BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — From the tamale to the empanada, traditional dishes never fail to satisfy. However, some of the traditional ingredients in these meals are a contributing factor to high cholesterol. One celebrity chef is cooking up new and healthier ways to prepare these dishes without losing the delicious taste.
For Chef Jesus Diaz, known as Chef Yisus, fighting high cholesterol in the Hispanic community is very personal. He lost his mother to high cholesterol after fighting the battle with her to keep her cholesterol levels down. Ever since, he’s been advocating for heart healthy substitutions in his favorite traditional Hispanic recipes.
“Always try to keep that hearth health in mind, mostly because of my family background,” said Diaz. “My mother always had a hard time keeping those cholesterol levels down, and that was a lesson for me and the rest of the family. Try to avoid those ingredients like butter or margarine.”
Bakersfield physician Dr. Nelson Madrilejo, a specialist in diabetes and endocrinology, agrees with Diaz, saying that genetics and diet are the major factors that contribute to high cholesterol.
“Certainly diet can play a big part in high cholesterol,” said Madrilejo. “People who are dealing with high cholesterol should avoid saturated fats. Saturated fats are very high in meat, butter, and other full-fat dairy products such as cheese and ice cream.”
Instead of avoiding these foods entirely, Chef Yisus is changing the way traditional recipes are prepared. He explains his process with his favorite dish, the arepa.
“The arepa is filled with a salad that is made with shredded chicken, avocado, onions, peppers, cilantro, and it usually takes some mayonnaise, but we replaced it with Mazola corn oil in this case.”
Changes to diet aren’t the only recommendation for lowering cholesterol. Detecting the problem early leads to better outcomes for patients.
“I think screening is the most important part because there are no real signs of high cholesterol until it’s too late,” said Dr. Madrilejo. “Individuals who are at high risk for possible heart attacks and strokes, such as people who smoke or have high blood pressure or diabetes, they should be screened much earlier.”
Madrilejo recommends that men should be screened for high cholesterol by age 35 and women should be screened by 45. If you would like the recipe Chef Jesus uses to make his heart-healthy arapas, you can follow the tutorial here.