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Love may last forever but that Valentine’s Day dinner you enjoyed earlier this month probably disappeared before the clock struck ten. Whether you indulged in a romantic chocolate soufflé with your partner or shared the love at a dinner party with friends, it’s not too late to make a meal that’s all about your heart. February is American Heart Month, and you can celebrate by cooking your way to a healthier life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Even if you are not currently experiencing cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it’s always a good idea to take care of your heart. Cooking is a great way to be proactive about your cardiovascular health because it lets you take control of the ingredients you consume.
As a wellness advisor, I always tell patients who have experienced stroke or other heart issues to avoid foods that contain trans fats and saturated fats. These fats are most commonly found in processed foods like granola bars and crackers, so when you cook for yourself it’s easier to make sure you’re steering clear of them.
An simple way to cut out those unhealthy fats is to use oils that are high in Omega 3’s (like extra virgin olive oil or almond oil) instead of butter. If you suffer from high cholesterol, you’re at a higher risk for stroke and heart disease, and you may also want to think about limiting your intake of meats and dairy products. Instead, focus your diet on vegetables, lean-proteins, grains, and fruit.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.Heart-healthy cooking doesn’t have to be all about restrictions. One of the best Valentine’s Day gifts (in my book) is dark chocolate, which has shown in numerous studies to improve blood flow to the heart and reduce blood pressure. Of course, the key to unlocking the health benefits of dark chocolate is to eat it in moderation, but there’s certainly no need to feel guilty if you indulged in some cacao hearts earlier this mo nth.
If your Valentine’s Day sweet tooth is still strong, try whipping up a dessert recipe that’s heart-healthy. One of my favorite treats growing up was always brownies, and, as an adult who is conscious of my heart’s health, I still make them today. The only difference is that I use black beans instead of butter; they give the brownies a perfect consistency and provide health benefits for your heart.
Cooking is the perfect way to involve your partner in your heart healthy goals. If you like staying in and cooking a healthy meal together, try taking a romantic walk together after your dinner. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that higher amounts of sitting time are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Long periods of sedentary time can be harmful even for those who regularly work out.
Why not celebrate American Heart Month by doing something good for your heart?
Lisa Gorman, RN, is passionate about wellness. A registered nurse with 25 years of health care experience, Lisa believes proper nutrition, stress relief, and life balance are vital to good health. In her role as director of the St. Joseph Health Wellness Corner in Irvine, Lisa helps employees reach optimum health. She has worked in wellness and prevention for more than 10 years and is a certified yoga teacher/therapist.
Delicious Cooking for One
Taking just a few minutes to make a home-cooked dinner for yourself can be more deliciously satisfying than the same routine of heating packaged frozen dinners in the microwave night after night &ndash and it can be done without washing lots of dishes! The trick is to have a few staples in the pantry and in the freezer. Here are some must-have meal-builders for fast and healthy meals for one:
7 Heart-Healthy Recipes That Go Big on Flavor
Heart-healthy recipes don&apost need to go light on flavor. These healthy recipes simply skip the saturated fats in favor of lean proteins, healthy olive oil, nutty whole grains and fresh vegetables, while going all-in on big flavor.
This quick chicken stew stars heart-healthy olive oil, fresh ginger root, minced garlic, and low-sodium chicken broth. It also features loads of fresh veggies. "This is one of my favorite 30-minute weeknight recipes," says Stephanie. "Turmeric adds exotic color and flavor."
It doesn&apost get much simpler than this. Salmon fillets, olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt -- that&aposs all it takes. The key is to dry the salmon before sliding it into the olive and, and cook the fish skin-side up until the flesh is beautifully golden brown. Dinner&aposs ready in mere minutes.
A splash of vinegar adds bright flavor to this hearty lentil soup. It&aposs chock full of healthy veggies, including spinach and crushed tomatoes.
Choose ground turkey breast for this recipe, which is leaner than ground dark meat. These turkey meatloaf cups are baked in muffin tins. Delicious for dinner, the single-serving aspect makes them great as grab-and-go lunches, too!
Here&aposs a spicy and sweet tropical salsa starring colorful chile and bell peppers, corn kernels, and black beans seasoned with cilantro, cumin, and a splash of orange juice. Serve over grilled or baked chicken or fish.
15 Heart-Healthy Recipes That Are Done In Less Than 30 Minutes
These quick, heart-healthy recipes have just 5 grams or less of saturated fat per serving. #winning!
These quick, heart-healthy recipes have just 5 grams or less of saturated fat per serving. #winning!
Serve them with one of these amazing healthy soups as a starter or side dish.
This Mediterranean-inspired dish adds just enough olive oil for the health benefits without excessive calories.
Swap the usual pesto herbs for broccoli in the pasta sauce to get extra greens in.
The gingery-lime relish is TDF.
Colorful salads make eating even better.
Let's be real&mdashwho isn't obsessed with Mexican food?
This deconstructed burrito leaves out the carb-heavy tortilla and subs in brown rice for the usual white.
If you're looking for a vegetarian source of protein, quinoas gotchu.
Spoiler: This dish does not skimp on flavor.
Literally, all we need in life is avocado.
Lunch time is way less basic when you've got quinoa bowls.
It's time to start stuffing your avocados. You won't be sorry.
This cool, creamy, and slightly spicy avocado salad is going to become your new favorite side dish.
These patties are amaze alone or in a sandwich.
This dish is full of flavor (and heart-healthy fiber) thanks to the combination of tart balsamic chicken and a lightly sweet and crunchy salad made with celery, green apple and lemon juice.
Pork Tenderloin with Seasoned Rub
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
In separate bowl mix dry ingredients such as garlic powder, oregano, cumin, coriander, thyme, and salt. Stir the mixture with a fork until all the ingredients are well combined and they form a seasoning. This will be used as a rub to ensure the pork is well seasoned throughout. Sprinkle the rub over the tenderloin with a dry hand, then rub the pork with the seasoning over both sides of the meat, pressing gently so the seasoning adheres well to the tenderloin.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat. Add the minced garlic and saute, stirring, for 1 minute. Put tenderloin in the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, searing each side using tongs to turn the meat. Transfer meat to a roasting pan and bake for 20 minutes. Slice and serve.
10 Tips for Heart-Healthy Cooking
2. Canned goods are often loaded with salt. Use no-salt-added canned products and lower-, reduced-, or no-sodium jarred goods, such as sauces.
3. Use high-sodium ingredients, like cheese and olives, sparingly.
4. Make recipes or egg dishes with egg whites instead of with egg yolks. Substitute two egg whites for each egg yolk.
5. Use cuts of red meat and pork labeled "loin" or "round," as they usually have the least fat. To reduce fat and cholesterol even further, make veggies or legumes the star of a meal and use meat sparingly in a "supporting role."
6. Avoid added sugar by incorporating naturally sweet ingredients, like fresh fruit.
7. Avoid prepared products, such as piecrusts, refrigerated dough, and cake mixes, as they tend to be high in fat and sodium.
8. Replace salt with fresh or dried herbs, spices, or salt-free seasoning mixes. Experiment with flavorful additions, like lemon juice, citrus zest, or hot chiles.
9. Avoid butter and stick margarine.
10. Whenever a recipe calls for highly refined grains, try using whole wheat instead. You can substitute whole wheat flour for up to half of the amount of all-purpose flour listed in a recipe.
I'll eat spinach any way I can get it. The garlic flavor in this recipe is out of this world.
PREP TIME: 5 minutes / TOTAL TIME: 10 minutes / SERVINGS: 4
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb fresh baby spinach, roughly torn
1. HEAT oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and immediately stir to avoid burning, about 10 seconds. Add spinach and toss with tongs.
2. SEASON to taste. Continue cooking and tossing until just wilted, 45 to 90 seconds. Remove to bowl.
NUTRITION (per serving) 91 cal, 3 g pro, 5 g carb, 3 g fiber, 7 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 90 mg sodium
Recipes for a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
A heart-healthy lifestyle starts with healthy food choices. Eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients like potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein and lower in sodium and saturated fat can help keep your blood pressure low and protect against heart disease and stroke.
Eating heart-healthy doesn&rsquot have to be boring or bland. In fact, it can be easy and delicious! Spring is the perfect season to load up on more fruits and vegetables. Keep your meals fresh and flavorful with these inspired, heart-healthy dishes for every occasion. Recipes with an asterisk are low sodium, which means they have 140 mg of sodium or less per serving.
Try these affordable, delicious recipes and helpful healthy eating resources from our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the American Heart Association (AHA).
Dining out: Heart-healthy menu swaps
Asian menus typically contain many heart-friendly ingredients. But the preparation may be high in fat and include not-so-healthy additives. Try these tips for health-conscious ordering:
- Opt for steamed dumplings instead of ordering egg rolls and fried dumplings.
- Sidestep fried or breaded meat entrees. Instead, choose baked, broiled, grilled, sautéed protein sources-chicken, fish, shellfish, lean beef or pork.
- Fill your plate with a variety of veggies, whether boiled, broiled, steamed or lightly-stir-fried (e.g., chop suey with steamed rice).
- Choose steamed vs. fried rice to avoid large amounts of sodium, MSG, calories and fats in the fried version. Better yet, ask for a bowl of steamed brown rice.
- Ask the cook to use less oil and soy sauce, and to skip the MSG and salt.
- Opt for mung bean or rice noodles over white refined noodles.
The following original recipes were created by a registered dietitian. They are easy to make (even for a beginner cook), delicious (even for picky eaters), and healthy—they adhere to the healthy eating guidelines outlined in Healthy Eating for a Healthy Heart, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. Bon appetit!
Oat Bran and Cranberry Muffins
|Nutrition information per serving|
|Total fat||3.5 g|
|Saturated fat||0 g|
|Total carbohydrates||28 g|
Makes 12 servings, 1 muffin each
2¼ cups oat bran
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons safflower oil
2 large egg whites
½ cup nonfat milk
¾ cup natural unsweetened applesauce
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Mix the bran, brown sugar, baking powder, white sugar, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Stir in the oil, egg whites, milk, and applesauce until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cranberries. Drop the batter into 12 lightly greased muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool about 10 minutes. Refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for up to three months.
Apple Cinnamon Steel-cut Oatmeal
1 cup steel-cut oats
1 medium apple, cored, with skin
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
(or to taste)
1 cup nonfat milk, divided
In the top half of a double boiler, place the oats and 4 cups water. Fill the bottom half
with water. Be sure not to overfill. Turn the heat to medium-high. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the apple into ½-inch wedges and add to the oats. Stir together and cook for another 15 minutes at medium heat. Add the cinnamon to taste. Divide the oatmeal into 4 bowls, adding ¼ cup nonfat milk to each serving right before eating. You can stir the milk in or leave it on top, whichever you prefer.
Black Bean Chili
6 cups canned black beans (see Note)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons chili powder
16 ounces canned whole plum tomatoes, no added salt
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Pour the beans into a colander. Rinse under cold water for 5 minutes. Dice the garlic cloves. In a 4-quart pot, brown the garlic in the olive oil on low heat. Add the chili powder, beans, tomatoes, and vinegar. Cook on high heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Lower to simmer and cook for another 30 minutes.
Optional: Add fresh cilantro, hot pepper sauce, reduced-fat sour cream, or reduced-fat Cheddar cheese as desired and if your diet allows. (These additions are not included in the nutritional data above.)
Note: You can use dried beans that have been soaked overnight and cooked. Follow the package instructions for soaking and cooking.
Quinoa, Shrimp, Avocado, and Edamame
1 cup Inca Red quinoa (see Note)
1 tablespoon diced green onion
5 cherry tomatoes, diced 1 red sweet bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and diced ½ avocado, peeled and diced
3 ounces raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup shelled edamame beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
Place the quinoa and 2 cups water in a 1½-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Add the green onion, tomatoes, pepper, garlic, avocado, and edamame to the cooked quinoa. Cook the prepared shrimp in 1 inch of water in a shallow pan on high heat. The shrimp are done when they turn pink, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and add to the quinoa. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and cilantro, and mix.
Note: Inca Red is a form of quinoa that is found in the rice section of specialty grocery stores or health food stores. It is a beautiful red color, so it makes this dish more attractive. If you have trouble locating this form of quinoa, you may substitute regular quinoa.
1 pound salmon fillet (preferably wild salmon)
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon paprika
2 ounces lemon juice or 4 lemon wedges (optional)
Preheat the broiler. Add 1 cup water to the bottom of a broiling pan. Place salmon on the top of the broiling pan. Spread the mayonnaise evenly over the salmon. Sprinkle the paprika over the prepared salmon. Broil in the upper half of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through. Serve with lemon if desired.
Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin
4 ounces orange juice
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 medium-sized pork tenderloin
Oil for coating the grill
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Prepare the grill. To make the marinade, place the orange juice, garlic, honey, and brown sugar in a large zipper-closure plastic bag. Add the tenderloin and refrigerate up to 6 hours. Lightly oil the grill so the pork does not stick. Grill the pork on medium-to-high heat, turning and basting with the marinade occasionally, for 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer shows an interior temperature of 160° F. Add ground pepper.
Red Rice with Scallions and Corn
1 cup red rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
¹⁄8 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup scallions, thinly sliced (white ends only)
½ cup corn
1½ cups no-salt-added chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Rinse the rice. In an oven-safe, 12-inch round pot, heat the olive oil on medium. Add the pepper, scallions, and corn and cook for 10 minutes. Add the rinsed rice and chicken broth, and bring to a rolling boil. Do not stir. Turn the heat off, cover the pot, and place it in the oven for 35 minutes or until all of the liquid has evaporated.
6 cherry tomatoes
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 ripe avocados, peeled
3 ounces lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cut each tomato into 4 small sections. Put the garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, avocados, lime juice, and olive oil in a bowl. Using a potato masher, mash until the avocado is chunky (not smooth) and the ingredients are well mixed. Serve with grilled chicken or fish, on sandwiches, with eggs, or as a dip with raw vegetables.
Optional: If you prefer a spicy guacamole, add ¼ teaspoon chopped jalapeño pepper.