The American Heart Association has a basic formula for eating healthy.
Think color! Dark green and deep orange, yellow fruits and vegetables, including spinach, carrots, peaches, berries. All the beautiful fruits and vegetables you can find should be the centerpiece of your diet. If you like grains, make them whole grains, whole oats, whole wheat brown rice, not over processed and refined ones.
Add a bit of fish a couple of times a week- but choose oily fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, lake trout and herring. They contain the omega-3 fatty acids good for your heart and your brain.
Fats are a real area of concern. Here, you need to look at labels. Trans fats and saturated fats should be avoided. Get lean meat and use vegetable oils like olive oil or canola instead of heavier fats like butter.
Salt adds flavor but go easy, especially if you are at high risk for diabetes, kidney disease or high blood pressure. Sugar is not a health food and only adds weight and raises your blood sugar. Regarding alcohol, the American Heart Association suggests that two drinks a day for men and one for women is a good guideline.
This may seem like a lot, but, once you understand what is healthy and what is not healthy and get in the habit of reading labels and making good choices, dietary changes become easier and easier.
Two Easy Winter Dishes that are super heart-healthy
On a cold winter’s day, there is nothing like steaming bowl of soup to warm you up. This healthy, red pepper soup is an all-time favorite from Taste of Home. A delicious, substantial accompaniment is this tasty Brussels Sprouts Salad with cheese and nuts, which can be served as a quick salad or a hot delicious dish.
Roasted Red Pepper Soup
(from Taste of Home)
• 1 large sweet onion, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 teaspoons butter
• 2 jars (15-1/2 ounces each) roasted sweet red peppers, drained
• 2 cups vegetable broth
• 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup half-and-half cream
Prep: 10 min. Cook: 25 min.
In a large saucepan, sauté onion and garlic in butter for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Add the red peppers, broth, basil and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
In a blender, cover and process soup in batches until smooth. Remove 1 cup to a small bowl; stir in cream. Return remaining puree to pan. Stir in the cream mixture; heat through (do not boil). (Serves six)
(Originally published as Roasted Red Pepper Soup in Country Woman January/February 2007, p37)
Shaved Brussel Sprouts Salad
(from Cooking Light)
• 1 pound Brussels sprouts
• 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
• 3 tablespoons finely grated pecorino Romano cheese
• 1 lemon
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
This dish is the perfect partner for a bowl of the red pepper soup. You can put it together quickly as a cold salad, but roasting it in the oven really brings out the flavor of the sprouts and cheese!
Using an adjustable-blade slicer, thinly slice leaves of Brussels sprouts into a medium bowl. Add walnuts and cheese. Finely grate lemon rind into bowl; halve lemon, and squeeze juice into bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. You can make the salad up to 20 minutes in advance.
If you like them roasted, mix ingredients as above and put in a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. (Serves six)