Aim for a healthy weight
Being overweight can increase your cholesterol levels and also your risk of Type 2 diabetes
Everyone needs to look after their cholesterol levels for a healthy heart, and if you’re from a South Asian background, it’s even more important. This is because South Asian people tend to be more likely to develop heart disease.
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. The reason why is not completely understood, but certain risk factors are common among South Asians.
These risk factors vary between communities but include smoking (including shisha and tobacco chewing), low rates of physical activity and a diet high in fat and low in fruit and vegetables. South Asian people are also more likely to develop health problems that can lead to heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes – diabetes is up to six times more common in South Asian people.
A healthy diet and lifestyle can help prevent or manage these conditions. You don’t have to give up your traditional South Asian foods. Many of them are healthy choices, such as dahls, pulses and vegetables, but the way they are prepared is important. Small changes can make a big difference.
Go for a combination of a low saturated fat diet that includes cholesterol-lowering foods, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Current guidelines recommend no more than 30g of saturated fat for men and no more than 20g for women per day.
Don't re-use oil for deep frying because the chemical reactions that happen when oil is reheated produce potentially harmful substances.
Check food labels. For saturated fat, look for foods with 1.5g or less of 'saturates' per 100g. If a product has 5g or more per 100g it is high in saturates. Some foods have a front of pack nutrition label which uses red, amber and green colour coding. Aim to include more foods which are green for saturates. As a guide, for a food to qualify as a healthy choice, look for a mixture of greens and ambers and very few reds.
Invest in a good quality non-stick frying pan and use it to start your Turka or vagar.
Brown your meat in a non-stick pan, drain excess fat and then add the Turka.
Avoid adding ghee or butter to your chapatti dough and 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.
Fruit and vegetables can help keep your cholesterol down, whether they're fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Aim for at least five servings every day. Include a side salad whenever possible with your main meals.
Aim for at least one portion of dhal/beans or soya daily. You can also add dhals to your meat dishes.
Have a handful (30g) of unsalted nuts such as walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios and pecans each day.
When choosing starchy (carbohydrate) foods, go for wholegrain varieties:
Paratha, puri, kachori, pulao, biriyani,
Chapati, pitta bread, idli, boiled basmati rice, potatoes prepared with minimal 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
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
Aim for two servings of fish per week, one of which should be oily, such as salmon, sardines and pilchards. Canned fish still counts and is convenient and cheap, and 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.