This post was written in partnership with Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, Inc. and Take Cholesterol to Heart. All opinions and experiences written are my own.
The holiday season is full of get-togethers and celebrations that can make maintaining healthy cholesterol levels challenging.
To make sure my party guests have heart-healthy options, one of my favorite things to serve at gatherings is a hummus platter with lots of veggies, fruits, and whole-grain crackers. I whip up my homemade hummus recipe (below) in a matter of minutes and my guests love it!
Learning and caring about cholesterol and heart health is close to my own heart because my grandmother had her first heart attack at a young age of 51. She was diagnosed with high cholesterol in her early 30s and heart disease is in my family’s medical history. My husband’s mom also has high cholesterol; so naturally, I worry about our health.
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. It can be deceiving because you can’t see or feel it like some other conditions, but it can have serious consequences.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle to help keep cholesterol at healthy levels year-round and during the holidays is easier when you:
- Incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine
- Choose heart-healthy foods at holiday gatherings
- Reduce stress
How to incorporate regular exercise during the holidays
Having an exercise routine is important for our general physical health and mental wellness.
During the busy holiday season, it can be tough to make it to the gym, therefore, many people skip physical exercise all together and tell themselves, “I’ll start again in January.”
There are many things you can do that are lower impact that easily incorporate movement into your day.
One of my favorite things is to go out for a walk and call my mom. Giving her a call when the kids are not around and I can be completely focused on our conversation helps us connect, and our conversations make the time fly by!
Most days, I take our dog for an extra walk — he never complains — and we both return happier and with more energy!
How to choose heart-healthy foods at holiday gatherings
Who doesn’t want to sample everything in sight at a holiday party? Staying away from the party food can be tough on everyone. However, if you’re working on lowering or maintaining your cholesterol levels, making thoughtful choices is crucial.
Avoiding saturated fats (which mainly come from animal-based foods) and trans fats (found in processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oils) as they raise your LDL-C (bad) cholesterol. Trans fats are particularly unhealthy because they also reduce HDL-C (good) cholesterol.
If you’re hosting a party, try offering grilled or roasted foods. They are tastier, in my opinion, than fried foods – and a lot healthier!
While cholesterol is vital for many processes in the body, too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries, which may lead to a heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol is made by your liver, but it also comes from the foods you eat, which is why it’s important to make smart food choices to help manage your cholesterol levels. The great news is that my hummus recipe below is perfect for holiday gatherings and to keep in your fridge at all times!
What are some cholesterol friendly foods to incorporate daily?
On a day to day basis, you’ll want to fit more fiber into your diet, especially soluble fiber, such as peas, legumes, apples, oranges, pears, berries, broccoli, and oatmeal.
As you know, maintaining a heart-healthy diet is an important part of helping to keep cholesterol levels in check, so making a plan for the foods you’re going to eat is important as well.
How to reduce holiday stress
While the holidays bring a lot of joyful moments, it can also be very stressful for many. I will admit that I experience anxiety over gifting the right thing, sending out holiday cards, making sure my home is presentable to guests, and more.
Stress turns many of us to comfort foods, which are often not the healthiest choices, as they often contain added sugars and saturated fats.
I like to set time aside to drink hot tea and read a book; since taking care of myself both physical and mentally are part of self-care and help with stress reduction and managing my cholesterol levels.
Taking care of yourself, even if it means declining social engagements when your schedule is overloaded, can be exactly what your body needs.
Making smart lifestyle choices can help manage high cholesterol, but for some people, this may not be enough to reach their cholesterol goals. If you’re struggling to maintain your levels, make sure to talk to your doctor about your cholesterol-lowering medication in addition to a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise.
To learn more about healthy, cholesterol-friendly lifestyle choices, check out the Take Cholesterol to Heart website.
And that incredible hummus recipe that will be a hit at your next holiday gathering? It’s heart- healthy and delicious!
- 2 14 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 lemon, juice from
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 ¼ cups water
- pinch of salt and ground pepper
- In a food processor or blender, combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, oil, cumin, and garlic. Mix for 1 minute
- Begin to thin with the water, adding it in slowly until you reach the thickness/consistency you like. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.
- Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.