In addition to Black History Month, February is also Heart Health Month. Did you know heart disease is the most common cause of death in America? Taking care of your heart is essential for your health, and a good diet is key to take care of your heart, so this blog post we’re bringing you three recipes packed with foods that will make your heart happy.
First, let’s go over two major things that the Community Health Foundation of Springfield recommends everyone should do to prevent heart disease. First, cut down on salt. For people with heart diseases, you should try to keep your daily salt intake under 1500 milligrams. For everyone else, it should be under 2400 milligrams — that is only about a teaspoon of salt! There is a lot of salt in things you may not expect. 80% of the excess salt people consume is not salt added when seasoning food; it’s salt already in packaged food.
Check out this infographic to learn what foods make up the “Salty Six.” The infographic shows the 6 most common foods people eat and don’t realize have a lot of salt.
Second, cut down on unhealthy fats. Generally speaking, unhealthy fats come from animals and healthy fats come from plants. Some healthy fats include vegetable oils, olive oil, nuts, peanut butter, olives, and avocados. Fish is also a healthy fat. Fat from dairy products like milk and cheese are not. Make sure you are eating unhealthy fats in moderation and including lots of healthy fats in your diet.
So here are three tasty, simple, and healthy recipes for you to try!
Berry Spinach Smoothie
Different kinds of berries have antioxidants that can help fight heart disease. Studies show that berries can reduce cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, and body mass index.
Leafy green vegetables are abundant with vitamin K, which protects arteries and promotes proper blood clotting. Studies show a correlation between eating lots of leafy greens and a lower risk of heart disease.
I love a fruit smoothie for breakfast. I always include a banana and some sort of non-dairy milk. You can also use yogurt. For this heart healthy smoothie, I included three types of berries: blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. To make berries last longer, you can buy them frozen or freeze them yourself at home. Frozen fruit make for a great smoothie texture.
It can be difficult to include enough leafy greens in your diet. I think adding spinach to a smoothie is a great way to fit them in. You may be skeptical, but the taste of raw spinach is so mild you won’t even notice it. This smoothie doesn’t come out green either.
Want to spice up your spinach berry smoothie? Add homemade granola! A lot of store-bought granolas are full of sugar but never fear — making it at home is easy. This recipe is made from oats, a form of whole grains. Whole grains have lot of fiber, which can decrease the risk of heart disease.
I added walnuts because they are a great source of fiber and micronutrients. Almonds would be another good nut to include in your granola, as well as seeds like chia, flax, and hemp. I ended up using used pumpkin seed kernels.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
First, mix 2 cups of old fashioned oats, ¾ cup of nuts (I combined chopped walnuts and pumpkin seeds), ½ teaspoon of sea salt, and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon in mixing bowl. You can also use regular table salt if that’s all you have, just use less of it.
Then add ¼ cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of honey, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix so all oats are lightly coated.
Spread the mixture evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown.
Let it cool completely (at least 45 minutes). Then stir and break up chunks. Top with dried fruit (I used craisins) and you can even add chocolate chips if you want!
Store in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks (doesn’t need to be refrigerated), and enjoy on top of yogurt, smoothies, or as a snack.
Studies have shown that a diet high in beans can reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, and reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Olive oil. The next two recipes both include olive oil as a cooking ingredient. Olive oil is another food that has a lot of antioxidants.
Drain and rinse a can of beans. For this recipe, I used pinto. Black beans are a good heart healthy option as well.
Cook the beans with half a chopped onion, ½ teaspoon of garlic, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan (studies have shown garlic can reduce cholesterol!). Season with 1 ½ tablespoon of chili powder, ½ teaspoon of paprika or cumin, and pepper to taste. Pour in ¼ cup of water and cook until most of the liquid is gone.
That’s it for the cooking! You can mash up the beans if you want. Next, put them in tortillas and add your favorite toppings.
I like pico de gallo, cilantro, avocado and hot sauce.
Avocados are one of those great healthy fats that aren’t bad for your heart.
The tomatoes in the pico de gallo are also heart healthy.
Perfect for an easy and flavorful weeknight dinner!
Lastly, this isn’t a recipe but an idea for a heart healthy desert or snack. Green tea and dark chocolate!
Green tea has many health benefits, and it can prevent cell damage and reduce inflammation.
Dark chocolate has a lot of antioxidants to boost heart health, and it has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease! That being said, chocolate can still be high in sugar and calories, so eat it in moderation.