One in four deaths in America. 600,000 deaths each year. The number one killer in the country. Do you know what it is?
It’s heart disease, and February is the month we hope to raise awareness and learn how to our risk of disease. The good news (well, from a food-blogger’s perspective) is that diet is one of the major ways we either help or hurt our hearts. So I’ve pulled together a week’s worth of recipes that feature foods rich in fiber, phytonutrients, healthy fats and more, to help keep hearts in tick-tock shape.
Chocolate (the darker, the better). It’s not for nothing that chocolate and heart-themed Valentine’s Day are paired up in our collective consciousness. Full of heart-friendly flavonoids, chocolate can help control blood pressure if you eat the high-cocoa content stuff (70% or more) regularly. And if you try it in my chocolate veggie enchilada recipe, you’ll also get some healthy fats from avocado and a good dose of vegetables.
Nuts. Your heart goes nuts for the mono- and polyunsaturated fats and phytosterols in foods like walnuts and almonds. And the little buggers are tasty, too, especially when ground up into creamy nut butters like the simple maple walnut butter from Eating Well With Janel.
Legumes. Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you… reduce your risk of heart disease! Yeah, my version isn’t as melodic (or amusing to first-graders), but it casts these fiber-rich, vitamin-packed legumes as the nutritional powerhouses they are. Give lentils a while in my curried lentil shepherd’s pie, or check out Bean Week for more recipes.
Berries. Blueberries, cranberries, cherries, elderberries, and more – they’re all packed with phytonutrients (flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenols) that have been shown to promote cardiovascular health with regular consumption. Work them in easily as a snack or dessert with Cooking Light’s blueberry orange yogurt parfait.
Green vegetables. Well, duh, green vegetables are healthy for you. But foods like broccoli, spinach and others are especially good for the ol’ ticker because they’re rich in carotenoids, fiber, and potassium, among other nutrients. Epicurious has a simple, colorful side-dish recipe for chard with pine nuts and golden raisins that can ease anyone into the green-vegetable habit.
Orange vegetables. Carotenoids give foods like carrots, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes their lovely orange hue, and contribute to their associated with lower risk of heart disease. So orange you glad there’s a recipe like carrot “pasta” with kale parsley pesto from Betacyanin?
Fatty fish, flaxseeds, and other omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods. There’s some confusion about unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids’ role in heart health, because supplementation hasn’t conclusively been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. But there’s ample evidence that eating foods rich in omega-3s does reduce your risk. So if you put down the pill bottle, pick up your fork (or spoon) and try adding fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and other good food sources to your diet. Cooking Light has a pan-seared salmon with jalapeno-pineapple relish recipe that sounds great for fish eaters, and veg-heads like me might want to throw some flaxseeds on their yogurt or into a bowl of oatmeal.