Many think of hearts during February because of Valentine’s Day, but last year, President Obama announced that February is American Heart Month, in an effort to bring awareness and prevent disease. Although Lyndon B. Johnson declared it 52 years ago, cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death as it was back in the 60s.
Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure, are the leading causes of death for both men and women. Risk factors include obesity, inactivity, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood pressure. Over 2 in 3 adults are considered overweight or obese, and over 1 in 20 adults have extreme obesity.
Not only are most cardiovascular diseases hereditary but as you age, so do your blood vessels. They become less flexible which makes it harder for blood to move through them as easily as it once did. Deposits called plaques line the artery walls as you age and slow the blood flow. Combined with unhealthy lifestyle habits and high cholesterol or blood pressure, the chances of a heart attack or stroke dramatically increase.
So what about the food you eat? That, too, can have a terrible effect on your health. Saturated and trans fats found in most fast food can increase your risk of heart attack and high cholesterol. Red meat has high levels of saturated fat, which is why red meat is great to eat in moderation, but not every day. Good fats, like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, can actually reduce your risk of heart disease. These fats are found in almonds, avocados, olive oil, tuna, and salmon. Following a low saturated fat, high fiber and high plant food diet will help lower your risk of heart disease.
In celebration of American Heart Month, we’ve rounded up a series of heart-healthy recipes to support a healthy lifestyle and maybe lower your risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases.
1. Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon
This sweet and tangy recipe, courtesy of Eating Well, is not only incredibly healthy, but full of flavor. Make it a meal by pairing it with brown rice and sauteed red peppers and zucchini slices. The meal yields 4 servings and takes 40 minutes to prepare.
- 1 scallion, minced
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 pound center-cut salmon fillet, skinned and cut
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Directions: Whisk scallion, soy sauce, vinegar, honey and ginger in a medium bowl until the honey is dissolved. Place salmon in a sealable plastic bag, add 3 tablespoons of the sauce and refrigerate. Let marinate for 15 minutes. Reserve the remaining sauce. Preheat broiler. Line a small baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
Transfer the salmon to the pan, skinned-side down. Discard the marinade. Broil the salmon 4 to 6 inches from the heat source until cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes. Drizzle with the reserved sauce and garnish with sesame seeds.
2. Chicken & White Bean Salad
Thanks to zucchini and celery, this salad, which can be found via Eating Well, is crunchy and far from boring. It’s full of healthy veggies and a variety of flavors, from the bitter escarole and radicchio to the savory chicken, beans, and ricotta or feta. It yields about 4 servings of 2 cups each and takes 25 minutes to prepare.
- 1 medium clove garlic
- 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons fresh orange juice, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar or red-wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 15oz. can cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
- 2.5 cups diced cooked chicken breast
- 2 cups diced zucchini and/or summer squash
- 1.5 cups diced celery
- 1/4 cup finely diced ricotta salata, halloumi or feta cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped, well-drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 cups torn escarole or romaine lettuce
- 2 cups torn radicchio leaves
Directions: To prepare vinaigrette: Peel the garlic and smash with the side of a chef’s knife. Using a fork, mash the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl to form a coarse paste. Whisk in 5 tablespoons of oil and add 6 tablespoons orange juice, vinegar, and mustard. Whisk until well-blended. Add more ingredients to taste.
To prepare salad: Combine beans, chicken, zucchini, celery, cheese and sundried tomatoes in a large bowl. Add chopped basil and vinaigrette. Toss this on top of the escarole or romaine and radicchio.
3. Chickpea and Red Pepper Soup with Quinoa
The quinoa in Delish’s recipe gives this hearty soup a nutty flavor. The heart-healthy beans and veggies are the perfect combo for a cold winter day. This soup yields 4 servings and takes 25 minutes to prepare.
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion
- 1 carrot
- 2 stalks of celery
- 3 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- kosher salt
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 red pepper
- 2 can low-sodium chickpeas
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- chopped, fresh parsley
Directions: Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook, covered, stirring occasionally for 6 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook stirring for 1 minute. Add the peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, broth, and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and cooked quinoa. Serve topped with parsley, if desired.