September is Cholesterol Education Month! Cholesterol Education Month is observed annually to teach people about cholesterol, how it affects the body, and what they can do to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke.  

More than 102 million American Adults (20 years and older) have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL, which is well above a healthy level. More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease. 

There are two types of cholesterol, LDL and HDL Cholesterol or “Bad” and “Good” Cholesterol. 

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

High cholesterol doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. However, doctors can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or if that is not enough, there are medications that can be taken to help.

What can you do to lower your cholesterol? 

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol. In addition, you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:

  • For adults getting at least 2 hours and 3 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. For those aged 6-17, getting 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Low-fat and high-fiber foods
  • Eat more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains. 
  • Cook heart healthy foods

 

Here are four heart healthy recipes you can make at home, to help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

 

Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Relish and Tomato Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup pitted oil-packed black olives, finely chopped
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 plum tomatoes, cored, quartered

PREPARATION

    1. Remove leaves and trim stem end of cauliflower, leaving core intact. Place cauliflower core side down on a work surface. Using a large knife, slice cauliflower into four 1/2″ “steaks” from center of cauliflower (some florets will break loose; reserve). Finely chop enough loose florets to measure 1/2 cup. Transfer chopped florets to a small bowl and mix with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, parsley, and lemon juice. Season relish with salt and pepper.
    2. Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook cauliflower steaks until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side, adding tablespoon oil to pan between batches. Transfer steaks to a large rimmed baking sheet. Reserve skillet. Roast cauliflower until tender, about 15 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, return skillet to medium-high heat and add garlic cloves and tomatoes, one cut side down. Cook until tomatoes are browned; turn tomatoes over and transfer skillet to oven with cauliflower. Roast garlic and tomatoes until tender, about 12 minutes.
    4. Transfer garlic, tomatoes, and 1/2 tablespoon oil to a blender; purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Divide tomato sauce among plates. Place 1 cauliflower steak on each plate; spoon relish over. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Baked Mustard-Crusted Salmon with Asparagus and Tarragon

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bunch thin asparagus (about 1 pound), trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
  • 8 teaspoons country-style or whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss asparagus with 2 Tbsp. oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper on prepared sheet, then arrange in a single layer on one half of baking sheet. Bake asparagus 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, spread each salmon fillet with 2 tsp. mustard. Sprinkle fillets with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper total. Toss panko with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle panko mixture evenly onto salmon fillets, then dust with smoked paprika.
  3. After asparagus has baked for 5 minutes, remove baking sheet from oven. Place prepared salmon fillets skin side down on empty half of baking sheet. Return to oven and bake until salmon is firm but still pink in the center and asparagus is tender, 14–16 minutes more for medium rare salmon. Divide salmon and asparagus among four plates and top with tarragon.

Avocado Salad with Bell Pepper and Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 firm, ripe avocado, halved and pitted
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish

PREPARATION

    1.  In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, garlic, and cayenne. Season with salt.
    2.  Scoop out flesh from avocado halves, reserving shells, and chop. Transfer to a bowl and add bell pepper, tomatoes, scallion, and chopped cilantro.
    3.  Drizzle with dressing and season with salt. Gently stir to combine. Spoon mixture into reserved shells. Garnish with whole cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

Poached Apples with Vanilla Yogurt

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups fruity red wine (such as Syrah or Zinfandel)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 3×1″ strips orange peel (white pith trimmed)
  • 1 3×1″ strip of lemon peel (white pith trimmed)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 4 medium Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, or Braeburn apples, peeled, cored
  • 1 cup 2% Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

PREPARATION

  1. Combine wine, sugar, orange juice, orange peel, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, star anise, and 2 cups water in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add apples; reduce heat to low and simmer, occasionally rotating apples, until tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 25-30 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apples to a plate and set aside. Strain poaching liquid in pan into a small saucepan, discarding solids in strainer. Set saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until poaching liquid is syrupy and reduced to about 3/4 cup, 10-15 minutes (syrup will thicken as it cools).
  3. Combine yogurt and honey in a small bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; whisk until the yogurt sauce is smooth and well blended.
  4. Divide yogurt sauce among plates. Place warm apples on top. Drizzle syrup over.

Source: cdc.gov, epicurious.com