Show Your Love with a Heart-Healthy Dinner
Cook up our healthy (and romantic!) dinner for that special someone
Valentine's Day and American Heart Month make February the month we celebrate sweethearts. What a perfect time to show your main squeeze how much you adore him or her by preparing a meal laden with heart-healthy foods.
Heart disease is a dangerous and silent killer -- and, contrary to what you may have heard, it's not a problem for men alone. For most people, heart disease is preventable. One of the most effective ways to prevent heart disease is through diet. (Of course, not smoking, exercising regularly, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check are also important in keeping heart disease at bay.)
Quite simply, some foods can promote good heart health. These "superfoods" contain a wealth of disease-fighting, health-protecting nutrients that taste good and are good for you. Eat them often, share them with your loved ones, and you will be doing your part for a healthier heart:
Soluble fiber, from beans, oatmeal, apples, pears, peanuts, lentils, and whole grains, can lower "bad" cholesterol and reduce your heart disease risk. In addition, soluble fiber helps you control fluctuations in blood sugar. Bulky sources of soluble fiber, like oats and beans, can also help keep you feeling full longer and ultimately aid in weight loss.
Omega-3 fatty acids are newcomers to the diet world. They are rich sources of plant sterols, which interfere with cholesterol absorption, thus lowering blood cholesterol levels. Excellent sources include salmon, nuts, flaxseed, canola oil, soybeans, wheat germ, and spinach. Special margarines such as Benecol and Take Charge are also good sources of plant sterols.
Monounsaturated fats help lower your heart disease risk by cutting blood cholesterol levels. Choose foods like olives, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds instead of saturated or trans fats, which are more likely to increase cholesterol levels.
Whole fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins, and minerals and contain virtually no fat and very few calories. These foods should be the foundation of any heart-healthy diet.
Folate reduces blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can increase your risk of heart disease. Surveys have shown that men whose diets are rich in folate have fewer strokes. Recent research recommends a diet rich in folate sources such as fruits, vegetables, leafy green vegetables, beans, lentils, and fortified grains.
Nuts can help prevent heart disease, according to recent research. In fact, eating a handful two to three times per week may cut the risk of heart disease by as much as 15%. Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, fiber, folate, vitamin E, and B vitamins. Add nuts to salads, cereals, rice, and seafood, or just eat them by the handful (but do watch your portions, as they are relatively high in calories).
Soy protein may help lower blood cholesterol levels, and if you can eat 25 grams per day, you'll reduce your risk of heart disease. Try pouring soymilk on your cereal and munching on soy nuts. Or sample some of the many new soy products on your grocers' shelf.