The Peninsula Manila’s Chef Avanish Kumar Jain was born a vegetarian, and for the most part, he stays a vegetarian, having his usual bread, lentil, rice, and vegetables for lunch. When he has to taste certain recipes at the hotel’s buffet restaurant Escolta, however, he admits that he has to make room for a little meat, and consequently, a little fat. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“We all should have a bit fat in our body because fat keeps us warm, but we should not eat too much fat,” Chef Avanish says. “Certain kinds of food--like pig's brain or cow's brain, kidney, and liver--are very high in cholesterol.”

While these delicacies aren’t often on the menu, many Filipino dishes could probably still use a bit of fat trimming. Short of going vegetarian, Chef Avanish shares a few tips on how you could lower your cholesterol levels without having to sacrifice your taste buds.

1. Avoid foods that are high in cholesterol.

Some foods are obviously high in cholesterol, but there are some seemingly healthy ones that also make it to the list. “We all say lobster and crab have the highest cholesterol, but it's clam,” says Chef Avanish. Apparently, clam has a total cholesterol count of 454 while lobster has only 200 and crab 164.

2. Switch to healthier cooking methods.

This may sound a bit exaggerated, but constantly deep frying your meals may be a death sentence waiting to happen. If you really want to trim the fat from your meals, try experimenting with other cooking methods instead. Chef Avanish offers an example. “Sisig is high in cholesterol,” he says. “Rather than deep frying the pork in the oil, baste it with the oil, and keep it in the oven, cover with aluminum foil, and cook it in low temperature.”

3. Look for decent substitutes.

Still on the subject of sisig, Chef Avanish recommends changing the main ingredient from pork to chicken or tuna. “Salmon skin can be used for making sisig. You just need to bake it in the oven and make it crispy.” But if you’re more concerned about your meat, nutrients-wise, there are also healthier substitutes for it. “I don't suggest anyone to eat too much meat, I suggest [they] look at the amount of protein the meat contains. Your red meat contains the same protein as soya beans, so why not eat soya bean instead of meat?”

4. Use the right kind of cooking oil.

No two cooking oils are the same. “Palm oil is the worst,” Chef Avanish says. “Olive oil is the best, but the thing is, olive oil has low smoking point. It gets hot very fast and once the olive oil reaches its smoking point, it loses its quality.” Chef Avanish recommends going for canola oil instead. Not only does it have a high smoking point, “the quality of canola oil is the same as the olive oil.”

5. Reduce the fat manually.

In dishes like lechon kawali, a certain amount of fat is expected. But aside from baking it in dry heat, which should melt some of the fat, you can simply take away an inch or two of fat off of it to make it healthy. The same goes for other dishes like kaldereta. And if you see a thick layer of oil on your dish, simply scoop it out.

(Photo by Mike Dee, flashbox photo by punctuated via Flickr Creative Commons)

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