Malaysian Flavors, Healthy Choices: Managing Cholesterol with Local Cuisine

We all are familiar with cholesterol and almost everyone knows that affects heart health. So everyone wants to manage their levels. You can manage them with the right choice of Malaysian flavors and dishes.

Before diving into the culinary delights, let’s briefly understand cholesterol. It is a waxy substance formulated inside our liver and found in our body cells. Cholesterol itself isn’t a bad substance. It is essential for hormones, tissues, bile acid, and vitamin D (1). However, high levels of cholesterol harm the human body and can manifest as heart disease, atherosclerosis, and stroke.

Cholesterol has two main categories that are:

– Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

LDL aka bad cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries and increases your chances for stroke.

– High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

HDL aka good cholesterol, helps to remove LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream. HDL above 50 mg/dL shows that you have satisfactory heart health.

You all should know the value of healthy cholesterol levels. The ideal value for total cholesterol is under 200 mg/dL, LDL (bad cholesterol) under 100 mg/dL, and HDL (good cholesterol) above 50 or 60 mg/dL.

You can get to know these values through lipid profile tests. If the values are disturbed then it is high time for you to reduce cholesterol naturally through diet.

Your diet should incorporate cholesterol-lowering foods, lean protein and fibrous foods. Besides these, your goal should be to include antioxidant-rich foods, anti-inflammatory foods, and good fats to encourage cardiovascular health and help in lowering cholesterol levels. These fats are readily available in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and seed oils.

Cholesterol Diet Menu:

Let’s explore which cholesterol-lowering food groups are available in Malaysia. You can add these food products in your major meals.

Lean protein:

Malaysians are super fortunate because they are settled across the coastal regions that offer a bounty of fresh fish and seafood. Fish are the best source of lean protein. It contains vitamin B2, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming fish twice a week is recommended for heart health.

Tofu is also widely used in Malaysia and is prepared from condensed soy milk. It is the first choice for the vegans. Another soy product is tempeh which is extracted from fermented soybeans. Now, the plant-based protein market is expanding in the country (2).

Unsaturated Fats:

In Malaysia, coconut oil is used enormously. According to statistics, its consumption is rising by 0.8% annually, and it is projected to reach 41,000 metric tons by 2026 (3). Coconut oil has saturated fats that can raise cholesterol levels. So it is advised to use canola oil, vegetable oil, or olive oil in cooking.

Besides this coconut oil is also loved by the natives. They can switch it with low-fat milk substitutes like soymilk or almond milk.

Nuts and seeds are a good option for munching and these can miraculously help you to increase HDL levels. 

Fibrous foods: 

Rice (Nasi) is the main staple food in Malaysian cuisine that is low in fiber. While preparing cholesterol-friendly meals it would be favorable if you use brown rice. These are abundant in fiber and can lower bad cholesterol levels.

Vegetables: Malaysian cuisine is abundant with vegetables. Load up on fiber-rich veggies like Kang Kung (water spinach), bok choy, and eggplant. Vegetables are a mighty source of antioxidants and B vitamins. 


The regional fruits are Banana, ciku, durian, guava, mango, papaya, pineapple, rambutan, and watermelon (4). All of them hold a high nutritional value. However, these are not specifically proven to be beneficial for lowering cholesterol. So taking one serving of these in a day is suitable.

Flavorful Herbs and Spices

Malaysian dishes are known for their rich flavors, often achieved through a variety of herbs and spices rather than unhealthy fats or sugars. The most used condiments are:

– Ginger and Garlic are incorporated in almost every dish in Malaysian cuisine like Nasi katok, Nasi goreng, Mee goreng, curry laksa, and sambal. Ginger and garlic have significant anti-inflammatory roles therefore both are excellent for heart health. They add depth to dishes without the need for excessive salt.

– Besides this Turmeric is Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is a key ingredient in many Malaysian curries.


Cholesterol-friendly recipes:

We have shared here lower cholesterol recipes for you that will be a treat for your taste buds. 

Steamed Fish with Sambal

Steam fresh fish like Tilapia or Snapper and serve with a handmade sambal consisting of tomatoes, garlic, chili, and a little lime juice. This method of cooking conserves its nutrients and makes it an incredible low-fat and high-protein meal. Serve it with steamed veggies and brown rice on the side.

Konjac Laksa:

Laksa is a popular Malaysian dish that contains noodles and coconut milk. You can make it healthier by skipping coconut milk for making broth. Add Konjac noodles in it with regular broth. These noodles are also known as Shirataki noodles or miracle noodles because they have low calories. It has a special fiber known as glucomannan fiber. You can enjoy konjac laksa by adding plenty of salad as condiments (5).

Tofu curry:

Create a healthy Malaysian Tofu Curry by using light coconut milk or an almond milk substitute, along with a mix of ginger, garlic, tofu, and vegetables. Cook the tofu until golden, then simmer with vegetables and spices in a tomato and light coconut milk broth. Dish it up with brown rice or quinoa and garnish with fresh cilantro for a nutritious, low-fat meal.

Ayam masak merah:

It is a tantalizing Malaysian dish that is presented along Nasi Minyak. This casserole of chicken pieces is prepared with tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and a blend of spices. Make sure to prepare it in olive oil and add a very small quantity just for sauteing the ingredients.

Malaysian cuisine offers a variety of foods that can be consumed more healthily. All you need is to be familiar with cholesterol-lowering foods. Try to incorporate them in your diet and if required modify your meals a bit to make it a cholesterol-friendly recipe.

If you need help managing your cholesterol while enjoying Malaysian flavors, connect with our dietitian or download our mobile app to get personalized nutrition advice.

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