Heart Healthy Eating
There is a healing that goes on after any heart event and when you hear a diagnosis of heart disease. It is almost a transformation from youth and its feel of immortality to a vulnerability that stays with you forever. This vulnerability lingers, reminding you, once again, that, like Dr. Seuss always says: “I have brains in my head” so I best remember some key points if I want to remain a survivor. There are heart-healthy choices to be made every day.
I am a strong believer and advocate of the American Heart Association who has a multitude of information and facts sheets for all heart diseases and healthy lifestyles. I will post the AHA diet to serve as a reminder of how to eat, knowing full well it is data you have seen before.
As part of a healthy diet, an adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for:
- Fruits and vegetables: At least 4.5 cups a day
- Fish (preferably oily fish): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week
- Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day
- Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day
- Sugar-sweetened beverages: No more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week
Other Dietary Measures:
- Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week
- Processed meats: No more than 2 servings a week
- Saturated fat: Less than 7% of total energy intake
It is all about eating a balanced diet with less saturated fat (as in red meat), more fruits and vegetables, fiber, fish and less sugar and sodium.
Although the AHA diet reads simplistic on paper, following it is challenging, trying and a feat that is always present. I try making small changes each day, taking the view that even small changes can make a difference. Eating right and making choices that impact my health are one of the few things I have left that I have control over. It is up to me to make good choices. It is up to YOU to make good choices.
Try to keep it simple by eating the “super foods.”
Blueberries – The deep blue color of blueberries signify the flavonoids – the natural compound that help preserved memory function.
Spinach – Spinach makes great salads and can be sautéed and added to an omelet or may be cooked and served as a vegetable side. Spinach is jam-packed with antioxidants including vitamin C and beta-carotene.
Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, promoting blood circulation and boosts heart health. It will definitely improve your spirits!
Red Peppers – Red peppers are a low-calorie treat, rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene and lycopene. They are also high in water content.
Beans – Beans are high in protein and fiber – a vegetarian’s mainstay, keeping you full and satisfied throughout the day. They are low in fat and an excellent source of magnesium and potassium.
Egg Whites – Egg whites are fat-free, low-calories and another excellent source of protein to keep you satisfied for hours after a meal. Use them on salads, in sandwiches or as an omelet.
Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a whole grain and your best source of soluble fiber, lowering cholesterol. It is a perfect way to start your morning. Just add fruit or nuts. Make Grams Granola! Have a big jar of it on the kitchen cupboard – grab a handful when you need a snack or have it for breakfast with milk. A Grams Granola breakfast parfait is a special treat!
Pumpkin – Pumpkin is my favorite desert and has that old-fashioned nostalgic feel as the cool days of Autumn approach. It provides the needed beta-carotene and potassium.
Yogurt – Low-fat or non-fat yogurt are your best choices, providing you with calcium, protein and potassium. Yogurts can be used in your recipes for dips and for baking.
Nuts – The key to choosing nuts is to remember portion control as they are healthy in small doses. Nuts add flavor to salads and side dishes and a little extra “crunch.” They make great snacks that will keep you satisfied.
Salmon – Salmon is considered a super food because of its omega-3 content that helps protect heart health. Another good fish choice is simply canned tuna. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish twice weekly.
Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes contain nutrients that promote heart and eye health and boost immunity.
There are other “super-foods” like tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli – even turkey is considered a “super-food.” Making good food choices can simply be common sense.
A cardiologist from Mayo – Rochester, offered some take-away advice that has always stayed with me: “With a genetic predisposition to high lipoprotein(a), the best gift you can give your children and grandchildren is to teach them how to eat properly. They need to start now, not when they are in their fifties or sixties.”
I find it difficult to impart this wisdom upon them, as in youth we do not experience the vulnerability that comes with age and health challenges.
My grandkids refer to me as “Grams” – there is nothing better in life than to hear their little voices call tenderly: “GRAMS!” I have included my favorite heart healthy recipes that Johnathan, Samantha, Brandon, Lucas and Steven love to eat.
Heart Healthy GRAMS GRANOLA
4 C Old Fashioned Oats
1 C Almonds
1 C Walnuts
1 – 2 C Sunflower Seeds
1 – 2 C Grape Nuts
½ C Flaxseed
1/2 C brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 – 3 tsp. Cinnamon
¼ C Olive Oil
1 C honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C raisins
1 C dried cranberries (Craisins)
In large bowl mix oats, grape nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts.
Add flaxseed, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.
In saucepan, warm the oil and honey. Whisk in the vanilla.
Carefully pour liquid over the oat mixture.
Stir gently with a wooden spoon. May gently mix by hand.
Spread granola in baking pan.
With oven temperature at 300 degrees, bake 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
Cool and add raisins and Craisins.
Seal in airtight jar.
Keeps in freezer for 3 months or longer!
And, of course, Parfaits are always a hit with the grand kids and I can use Grams Granola to make them extra special and extra heart-healthy!
You will need:
Wide-mouth pint jar or your favorite deep bowl
Fresh or frozen fruit – Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, Pineapple
Greek Yogurt, plain or flavored – your choice
May choose to top with fat-free Cool Whip and cherry, if desired.
Get out your favorite deep little bowl or use a decorative wide-mouth pint jar for a bit of finesse.
Start with a layer heart-healthy Grams Granola.
Add a layer of Greek Yogurt.
Add a layer of fruit.
Sprinkle with more Grams Granola.
Add another layer of Greek Yogurt.
Add another layer of fruit.
If you are going to cover these with lids to store for a quick breakfast, they will keep for 3 to 4 days.
Finish in the morning with another layer of Grams Granola, so it stays crunchy.
Top with a dollop of fat-free Cool Whip and a cherry or add a strawberry off to the side!
Only we, as parents and grandparents, can help accomplish healthy eating, by being fully aware of our heart-healthy choices and following through on them each and every day. Ultimately, we decide what we will put in our mouths and how our life will go.
Take care of your heart!