What you eat can help keep your heart beating strong—or lead to problems with weight, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol, three key factors that increase the risk of developing heart disease. Eating well means enjoying a variety of food—and so does eating to stay well. Variety matters because no food has all the nutrients and other substances needed by your heart—and the rest of your body. So be sure to follow a well-balanced eating plan.
When it comes to heart health, size matters. It’s very easy to “eat with your eyes” and misjudge what equals a portion. That makes it just as easy to pile on unwanted pounds. So be sure you eat a sensible portion size. Products often are sold as single portions but actually contain more than one serving. For instance, a small bag of pretzels may be sold as one portion but contain two servings. Be especially careful of portion size when choosing high-calorie items.
Shopping for the right food item can be dizzying. Shelves are packed with different brands, some with special health claims. There’s one way to pick out the best item: Read its Nutrition Facts Label. It tells you nutritional value and number of servings in an item. The label has another asset too—the Percent Daily Value listing. This tells you how much each serving of the item supplies of the day’s recommended intake for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron.
Also get in the habit of checking an item’s ingredient list. It will tell you what’s in the food—including any added nutrients, fats, or sugars. Ingredients are listed in descending order of amount by weight.
You’ve probably heard that it’s good to eat plenty of fiber. But what is fiber, and why is it important for your heart? Fiber comes from plants. Since your body can’t really digest fiber or absorb it into your bloodstream, it’s not nourished by it. That means, technically speaking, fiber isn’t a “nutrient.” But it’s vital for good health. First, fiber can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Second, it’s also good for the digestive tract and overall health. And, as a bonus, eating lots of fiber helps you feel full on fewer calories, which makes it ideal if you’re trying to lose weight.
Enjoy these heart-healthy recipes!
The delicious taste of these kabobs comes from the lively marinade of wine, lemon juice, rosemary, and garlic.
Yield: 8 servings
Serving size: 1 kabob, with 3 oz of meat
Calories per serving: 274
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. red wine
1 lemon, juice only
1 t. chopped garlic
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. rosemary
1/8 t. black pepper
2 lb. lean lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
24 cherry tomatoes
24 small onions
• Combine oil, broth, wine, lemon juice, garlic, salt, rosemary, and pepper.
• Pour over lamb, tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions. Marinate in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
• Put together skewers of lamb, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Broil 3 inches from heat for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.
Grilled Chicken With Green Chile Sauce
In this recipe, the chicken is marinated to make it tender without using a lot of fat.
Yield: 4 servings
Serving size: 1 breast
Calories per serving: 210
4 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
1/4 c. olive oil
2 limes, juice only
1/4 t. oregano
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 c. water
10–12 tomatillos, husks removed, cut in half
1/2 medium onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 jalapeño peppers
2 T. cilantro, chopped
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. lowfat sour cream
• Combine oil, juice from one lime, oregano, and black pepper in shallow, glass baking dish. Stir.
• Place chicken breasts in baking dish and turn to coat each side. Cover dish and refrigerate overnight. Turn chicken periodically to marinate it on both sides.
• Put water, tomatillos, and onion into saucepan. Bring to gentle boil and cook uncovered for 10 minutes or until tomatillos are tender. Let cool.
• In blender, place cooked onion, tomatillos, and any remaining water. Add garlic, jalapeño peppers, cilantro, salt, and juice of second lime. Blend until all ingredients are smooth. Place sauce in bowl and refrigerate.
• Place chicken breasts on hot grill and cook until done. Place chicken on serving platter. Spoon tablespoon of lowfat sour cream over each chicken breast. Pour sauce over sour cream.
Rainbow Fruit Salad
You can’t go wrong with this salad— it’s juicy, fresh, naturally low in fat and sodium, and cholesterol free. Enjoy it as a salad or a dessert.
Yield: 12 servings
Serving Size: 4-oz cup
Calories per serving: 96
For Fruit Salad
1 large mango, peeled
1 c. diced fresh blueberries
2 bananas, sliced
2 c. fresh strawberries, halved
2 c. seedless grapes
2 nectarines, unpeeled, sliced
1 kiwi fruit, peeled, sliced
For Honey–Orange Sauce
1/3 c. unsweetened orange juice
2 T. lemon juice
1 1/2 T. honey
1/4 t. ground ginger
• Prepare the fruit.
• Combine all ingredients for sauce and mix.
• Just before serving, pour honey–orange sauce over fruit.
These recipes were developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to help Americans keep their heartbeat strong.