Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. Eighty percent of these cardiac events can be prevented with education, diet and lifestyle changes. Rather than focusing on foods we can’t eat, emphasize all of the delicious foods we should be adding to our diets. Since February is American Heart Month, here is the CT Academy’s top 10 foods to add to your diet to reduce heart disease risk, along with some delicious recipes that incorporate these foods. What other foods would you add to this list? Feel free to add your comments!
- FISH: Aim for two servings of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, or mackerel. The “fatty”-fish can reduce risk of developing heart disease by decreasing inflammation and lowering triglyceride levels, and can even help boost your HDL levels.
- SOY: 25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease, by helping to lower levels of LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol. Find soy protein in tofu, soy milk, soy nuts, vegetarian meat alternatives as well as certain protein bars and powders
- WHOLE GRAINS: Replacing refined grains (white bread, pasta, etc.) with high-fiber, antioxidant rich whole grains including oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat breads and pastas, can help reduce heart disease risk by lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and insulin levels.
- NUTS: Adding four servings of unsalted nuts a week (a serving is a small handful of whole nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter), is good for your heart. Be sure to buy raw or dry-roasted nuts rather than those cooked in oil. Toss chopped walnuts or pecans into your morning oatmeal or on a salad, snack on some almonds or peanuts, or spread some almond butter onto whole grain toast.
- HEALTHY FATS: Avocado, olive oil and olives all contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which helps reduce total cholesterol while raising the ‘good’ high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol. High levels of HDL cholesterol protects the heart from heart disease, and adding these healthy fats to the diet also helps reduce total body inflammation.
- BEANS: Beans, beans are good for your heart — in one study, people who ate legumes, including beans and lentils, at least four times a week had a 22% lower risk of heart disease than people who ate them less than once a week.
- BERRIES: High in antioxidants and polyphenols, berries can help improve blood flow and prevent plaque build-up in the arteries.
- GREEN VEGGIES: The antioxidant compounds in broccoli, asparagus and spinach, combined with being a good source of potassium and folate, make these veggies heart-health standouts, but adding more fruits and vegetables of any kind is heart smart.
- GARLIC: Garlic contains a high amount of the antioxidant allicin, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that can help lower blood pressure and LDL-cholesterol in the body. Other naturally-occurring compounds in fresh garlic have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow.
- SPICES: An emerging area of research into the medicinal properties of spices has shown that spices such as turmeric and cinnamon have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce many of the risk factors for heart disease by improving blood flow and cholesterol levels.
Heart-Healthy Recipes by CT Academy Member Evelyn H. Gezo, MS,RD,CDN
Salmon with Spicy Black Beans & Cilantro Sauce Dinner
*Heart healthy salmon combined with beans, garlic, and avocado.
- 4 – 4 oz. salmon
- 1 small minced onion
- 1 small diced red bell pepper
- 4 medium minced garlic cloves
- ½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 15 oz can black beans, drained
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- Juice of one lime
- Ground pepper
- Large tomato, chopped and seeded
- Lettuce greens
- Sliced avocado
- Prepare cilantro sauce by combining ingredients except tomatoes in small food processor or blender.
- In large skillet, sauté onion, pepper, garlic in broth over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, stir.
- Add broth, beans and chili powder. Continue cooking at least ten minutes. Add more broth if needed.
- Brush baking pan with oil, place salmon pieces (skin side down) in pan and spread with cilantro sauce.
- Add chopped tomatoes on top and bake uncovered at 350 F for 20 minutes.
- Serve with lettuce greens topped with sliced avocado and spicy beans on the side on one plate.
Avocado and Hearts of Palm Salad
*Refreshing salad to serve with heart healthy seafood.
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- ½ small sweet onion (cut into thin slivers)
- 2 – 14 oz cans hearts of palm, drained and cut into ½ inch pieces
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 2 avocados, peeled and cut into small cubes
- ½ tsp finely grated lime zest
- 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 Tbsp mayonnaise (can substitute light mayo)
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- Toss together tomatoes, onion, hearts of palm, avocado and cilantro.
- Whisk together in separate bowl dressing ingredients: mayo, lime zest,
lime juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add dressing to salad and gently toss.
- Can serve over greens and add chopped walnuts if desired.
*Here is a recipe that substitutes tofu (soy) for cream cheese and has nuts, garlic, and spices for a great spread! Good on crackers and whole wheat bagels.
- 12 oz. cream cheese or soft tofu
- 2/3 cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
- ¼ cup chopped water chestnuts
- ¼ cup sliced green onions
- 4 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 small clove minced garlic
- 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend well.