Eat Simply and Cleanly For Heart Health

 

 

 

HEALTHY HEART

February is American Heart Month and as the month comes to a close, I would like to highlight the heart healthy foods you should eat regularly. Keeping with my theme of eating simply and colorfully, which includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, your diet should include:

Fish:

Many studies show that people who consume fish are at lower risk for cardiovascular disease than people who do not consume fish. The decreased risk may be attributed to the nutrients within the fish that may prevent blood clots, clogged arteries, inflammation, elevated blood pressure and high triglyceride levels. Try to:

  • Eat 12 ounces of fish per week – that’s the equivalent of four decks of playing cards.
  • Ensure at least 1 to 2 servings are oily types of fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, and rainbow trout, which contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • Make healthy seafood selections, avoiding deep-fried fish fillets or dishes with cream, cheese or buttery sauces.

Nuts:

Numerous studies show eating nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Packed with nutrients, eating nuts may help lower unhealthy cholesterol levels, improve dilation of blood vessels and combat elevated blood pressure. Try to:

  • Snack on ¼ cup or handful each day.
  • Add to salads, stir-fries, cereal, yogurt and side dishes. To bring out their ‘nuttiness’, try roasting them for 2-3 minutes before tossing on a salad.
  • Aim for lightly salted or unsalted types.

Whole Grains:

Much research reveals eating whole grains is associated with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. The fiber and antioxidants within the whole grains are credited with its health promoting benefits. Try to:

  • Check package labels on breads, cereals and crackers and look for the words “100% whole”. Try to make sure it is the first ingredient as well.
  • Substitute half whole-wheat flour in recipes calling for flour.
  • Explore “ancient” grains such as amaranth, kamut, millet.

Legumes

Beans, dried peas and lentils not only improve cholesterol levels but also blood pressure. One meta-analysis involving 26 clinical trials found 1 daily serving was associated with a modest but significant reduction in LDL cholesterol levels. Try to:

  • Aim for at least 2 meatless meals per week.
  • Puree beans and add to meat  or soups as an extender.
  • Rinse canned beans to reduce their sodium content. This will also decrease the gassy side effects of legumes.

Olive Oil

While many oils contain monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats which have been linked with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, extra virgin olive oil contains many phenolic compounds – phytonutrients associated with anti-inflammation and vasodilation or enlarging of blood vessels. Try to:

  • Enjoy a bit of olive oil on bread, in salad dressings and with vegetables including substituting for milk, cream and butter if making mashed potatoes.
  • Drizzle rather than pour to ensure you don’t use more than you need.  An olive oil spritzer is inexpensive & a great way to reduce your intake:)
  • Choose extra-virgin variety. Make sure you check the ingredient labels on olive oil as  you do not want a blend. You want the real deal!

Try this Heart Healthy Recipe for Minnestrone. I have prepared this soup numerous times using all sorts of veggies, beans & grains. It’s easy & packed with nutrition!

Ingredients:

 

2 tsp               olive oil

1 ½ cup         chopped onion

1                      carrot. This is where I take the liberty to add lots of carrots & celery

1 clove            garlic

½ cup             long grain rice. if you don’t have the long grain, experiment with wild rice or any of the ancient grains.

1 tsp                 dried Italian seasoning. I also add oregano, marjoram etc

2 ½ cups        water

(2) 14 oz         chicken broth, low sodium. Actually I purchase my soup base at Penzy’s in Maplewood:)

1                      medium zucchini-if I have more than 1 zucchini or other variety of squash, I add that, as well

¼ tsp              pepper

15 ½ oz          cannellini beans, drained

1 pkg               frozen spinach, thawed & drained

2/3 cup          parmesan cheese

Preparation:

1. Heat oil in large pan. Add onion, carrots & garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes.

2. Add uncooked rice & next 4 ingredients. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat & simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Add zucchini, salt pepper, cannellini beans & spinach

4. Cook additional 5 minutes

5. Ladle into bowl & sprinkle with cheese

 

Bon Apetite!

Homemade Stock: Simply Nutritious

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If there is one thing of which I am certain, it’s that I eat a lot of veggies….in whatever form. I find that in the cooler months, I make soup on a weekly basis, and as you know, the foundation of a delicious, hearty soup is the stock. Well, being a dietitian, I am always looking for ways to improve the nutritional quality of whatever I put in my mouth. So, I realized that instead of always reaching for a store-bought stock which contains an excessive amount of sodium, I should be making my own. I am pleased to say that as of this past autumn, I have been making my own vegetable stock on a regular basis. I had no idea how easy, economical and nutritious it is!!!

All it entails is collecting the scraps and trimmings of whatever veggies you use, preferably carrots, celery, onions, parsley, herbs, garlic, leeks and placing them in a plastic bag or container and storing in the freezer. (Actually, I have used cauliflower and broccoli stumps, beet greens, and Brussel sprout leaves in the mix too.) Make sure none of the trimmings or scraps contain mold. When you have approximately 4 cups of trimmings, place them in a pot with 8 cups of water, salt and whole peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours. Strain the veggies and voila! you have a nutritious stock which you can freeze in individual containers or use immediately in soup or stew:) It’s that easy!

So, get back to the basics of cooking, start saving time, money and nutrients and make a vegetable stock which will make you proud of yourself!!!

 

Bon Appetit!!!

 

 

Our Body’s Craving of Antioxidants

 

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I’m quite certain that over the past few years you have heard the term ‘antioxidants’ & may wonder what are they, what do they do & why we need them. Well, as you know I am quite passionate about helping others learn to eat for health, which is why I am devoting this post to educating you about the multiple health benefits of antioxidants. Antioxidants are natural or man-made substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals, which are unstable molecules produced during food metabolism or when exposed to exercise, or environmental sources such as sunlight, tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells and may contribute to some diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Many experts believe antioxidants can help prevent that damage. Our immune system helps defend against oxidative stress, (which is another reason to keep your immune system in tip-top shape). As we age, these defenses are less effective which contributes to poor health. Numerous clinical studies show that when we consume antioxidants (think fruits & veggies:), we supply our bodies with protection and numerous positive health benefits. There are many antioxidants, but some of the most common are Beta-carotene (Vitamin A), Selenium, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Lutein, and Lycopene. Other sources of antioxidants include nuts, grains, poultry and fish.

Let’s take a look at some of these beauties:

Lycopene is a pigment that gives vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, papaya, blood oranges and watermelon, their red color. Several studies suggest that consumption of foods rich in lycopene is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease (tip: it is better absorbed by the body when it is consumed in processed tomato products, rather than fresh tomatoes).

Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to good health but required only in small amounts. Plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium but it is also found in meat, bread, and Brazil nuts.

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Lutein is found in large amounts in the lens and retina of our eye & is applauded for its eye health benefits. It may also have potential protection against damage caused by UVB light and a critical component to overall skin health. Lutein is found naturally in foods such as dark green leafy veggies, egg yolks, and many other fruits and vegetables.

Beta-carotene has the ability to reduce free radicals and protect the cell membrane lipids from the harmful effects of oxidation. It is found in dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash.

Vitamin C reduces free radicals before they can damage the lipids. These antioxidant properties fight free radicals that can promote wrinkles, age spots, cataracts and arthritis. Antioxidants in vitamin C also have been found to fight free radicals that prey on organs and blood vessels as well. It is found in many fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, salad greens, strawberries, watermelon, cabbage, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin E may help prevent or delay cardiovascular disease and cancer & has also been shown to play a role in immune function, DNA repair, and other metabolic processes. It is found in soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, wheat germ, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, corn, seeds, olives, egg yolks, and liver.

So, now that you have a base knowledge of antioxidants, their properties & functions, I ask that you consider these wonderful substances ‘medicine’. Our bodies respond best when we consume a balanced diet which contains the goodness that nature has to offer, so take full advantage of these beautiful, powerful little gems & dine on all sorts of whole foods throughout each and every day!!

Here’s to enjoying the fruits of the earth!