With January done and gone, how are those New Year’s goals and resolutions coming?
This is the time of year where I am sick and tired of hearing stupid juice cleanse commercials on the radio and the latest detox, starvation diet that’s supposed to change your life. The only thing they’re going to change is the amount of money in your bank account.
Time to reset and actually do something GOOD and worthwhile for your body! Here’s a clue as to what that is….
Instead of deprivation, let’s focus on delicious foods we can add to our diets to help prevent the #1 killer in the United States. Yep, I’m talking about heart disease. According to the CDC, 1 person will die every 37 seconds due to heart disease. This is absolutely insane, tragic, and unnecessary. Heart disease can strike at any age, so don’t think this is just an older person’s issue. My husband had his first major cardiovascular incident, a stroke, at the age of 42. That’s definitely not an age one would expect to have a stroke!!
The American Heart Association estimates that approximately 80% of heart disease cases are preventable. This is great news!! Now it’s time to get to work and take action against heart disease!
February is American Heart Month, so let’s take steps to love our hearts through delicious heart-healthy food!
8 Amazing Heart-Healthy Foods
I don’t care what kind of veggies you eat, just eat them and eat a variety. Eating a rainbow of veggie colors each day ensures that you get a range of vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy phytonutrients. They all have slightly different functions and benefits! The one thing they all have in common though is fiber!! Fiber and heart health go hand-in-hand. Women need at least 25 grams per day and men are looking at 38 grams.
- veggie breakfast scramble
- veggie dippers with hummus
- salad-less entree salads
- spinach, zucchini, or cauliflower added to smoothies
- roasted veggies such as roasted red cabbage and shallots
Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids may decrease inflammation, decreased risk of stroke, lower blood pressure, and decrease triglycerides, just to name a few potential benefits! Aim to eat at least 2 (4-ounce) servings of fish per week. Options high in these healthy unsaturated fats are salmon, sardines, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and canned light tuna.
- Salmon or tuna cakes made with canned fish
- Nicoise style salad with sardines
- Roasted salmon with za’atar spice blend (dried thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac), lemon, and olive oil
- Broiled mackerel filets with chopped fresh herbs, olive oil, and lemon
- Roasted lake trout with chipotle
Herbs & spices
Dried or fresh, it’s all good! Herbs and spices are packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants! Rosemary, oregano, turmeric, and cinnamon are particularly potent! Herbs and spices are also great flavor enhancers to add so you can reduce the amount of salt thrown into the dish. Smoked paprika is fantastic for this purpose!
- Pasta sauce made with pureed roasted red peppers, red wine vinegar, garlic and smoked paprika
- Marinate chicken with dried Italian herbs and balsamic vinegar
- Make pesto out of fresh basil or even parsley and add to proteins, veggies, and soups
- Mix ground cinnamon into overnight oats/oatmeal and smoothies
- Marinate tofu cubes with dried herbes de Provence, lemon, and olive oil, then bake until crispy
Healthy plant oils
My favorite heart-healthy unsaturated oils are avocado, extra virgin olive, cold-pressed canola oil, and culinary algae oil from a company called Thrive. That’s not say you can’t ever eat butter, but most of the time, make sure you’re using unsaturated plant oils. Finishing oils such as sesame and walnut oil are great for adding flavor at the end of cooking.
- Sear fish with avocado oil
- Make salad dressing with extra virgin olive oil, dijon, lemon, and garlic
- Basil pesto made with hemp seed oil
- Chimichurri sauce with olive, avocado, canola, or algae oil
- Drizzle sesame oil over steamed veggies
Pulses include beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dried peas and they are all fantastic. Not only are they super affordable, but they are rich sources of plant-based protein and my favorite “F” word – FIBER! Just like oats, pulses have soluble fiber which is a good tool in your cholesterol-lowering arsenal. They’re also quite filling and contribute to satiety.
Carbohydrates aren’t the enemy! Especially, when you’re eating whole grains packed with fiber! Some options include quinoa, brown rice, oats, wheat berries, rye berries, kamut, whole wheat pasta, popcorn, and, whole wheat bread. Oats are particularly helpful in lowering the bad (LDL) cholesterol through limiting the amount of cholesterol the body absorbs.
- Garlicky steamed quinoa with chopped chives
- Breakfast “fried” brown rice
- Wheat berry pilaf
- Cocoa raspberry overnight oats
- Whole wheat pasta salad like Lemon Dill Shrimp and Pasta Salad
Nuts, peanuts & seeds
Nuts and seeds are full of those heart-healthy, unsaturated fats, but they also contain fiber and antioxidants. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pecans are great for cooking and snacking on. Walnuts flax, chia, and hemp seeds are even sources of the plant-based version of omega-3s.
All types of fruits have benefits, but berries of all kinds, including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries are particularly healthy because of the anti-inflammatory polyphenols. These health-promoting compounds may help to lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels.
What are some of your favorite heart-healthy foods and dishes?