A Solution That We Enjoy

July 5, 2016 in Health by Joyce Bunderson

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in August 2011 gave us all a heads-up; that is, if we just happen to have the kind of body that efficiently produces too much LDL- Cholesterol (the undesirable stuff.) The study found that if both cutting saturated fat and eating a diet high in cholesterol-lowering foods was used together, it was effective at lowering LDL by 13% - 14%. As a matter of fact, the combination is more effective than just cutting saturated fat. That’s pretty nice. Let’s make it very clear that those study participants who experienced this big drop both lowered their sutured fat intake and ate more cholesterol-lowering foods.

I was rather motivated by this information, as my birth family tends to have hyper-cholesterolemia and the resulting cardiovascular disease. Consequently, the first step for us was to review which foods are included in the cholesterol-lowering foods.

  • Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts (1.5 ounces per day)
  • Foods with soluble fiber (at least 0.75 grams per serving); oat bran, rolled oats, whole oat flour, whole grain barley
  • Fruits, vegetables and grains that contain at least 0.6 grams of soluble fiber per serving
  • Tofu, soy protein, legumes. Please consider learning more about soy protein. There’s a super great 2013 article (click here) comparing soy protein to tang (fresh squeezed orange juice) as related to tofu. Certainly, I’d recommend the tofu.
  • Salad dressings, spreads, snack bars, dietary supplements that contain at least 0.65 grams per serving plant sterol/or 1.7 grams stanol esters

So being a person that likes to use natural foods, I was drawn to the idea of using legumes. For years I’ve had the goal to eat more legumes/beans; it’s been an extremely difficult challenge for me to integrate into my regular menu design. I’ve recognized that tofu would be one of the excellent ways to get more legumes. Now before you stop reading, let me share that we’ve been utterly surprised where this goal has led.

I tried quite a few recipes using tofu. The recipes turned out good; but seriously they were so much work to use as a frequently used recipe. Often the process included cubing, pressing, or baking. Like many people, we tried tofu and it was bland; my husband especially was comparing it to practically tasteless bullion Jell-O with texture nothing like meat. This obviously failed the yumminess test. Some years ago, I learned that the key to tasty tofu was the flavors that were added, but the recipes were still time consuming. I’ve, however, finally hit upon a way to use tofu that we both enjoy. It is fairly easy; and at the same time, it seems to hit upon a number of our nutritional goals. The giant advance was when I decided to crumble it, instead of pressing and cubing and so on. Now it’s a fairly quick meal, which is low fat – very low in saturated fat; low calorie; plant-based and is loaded with nutrients. It’s also great for those paying attention to a grocery budget.

I’ll share my new technique with you; just in case, you too, are looking to add tofu to your regular menus. The following is the general preparation of our lettuce wraps:

Lettuce Wraps

Makes enough filling for 4 - 6 very generous servings.


Extra virgin olive oil (This is what I use; you can use your favorite oil.)

14 ounces of organic, extra firm tofu ($2.46 – Wal-Mart’s price last week)

Taco seasoning to your taste

2 cups of cooked brown rice or quinoa

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 large red pepper, chopped

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

8 oz. can diced water chestnuts, drained (if desired)

Baby romaine lettuce, washed and separated or regular romaine lettuce


Drain the tofu. Put olive oil into a large skillet. With your hands break the tofu with your hands; crumbling it into 1/3 to 1/2 inch crumbles. Sprinkle it with taco seasoning or whatever combination of herbs and spices that you enjoy. Put the lid on the skillet, set slightly ajar to allow the steam to escape. Set over a medium heat and allow the moisture to cook off. Stir periodically.

While the tofu is drying out, chop onions, mushrooms and red and/or green peppers. When it begins to brown and the moisture is gone. Add quinoa or brown rice. Stir it all together. Then remove from the skillet. Add the onions, mushrooms and peppers and brown for a few minutes. Add the tofu mixture back to the skillet; stir in a drained can of diced water chestnuts (if you like a little crunch) and heat for a moment until the water chestnuts are warm. Serve in romaine lettuce leaves.

I’m pretty excited that I finally have a less time-consuming and routine way to incorporate tofu into our regular eating. It’s been going very well; we enjoy this recipe and I vary it with different ingredients, but it essentially the same process. In fact, on two occasions it has been referred to as chicken. So I guess it tastes a bit like chicken. If you want your LDL cholesterol to be a little lower, maybe try keeping a lid on the saturated fat, while adding some of the cholesterol-lowering foods to your regular meal plans.