it using two forks.
- To toast corn tortillas: Heat a dry skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Toast each corn tortilla until pliable and fragrant, about 30 seconds on each side. Alternatively, wrap the entire stack of corn tortillas in aluminum foil and heat them in a preheated oven at 350°F for 10 minutes.
- To assemble each taco: Stack two corn tortillas, one on top of the other. Add 2.5 tbsp. shredded chicken to the center of the top tortilla. Top with garnishes like shredded cabbage, sliced avocado, and hot sauce, then fold taco in half around fillings.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken.
Per taco (2 corn tortillas, 2.5 tbsp. chicken, 2 tbsp. cabbage, and 1/8 avocado):
- Calories: 211
- Total fat: 8.1 g
- Saturated fat: 1.1 g
- Cholesterol: 36 mg
- Sodium: 200 mg
- Potassium: 150 mg
- Total carbohydrates: 25 g
- Dietary fiber: 4.4 g
- Sugars: 1.5 g
- Protein: 11.5 g
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There are a number of ways to improve cholesterol levels, including losing excess body fat, exercising, and following a healthy diet.
Eating a nutrient-rich diet that contains a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, poultry, and fish may help keep your cholesterol within healthy levels while giving your body the nutrients it needs.
It’s also important to limit your intake of foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, including red meat, high-fat dairy products, and store-bought sweets.
In some cases, your doctor may encourage you to make other lifestyle changes as well. If lifestyle changes alone are not enough, your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications.
Combining a well-balanced diet with other prescribed treatments is a smart strategy for keeping your cholesterol in target range and your heart in good health.