Heart Healthy Eating
With every bite we take we have the opportunity to deliver powerful nutrients to our body so we can prevent and combat heart disease. The essence of a heart healthy diet is consuming foods in their natural state (a.k.a.: whole foods). There is an abundance of whole foods at local grocery stores that can help reduce our risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The produce department provides many of these foods that are the cornerstone for a heart healthy diet.
An example of a dinner containing whole foods is: ½ cup of brown rice with 1 ½ cups of steamed broccoli and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan cheese. Top off the rice and veggie mix with 3 ounces (palm size portion) of grilled chicken with Italian seasoning. For dessert you could enjoy one honey crisp apple, a tablespoon of raw cashews, and a cup of herbal tea!
Whole foods are as much about fresh fruit and vegetables as they are about whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, fish, and tea. Variety is the key when purchasing heart healthy foods. Consuming a wide variety of whole foods, helps our bodies flush out free radicals. What in the world are free radicals? Bear with me while I get scientific for a moment. Free radicals are naturally occurring molecules responsible for the aging process, tissue damage, and quite possibly many diseases. Free radicals typically come from exposure to environmental pollution like UV rays from the sun, cigarette smoke, and exhaust from cars and industrial fumes. It’s nearly impossible to completely avoid free radical exposure, so God gave us antioxidants in many foods to help flush free radicals from our body. Antioxidants are molecules that prevent free radicals from harming healthy tissue. They are found in many whole foods. In fact they are found in every single one of the foods that can help you spring into heart healthy eating. Here are five whole foods that can be the basis of a heart healthy meal plan.
Fresh or canned tomatoes are a power-packed heart healthy option. For a different way to enjoy tomatoes try sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil. Experiment with sun dried tomatoes on whole grain pasta with veggies, sandwiches, and salads.
Black Beans and Kidney Beans
Beans from a can are the quickest way to enjoy this heart healthy food. Just remember to rinse the beans thoroughly to reduce the sodium content. Sprinkle half a cup of beans on top of your soup or salad.
Almonds and Walnuts
Mix these nuts with a few berries in low fat yogurt or lightly toast them in the oven for an excellent salad topper (trade the croutons for them). These two heart healthy foods are a great way to add nutrients to cookies, muffins, sweet breads, and even pancakes and waffles.
This is a great cost-effective whole grain food. You can make a pot of rice at the beginning of the week and enjoy it ½ cup at a time with mixed veggies stirred in. Microwaveable brown rice is a convenient way to enjoy rice at lunch with veggies like broccoli, carrots, spinach, and salsa.
Any orange colored vegetable or fruit is a heart healthy option! Sweet potatoes are a very versatile and filling whole food. They can be roasted in wedges, baked, sautéed, and even placed in the microwave for a quick lunch choice.
A heart healthy meal plan can be very rewarding to your taste buds and your body’s cardiovascular system. Don’t be afraid to try new foods in creative ways, and enjoy traditional foods with a fun new spin. Challenge yourself to purchase two new “whole foods” at the grocery store every time you go. Our intelligent Creator lovingly made every plant, tree, and whole food for us to enjoy (Gen.1:29). As you try new foods, turn your mind to the Source of nourishment for the body, mind, and soul - our Creator.