You’ve got Meatless Monday down to a science. You’re rocking some seriously gourmet quinoa for breakfast recipes on the regular. Basically, you’re killing it in the kitchen. But sometimes, healthy additions to your diet don’t have to be super complicated or complex. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women and men, so we wanted to know what simple ingredients to add to our plates to make them extra heart healthy. Below, Tricia Williams, executive chef and founder of Food Matters NYC, shares seven heart-healthy foods to shake up breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
1. Salmon: “Salmon is high in Omega 3s, which are great for keeping the blood flowing,” says Williams. And while baking, pan-searing, and grilling are great ways to enjoy this fish, if you want to take it up a notch, Williams suggests using activated charcoal, saying, “We love to crust wild salmon with activated charcoal because it’s a super cool detoxifier and makes a lovely contrast to the super pink heart healthy salmon.”
2. Chocolate: As if you needed another reason to add chocolate to your diet, we’re going to give you one. Williams says, “70 percent chocolate or higher is high in flavanols which can help lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots. We like to use chocolate in both sweet and savory dishes, like combining raw cacao and young Thai coconut meat to make a dairy free chocolate pudding or in a mole sauce to serve over chicken.”
3. Tahini: Tahini is made from sesame seeds that contain lignans, which can help improve lipid profiles and can normalize cholesterol and blood pressure,” says Williams. Of course, in addition to crushing your own delicious, homemade tahini, it can also be used in a variety of salad dressings and even as an alternative in some desserts, like brownies.
4. Squash: Spaghetti squash with marinara or kale pesto is one of Williams’ favorite alternatives to pasta. But it’s not just a great way to cut back on carbs, she explains, “Squash contains lycopene, vitamin C, and alpha- and beta-carotene, which all support heart health.”
5. Carrots: Carrots aren’t just good for the eyes; they’re good for the heart too, thanks to their high levels of vitamin C. Williams suggests fermenting carrots with caraway so you get added gut benefits too.
6. Spinach: “The vitamin C, beta-carotene and other nutrients in spinach work together to prevent oxidized cholesterol from building up in the blood vessel walls. A quick and easy way to get it on your plate is to sautee it and add garlic,” says Williams.
7. Almonds: “Almonds contain heart-healthy fats, and raw almonds are a great, on-the-go snack,” suggests Williams. In addition to their healthy fats, almonds also are high in fiber, which can help control your cholesterol. One downside to nuts? They’re high in calories, so be mindful of your portions.
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(Photos via Getty)