Nearly half of U.S. adults have some type of cardiovascular disease, and heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by this disease. These statistics reinforce the importance of taking care of your heart for a healthier you.
The good news? Nearly 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events are preventable with education, awareness, and action! By taking simple steps and engaging in healthy behaviors, we can have a long-term positive impact.
In addition to exercising regularly, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within a healthy range, being mindful of your food intake is
We understand implementing and sticking to a healthy diet can be challenging and often overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be. Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants and fiber are great additions to your plate – and your heart will thank you.
To help you establish heart-healthy habits, here are five nutritional recipes from our Lifestyle Medicine team in support of American Heart Month.
Health note: Kale is considered a cruciferous vegetable, and it may help to lower risk the of cancer. The vegetable is loaded with antioxidants and contains omega-3 fatty acid, which can help reduce inflammation.
- 1 bunch of kale or a bag of cut kale
- Olive oil spray
- Preheat oven to 250F. Lightly
spraytwo baking sheets with the cooking spray.
- Wash and thoroughly dry the kale. You are baking it at a low temperature to remove the moisture and make the kale crisp, so be sure its dried well!
- Remove the leaves and tear into smaller pieces.
- Place the dry leaves on the baking sheets and bake for about 30 minutes, turning and moving the pieces around so they crisp evenly. Keep a close eye on the chips as you want them crisp but not burnt.
- Sprinkle with garlic powder or a little cayenne pepper if desired for extra flavor.
Tip: Leave the cooked kale out overnight to further dry or take it out of the oven until the oven cools and then return to dry overnight with the oven turned off. It is important not to put the hot kale into a sealed container as it will regain moisture and loose crispness.
Purchasing and Storing Kale
When you purchase kale, look for dark green leaves that are not wilted, yellow or brown. Smaller leaves have a much milder taste than large leaves, which tend to be bitter. To store kale, place in a plastic bag removing the air before sealing and place in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Health note: Chickpeas are a great source of soluble fiber to lower cholesterol. The seeds contain B-vitamins and potassium to help with healthy blood pressure.
- 15 oz. chickpeas (rinsed and drained in a colander)
- Olive oil spray
- ¼ tsp. chili pepper powder or cayenne powder
- ¼ tsp. ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. paprika
- ¼ tsp. ground coriander
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder
- Heat oven to 350F.
- Rinse chickpeas and drain to avoid excess moisture.
- Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray and spread the chickpeas out for baking.
- Combine the seasonings in a small bowl and stir to blend flavors. Sprinkle the combined seasonings onto the chickpeas.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Shake the pan every 5-7 minutes while baking to roast evenly. Be mindful of burning – chickpeas are small and cook fast!
A Hearty Meal
Mushroom Barley Soup
Health note: Barley is a great source of a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which can help to lower LDL cholesterol.
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. fresh garlic minced
- 2 ½ c. yellow onion diced
- 2 ½ c. small red skinned potatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 c. diced celery
- ½ c. turnips cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 bell pepper diced (seeds removed)
- ¾ c. carrots diced
- ½ c. sliced mushrooms
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 c. vegetable broth
- 1 c. pearl barley (sold in a bag; may find in the aisle with dried beans)
- Fresh parsley chopped, for finishing
- Add olive oil to a large soup pot set over medium-high heat. Immediately add the garlic, onions, potatoes, celery, turnips, bell pepper, carrots, and all dry spices. Stir constantly for 2-3 minutes to combine and sauté.
- Add the broth, mushrooms, and barley, and bring the soup up to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer (low) and cover the pot with a lid. Stir the soup occasionally and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the barley is tender.
- Divide the soup into bowls, and finish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
Treat Your Heart
Fruity Chocolate Almond Bark
Health note: Cherries are loaded with anthocyanin, a phytonutrient that can help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness – the darker red color cherries have the highest amounts. Dark chocolate is a nice treat and a source of antioxidants but be mindful of the amount consumed because the calories can add up quick!
- 1 c. toasted almonds or pecans, coarsely chopped
- ½ c. dried cherries or chopped dried fruit, coarsely chopped
- 6 oz. dark chocolate (60%-70% or higher), finely chopped
- ¼ tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. espresso powder (optional)
- In a medium bowl, toss together the almonds and the dried fruit.
- Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper.
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave on low power until melted, but not thick. It may take 1-2 minutes depending on the power of the microwave. Or use a double boiler to melt the chocolate.
- Stir in the fruit, nuts and cinnamon. Add espresso powder if desired.
- For clusters, place a teaspoon of the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Or pour the mixture onto the lined baking pan and spread evenly.
- Refrigerate until firm and store in air tight container in the refrigerator.
Health note: Chocolate lovers, rejoice – a delicious truffle that’s good for you, too. Sweet, nutrient-dense
- 1 c. pitted medjool dates, preferably soft and moist (firmly packed about 9 dates or 6 oz.)
- ½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder (suggested brands: Hershey’s or Green & Black 100% cacao powder)
- 1 ½ tsps. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
- ½ tsp. cinnamon (optional for Mexican Truffles)
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional for Mexican Truffles)
- ¼ c. unsweetened cocoa powder (optional for rolling)
- Place dates in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse dates several times to make a paste.
- Add cocoa powder, 2 Tbps. warm water, vanilla, and salt. To make Mexican Truffles, add cinnamon and cayenne. Pulse until mixture is smooth and forms a ball. If the mixture needs a little more moisture to come together, add 1-2 more teaspoons of water.
- Remove chocolate mixture from processor and transfer to a bowl.
- Put 1/4 cup cocoa powder in a shallow bowl.
- Using 1 Tbps. of truffle mixture for each ball, shape balls between the palms of your hands.
- Place truffles on a plate. If mixture seems sticky, refrigerate until well chilled before rolling.
- Roll each ball in cocoa powder after shaping and return to
plate. Cover and refrigerate until serving.