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Research¹ has repeatedly shown that sugar, most notably refined sugars, can influence cholesterol in your body.
Refined sugars are any sugar that has been through refinement. These sugars have little to no nutrients and minimal benefit to your health.
Although small amounts of sugar are not likely to harm you, a diet high in processed sugars may lead to numerous health issues, such as impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, or fatty liver. As a result, your cholesterol profile will change:
Increased synthesis of LDL cholesterol: “Bad” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can cause the hardening of your blood vessels and block blood flow.
Decreased HDL cholesterol levels: “Good” cholesterol removes LDL cholesterol from your blood vessels.
Raised triglycerides: Fats in your blood that provide you with energy. If you have too much in your blood, it can increase your risk of heart disease.
Research shows that modifications to your dietary habits with even small reductions in added sugars can impact your cholesterol levels and heart health. A great way to start is by making your desserts more cholesterol friendly.
High cholesterol levels don’t mean you have to eliminate desserts. Healthier sweet treats could lower your cholesterol and provide numerous other health benefits. Below are some simple tips on how to create highly nutritious, low-cholesterol desserts.
If you can, base your sweet treat on fruits and vegetables. They’re rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and plant sterols.
Fruits and vegetables decrease insulin resistance, improve glucose control, and decrease LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
To add fruits and vegetables to your desserts:
Use fresh fruits and vegetables in your sweet treats, as canned and dried fruits and vegetables are typically full of added sugar.
For baked goods, try swapping the butter or oil for vegetables, such as pureed butternut squash, yams, and sweet potato. You can also use grated vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, or beetroot. Mashed avocado is a tasty alternative to oil and butter in baking.
Mashed bananas or pureed fruits, such as apples and dates, are great alternatives to sugar or processed sweeteners in your baking.
Simply use the same amount of fruit or veg instead of oil, butter, or sugar.
Blend fresh or frozen fruit, such as bananas, mango, and berries, for a simple and delicious treat. Top with nuts and seeds, and you will have a nutrient-rich dessert.
Whole grains are rich in insoluble and soluble fiber, which slows down glucose absorption, absorbs and excretes bile acids, and promotes the growth of good bacteria in your gut. All these effects will lower your LDL and increase your HDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber will also make your baking more substantial and filling.
When making baked goods that require flour, opt for options such as whole-wheat flour, oats or oat flour, spelled flour, rye flour, buckwheat flour, or quinoa flour. If you are not a fan of these, try starting with half all-purpose flour and half whole-grain flour. Thus, you will still get plenty of nutrients from the whole-grain flour with the taste you are used to.
Nuts and seeds are rich in unsaturated fats, such as omega-3, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, protein, antioxidants, and plant sterols.
There is consistent evidence² that omega-3 decreases the risk of heart disease by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis and increasing its excretion, besides lowering triglyceride levels.
To add nuts and seeds to your dessert:
Toast them in the oven or on the stovetop for extra flavor.
Use as toppings to add texture to your sweet treat.
Finely chop them up and fold through your baking mixtures and batters. Seeds will not need chopping up—just simply pop them in as-is.
Ground almonds (almond meal) are a great alternative to refined flour.
Legumes include beans, peas, lentils, and soybeans. Legumes lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol. Researchers believe this is due to the combined effect of several nutrient components of legumes, such as protein, soluble fiber, antioxidants, and iron.
To add legumes to your dessert:
You can substitute legume flours for refined flours. The most popular and versatile is chickpea flour. This is a great flour to start with as it is very light in color, texture, and flavor. Other legume flours include black bean, pea, and lentil flour.
Puree black beans as an alternative to butter and oil.
Legumes can be a good base for mousse. The most common bean is black beans, followed by white beans and chickpeas.
Whether you have high cholesterol or are simply trying to keep your cholesterol levels at bay, you can still enjoy something sweet. Focusing on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes for your dessert is the perfect place to start with cholesterol-lowering treats.
Even if your dessert is rich in nutrients and healthy, it’s best to eat it in moderation.