I’ll start this blog post by saying that, since I started my cholesterol-lowering plan, I’ve massively reduced the amount of butter and other spreads in my diet. One reason is because a lot of them are high in saturated fat, which can increase cholesterol, and the other reason is because the meals and snacks I now eat a lot of don’t need butter or margarine (although I still have butter in my 20% time – more on that later).
But if you love your daily morning toast, or don’t like the thought of eating a sandwich without spread, then there are still a few options that can fit into a cholesterol-lowering diet:-
1. Olive/vegetable oil based spreads
Bertolli Original has 1.3g saturated fat per 10g portion (which is about 2 teaspoons) and tastes pretty good on toast with a tiny bit of salt added. Flora Original has just 1g saturated fat per 10g portion. I haven’t eaten Flora for a while, but I’ve heard it’s also good.
Like any food containing more than 1.5g saturated fat per 100g, these margarines should still be eaten in moderation, especially if you’re eating them with other foods containing saturated fat.
The NHS recommends that:-
- the average adult man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day.
- the average adult woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.
These are absolute maximums rather than targets, so try to keep your daily saturated fat intake as low as possible to keep your cholesterol levels low. For tips on how to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet, see this blog post.
2. Cholesterol-reducing spreads
Spreads like Benecol and Flora ProActiv contain plant stanols/sterols, which have been proven to actively lower cholesterol. I haven’t tried the Benecol spreads, but I really like the taste of Flora ProActiv Buttery.
To achieve the cholesterol-reducing benefits from these products, you need to consume 1.5g to 2.4g of plant stanols/sterols every day for at least 2-3 weeks. This is the equivalent of 3 servings of spread (about 6 teaspoons), which isn’t always that easy to fit into your daily diet if you’re not eating lots of bread.
An easier way to get enough plant stanols/sterols in your daily diet is to have cholesterol-reducing yoghurt drinks, which are also part of the Benecol and Flora ProActiv product ranges. They contain 2g of plant stanols, which is the full daily amount required. I drank one of these every day to help lower my cholesterol last year.
Benecol and Flora ProActiv products are not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under five years old, and they also may not be suitable for anyone taking cholesterol lowering medication. It’s best to consult your GP before using any of these products to make sure they’re suitable for your individual needs.
3. Low fat spreads
There are tons of spreads and margarines available nowadays that are labeled as ‘low fat’, but I’ve never found one that tastes good so I tend to avoid them. If you find one you like though, they’re fine to eat freely in a cholesterol-lowering diet (as long as they contain less than 1.5g saturated fat per 100g), but bear in mind that they generally have very little or no nutritional value.
Important: make sure you avoid any margarines or spreads that contain trans fats (found in hydrogenated oils), as they’re actually worse for you than saturated fats. Look for ‘0g trans fat’ on food nutrition labels and make sure there are no hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.
Instead of using spreads on your toast or in sandwiches, you could try some of these cholesterol-friendly alternatives:-
- Low fat cottage cheese
- Avocado slices with a pinch of salt
- Peanut / almond butter
You could also try some new breakfast and lunch recipes that don’t include spreads, like these:-
- Cholesterol-lowering breakfast pancake
- Cholesterol-friendly french toast with maple syrup
- Cholesterol-lowering apple & cinnamon porridge
- Cholesterol-friendly tuna & avocado pasta salad
- Easy cholesterol-friendly lunches
Include butter in your 20% meals
If, like me, you love toast, croissants etc spread with generous amounts of real full-fat butter, then make sure you include them in your 20% food time (more about that in this blog post). Life’s definitely too short to give up butter altogether.