When looking for heart health recipes it is important to look for high fiber, good sources of omega 3 and nutrient-dense foods. For more information on the importance of fiber on heart health read last week’s blog post called “Feeding a Healthy Heart”.
This week’s post will give more direction on how to actually apply the recommendations. This is based off of the Harvard Heart Letter called “Sizing up ‘Superfoods’ for Heart Heath”. So let’s get into it!
For breakfast I would recommend having either a bowl of oatmeal or quinoa topped with nuts, berries or oranges. Really any fruit could work but berries and oranges have high levels soluble fiber that can lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Try to avoid adding sugar to your breakfast as having high blood sugar regularly can increase your chances of obesity and diabetes which can lead to heart problems. But adding protein and fats in the form of nuts (as well as the fiber in the oats or quinoa and fruit) will prevent the blood sugar peaks and will help you stay fuller longer.
For lunch having a nice big serving of dark leafy green in the form of a salad can be a great way to get lots of heart-healthy food into your diet. Salads can be a great canvas to play with veggies, nuts, proteins, sprouts, grains and if you are feeling adventurous even fruit. First, let’s look at the base. Starting with dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale (baby kale is really nice in salads as it’s a bit more tender then full-grown leaves) , rocket, chard, dandelion, mustard, and arugula, just to name a few, can make for a range a flavors from bitter, spicy or sweet. Find a mix you like and don’t be afraid to play with the flavors by adding herbs to the mix. I personally like having a mix with spinach, kale, chard, mustard, arugula, dill and cilantro in it. Now for the fun part, the toppings. This is where I really get excited as there are lots that you can do to add flair to your salad. When it comes to heart-healthy toppings focus on fiber-rich, omega 3 and protein. Adding protein to your salad will make it feel more substantial and will make you feel full longer. This can be either plant or animal based protein, but if you are going to go for animal-based protein sources look for wild or grass feed products as much as possible. This is because wild and grass-fed animals often have a better Omega 3 ratio. For vegan or vegetarian options look to add beans, nuts, and seeds to the salad for a good source of fiber and protein. For other beneficial fats adding some avocado to any salad will not only add a nice texture and taste but will help keep you fuller longer. But what’s a salad without dressing? And I’m sure I’m not going to make any friends when I say to step away from the calorie dense ranch dressings that people love to swim t their veggies in, opt for an olive oil-based vinaigrette instead. If you really want a thick and creamy dressing you can find or make a tahini or avocado-based sauce making sure that sugar is not within the first 5 ingredients, or ideally no sugar added at all.
For dinner I’m breaking this down into two sections, first an omnivorous plant- based and second a vegan/vegetarian plant-based.
For you omnivorous plant based eaters I would recommend salmon with a side of quinoa and steam cruciferous veggies like broccoli. The salmon is an excellent animal source of omega 3’s which can be very protective towards the heart. When it comes to the sides we are looking to add as much fiber and nutrients to the meal as we can. These is why quinoa and broccoli play so well with this meal as they are high in fiber and micronutrient that can promote heart health. To jazz up this meal try adding nuts and citrus to season the meal, add some beneficial fats from the nuts and more fiber and micronutrients from the fruits. One way to do this is by adding slivered almonds and orange segments to the quinoa along with some spices like cardamom, cinnamon and gram masala.
For the vegan/vegetarian plant-based meal you can find recipes like the one below for quinoa fritters with a side of steam or roasted veggies. Focus on darky green veggies or high fiber veggies like sweet potatoes. It would as so be wise to add some healthy fats by including avocado or nuts into the meal. In the recipe for the fritters there is a tahini yogurt sauce which can add some healthy fats to the meal. If the fritters are not what your feeling for dinner tonight fear not, there is a world of legumes and pulses to play around in. This truly versatile family of plants are a good source of plant-based protein, fiber, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Find a base that you like and start playing with herbs, spices and different sauces that include plant-based healthy fats and are low in sugar.
Finally, what’s a day without a little treat? When it comes to treats I have a weakness for dark chocolate. So I was ecstatic to see that chocolate over 70% cocoa mass is considered to have heart health benefits when enjoyed in moderation. So to end the day I will leave you with two of my favorite plant-based heart-healthy treats. First is the simple and delicious avocado chocolate pudding. This simple recipe includes avocado, cocoa powder, vanilla, a little bit of almond milk to get it blended and just a touch of maple syrup. My second dessert is a favorite from the Buff Dudes, their black bean brownies. These are great to bring to events and I promise no one will notice their there actually good for them. 😛
In summary, a diet that is healthy for the heart is high in dietary fiber (specifically soluble), has sources of healthy fats like omega 3’s and is nutrient dense. Happy eating everyone! In the comment below let me know what aspect of this day of eating you are going to add to your regular diet.