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Heart Health Recipes That Will Surprise You!

February is American Heart Month, so I’ve gathered some heart-healthy recipes to celebrate. For most of you, I imagine many of these recipes will surprise you. That’s because over the past decade or two, a lot of the conventional health advice has been flipped on its head, due to the emergence of new research disproving what we thought was true. Here’s a quick summary of the new heart-healthy food rules.

Heartbreakers: What to Avoid

1.      Trans fats: These dangerous fats appear in deep-fried foods, such as potato chips, doughnuts, and fried chicken or fish — basically anything dunked in a vat of hot oil. You’ll also find them in processed foods containing hydrogenated oil. The National Academy of Sciences, which was tasked with setting a maximum amount of trans fat that people could safely eat each day, set the level at zero because they determined there is no safe level of these fats.

2.      Refined carbs: You thought saturated fat caused heart disease, right? Turns out, research is showing that refined carbohydrates (such as white bread, white rice, and sweets) may actually be the primary culprit. Why? Refined carbohydrates raise triglyceride levels, which contributes to heart disease.[1]

3.      Sugar: There’s a reason diabetics are two to four times as likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than folks without diabetes.[2] Sugar damages the blood vessels and, as a simple carb, also raises triglycerides. High fructose syrup is especially bad in this regard: avoid at all costs!

4.      Vegetable Oils: I know, this sounds like heresy, but certain vegetable oils are not good for you. Sunflower, corn, soybean, and peanut oils are high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids and low in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so you want to limit their use.[3] (Inflammation plays a key role in the development of heart disease.) The good news is that canola and olive oils, which have a much better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, are still good for you!

Take Heart: What’s Okay Now (Really!)

1.      Saturated fat: Found in meat, dairy products, and tropical oils, saturated fat was long thought to be bad for your heart, but two recent meta-analyses (scientific papers that analyze the results of a broad swath of studies) refuted this connection.[4],[5] Because these foods are high in calories, you might restrict your consumption of them if you are trying to lose weight, but they will not hurt your heart.

2.      Eggs: Similarly, for a long time, people thought eggs must raise cholesterol because they contain cholesterol. But they also contain phosphatidylcholine, which decreases blood cholesterol. Eggs also have the phyto-nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which can prevent cholesterol from oxidizing and accumulating in the arteries, so experts now think an egg a day is safe and healthy, too.[6] 

3.      Coconut oil: Throw out what you thought you knew about coconut oil. This saturated fat used to be considered unhealthy, but, coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has been shown to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.[7]

4.      Avocadoes: Wait, avocadoes are fattening, aren’t they? It’s true all fatty foods are caloric, but The Journal of the American Heart Association recently published a controlled study in which participants replaced an equivalent amount of fat in their diet with one avocado a day. The study found that participants who ate the avocadoes lowered their LDL cholesterol.[8]

Heartwarming: More Good Stuff

1.      Fruits and Vegetables: Studies on the health benefits of fruits and vegetables come out every week, it seems. But here’s a startling illustration of how important these foods are. A study at University College London found that consuming seven or more servings of produce a day slashed folks’ risk of death from any cause, at any age, by 42 percent.[9]

2.      Nuts and Seeds: Nuts are full of protein, and most varieties contain a wide spectrum of heart-healthy nutrients such as unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols, and L-arginine.[10]

3.      Whole Grains: White flour products should be avoided, but whole grains provide fiber, B vitamins, and minerals and may reduce the risk of heart disease, by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.[11],[12]

Now that you know the new heart-healthy food rules, here are some delicious heart-healthy recipes to tempt your palate.

Heart-Healthy Recipes That Will Surprise You!

Meat dishes

I have tried all three of these recipes, and I can assure you, they’re delicious!

·         Thai beef salad. I love this recipe and make it often. It’s extremely flavorful and fun to eat! I don’t have kids (yet), but I imagine they would like piling the beef into the lettuce shells themselves.

·         Show off paleo lasagna. This recipe, which uses sliced root vegetables in place of pasta, is so mouth-watering you won’t even miss the noodles! You might want to save it for a weekend or for when you entertain guests though, because it is labor-intensive.

·         Middle Eastern lamb burgers. I’m always surprised when I haven’t made these delectable burgers in a while, and they turn out every bit as good as I remembered. I like to double the batch and put a bunch in the freezer so I can have quick protein at the ready.

Egg dishes

I usually make omelettes, quiches, and frittatas with ingredients I have on hand. I like to include some kind of greens, like sautéed chard or spinach, as well as fun things like artichoke hearts, roasted red bell peppers (you can buy these in a jar), feta cheese, and even sour cream. If you don’t feel like experimenting, here are a couple quiche recipes you can try:

·      Quiche with kale, tomato, and leek

·      Broccoli garlic quiche

·      Roasted Brussels sprout and gruyere quiche

Dips

Go ahead, have some guacamole and seed & nut pates! Just keep your portion size reasonable, and choose whole grain crackers or vegetables to dip instead of chips.

·         Holy moly best-ever guacamole

·         Raw pumpkin seed pate

·         Raw walnut pate

Heart-Healthy Recipes That Won’t Surprise You

And here are some heart-healthy recipes that won’t surprise you, because everyone still agrees that seafood, chicken, and vegetables are good for you!

Seafood

These two are staples in my kitchen.

·         Black cod with summer salsa. Simple, fresh, and delicious, this recipe has a wonderful salsa featuring tomato, avocado, and corn. Use regular cod if you can’t find black cod in your area.

·         Seared scallops with caramelized onions and arugula. I make this one when I’m pressed for time, and I feel like I’m eating in a gourmet restaurant!

These look yummy too!

·         Pistachio-crusted salmon

·         Lemon garlic shrimp over cauliflower mash

Chicken

My local food co-op makes a wonderful organic, free range roasted chicken, so I don’t cook a lot of chicken at home. But if I did, I would try these two recipes.

·         Thai curried chicken in coconut milk

·         Chicken satay with spicy peanut dip

Vegetables

Tired of serving up steamed broccoli and salad? Try these interesting veggie combos:

·         Lentil and Swiss chard soup

·         Roasted asparagus with fried eggs and parmesan

·         Eggplant roll-ups

Whole grains

Choose whole grain pastas rather than the white stuff. Honestly, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference! These two recipes look particularly mouth-watering:

·         Whole wheat spaghetti with lemon, basil, and salmon

·         Quinoa pasta with spinach and tomatoes

Have a wonderful heart-healthy February! Do you have any recipes you’d like to share?


References:

[1] http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/carbs-raise-triglycerides-8480.html

[2] http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Diabetes/WhyDiabetesMatters/Cardiovascular-Disease-Diabetes_UCM_313865_Article.jsp

[3] http://authoritynutrition.com/optimize-omega-6-omega-3-ratio/

[4] Siri-Tarino PW, et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):535-46.

[5] Chowdhury R, et al. Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014 Mar 18;160(6):398-406.

[6] Hu FB, et al. A Prospective Study of Egg Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Men and Women. JAMA. 1999 Apr. 21;281(15):1387-94.

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/25/coconut-oil-benefits_n_4164278.html

 

 

[8] Wang L, et al. Effect of a moderate fat diet with and without avocadoes on lipoprotein particle number, size and subclass in overweight and obese adults: a randomized, controlled, trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015 Jan 7. Epub ahead of publication.

 

 

[9] Oyebode O, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2014 Sep;68(9):856-62.

 

 

[10] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635

 

 

[11] http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains-why.html

 

 

[12] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/10/whole-grains-health-benefits_n_5655022.html

 

 

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