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Heart healthy foods

Updated on December 24, 2011

 As a child, my mother cooked everything in a cup of oil and we ate butter and bread sandwiches as a treat.  We didn't know much about cholesterol at the time.  If people died of a heart attack, we assumed the person was old or that something devastating had triggered the attack.  Little was said about the food that we ate causing heart disease.

Then, at 50, my mom was diagnosed with heart disease and all of a sudden, a huge barrage of articles seemed to appear out of no where listing foods that could build up fat around your heart and within your arteries and suddenly, with the news of my mother, it seemed to me that the world began to recognize and attribute certain foods as being bad for your health.

Now, instead of focusing on the bad, it appears that most of your doctors and articles written about food promote the "good" or heart healthy foods.  If a food isn't on the list, chances are, it's not good for your heart.

I've done a lot of research over the past couple of years, looking for foods that taste good and are good for me.  It can be done; food with good taste to it.  One truly needs to retrain their mentality to obtaining a healthy lifestyle and not being on a diet.  Notice how the word die is in diet.  If we diet, then we often feel as if we are dying and therefore, since we fear death, we fail in our diets.  A circle that never ends.  Dieting that is.  Below I've listed some foods that are healthy, good for the heart and they taste great!  Also some ways to use them in every day eating...  Enjoy!

1. Beans or legumes

Beans or legumes are so rich in fiber.  Once your body gets acclimated to eating them, the occurence of gas does begin to lessen and if it doesn't, Beano works great for that!  Beans are filling, have a rich taste, allow you to chew and feel your food in your mouth and leaves you with that "full" feeling so many of us desire when we eat.  You know the old childhood chant... "Beans, beans, good for the heart..."  Of course, there's more but the first part is true.  Brown, red, baked, kidney, navy and more. 

2. Vegetables of any kind

Eat your vegetables was something you most likely heard mom say daily at the dinner table.  She was right about that.  Just take off the pound of butter or cup of cheese that you are used to putting on top of them so that you could choke them down.  Preparation is the key.  You can get used to making vegetables part of your daily diet and enjoy them.  The darker or more colorful the vegetable, the healthier it is supposed to be for you.  However, I firmly believe that consuming any kind of vegetable is healthy.

3. Fruits in moderation

Fruits are fabulous for you.  You get lots of vitamin C from fruit.  Fruit however produces a natural sugar which in some people, gets turned to fat if they consume too much fruit.  Juices should be 100% juice with no fructose corn syrup or extra sugar added.  Dilute your juices with water and ice for a tasty water treat.  Freeze juice in icecube trays for a summer refresher in your water glass.  Eat fruit with two meals in the day to help with the full feeling and to make sure you are getting your vitamins and anti-oxidants.

4. High fiber or whole grain pastas

I don't believe you have to eat wheat pastas to get the benefits.  I find some of them to be very starchy and taste different which makes me want to avoid them.  Remember, eating should be enjoyable and if you can't stand the taste of something, you won't eat it.  I buy high fiber or whole grain pastas and they taste like your regular shelf pastas. 

5. Fish, chicken and turkey

While chicken and turkey may have a higher fat or cholesterol content than some beef products, the benefits far outweigh the negative.  Fish is brain food.  We've heard that for years and fish such as salmon, delivers the good fat to our bodies that help raise our good cholesterol in our system.  Chicken and turkey in moderation give us the protein we need to build muscle and keep our skin soft and hair growing and strong.

6. Nuts

All kinds of nuts deliver that good fat to help increase the healthy cholesterol in our bodies.  They also deliver folic acid which is a building block; especially in women and it also helps prevent some birth defects in expectant mothers.

7. Milk and dairy products

Yogurt, cottage cheese, low fat cheeses, fat free cheeses, fat free milk; all are great sources of calcium and protein for our body.  Our bones need calcium, no matter what age you are.  Studies have shown that unless you are a baby in their first two years of life, there is no need to drink whole milk.  Switch to fat free and you'll find that sooner or later, whole milk tastes like you are drinking syrup. 

Now, there are many more foods that are healthy for you and your heart.  I wanted to list a few of them so that I could give you some easy and delicious recipes you could make using the ingredients above.

Smoothies for breakfast:

I take frozen or fresh fruit and put 1 cup in a blender.  I take 1 small container of low fat or fat free yogurt (fruit flavored) and add this.  Take 1/2 cup milk.  Put in some ice cubes and blend until well mixed.  Experiment with the flavors of yogurt and types of fruit.  Canned fruit can work too; just drain the liquid out of the can first.  This is a great kick to the morning and very filling.

Turkey burgers:

Using ground turkey, mix up the ground turkey, a little bit of torn spinach, parsley, garlic powder, diced onion and 1 egg and mix in a bowl until well blended.  Form into patties and spray pan with olive oil spray or a dollop of olive oil.  Cook on medium heat, pressing burger down after flipping each time.  Cook until finished through.  Top with lettuce, condiments, low fat or fat free cheese and tomato and put on whole wheat bun.  Yummy!

Chicken Florentine:

My own recipe that tastes great!  Take cubed chicken (boneless), onion chopped, handful of fresh spinach leaves, diced red, yellow and orange pepper (about 1/4 of each), garlic powder, mushrooms, Italian seasoning spice and parsley.  Saute' in large pan with 1/4 cup of olive oil.  (Olive oil is great for the heart too)  When vegetables begin to soften and chicken begins to cook, add fat free cream of chicken soup (whole can), fat free chicken broth (2/3 cup) and fat free sour cream (1/2 cup).  Cover and simmer on med-low heat , stirring frequently until chicken is cooked and vegetables are soft.

Meanwhile, fill a pot with water and add a dollap of olive oil to prevent sticking of noodles.  I like to use whole grain linguine but you can use any kind of pasta.  Cook aldente and drain.

Put chicken mixture over the top of the noodles.  Enjoy!

Chili the way it's supposed to taste:

1 can each of:(rinse all beans except for chili mix)

red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans, northern beans, chili beans(chili bean mix)

1 can stewed Italian tomatoes

1 onion cut up and sauteed with 1 TB olive oil and lean ground turkey

2 cups fresh cherry tomatoes, sliced into 1/4's

1 can tomato sauce

chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, parsley to taste

Combine all ingredients and simmer for 1/2 hour after bringing to a boil first.  Simmer covered on med/low heat. 

Salmon tacos

I buy the tortillas that are whole wheat or flavored like tomato tortillas.  Put some olive oil in a pan and cook the salmon covered on med heat until it rips apart easily.  Prepare your tortilla with shredded low fat or fat free cheese, diced tomato, diced onion, salsa, fat free sour cream, brown rice (if you like rice in your taco) and shredded lettuce.  Do this by spreading a very thin layer of these ingredients over the entire tortilla.  Add some of the shredded salmon and roll it all up.  Dip in more salsa if desired.

Raspberry Spinach salad

This is one of my favorites!  I take baby spinach leaves, fresh, firm raspberries, some cashews, slices of red onion, shredded carrot and garbanzo beans and mix them together.  I top it off with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing and enjoy. 

These are just a few recipes that I eat and serve to my family and my kids love them all!  If you would like to know of more, please write and I'd love to share.  Happy eating!



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