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Although some people think a heart-healthy diet is tasteless, that”s simply not the case! By paying attention to what you put on your plate, making some creative food choices and shopping smart, you could be well on your way to mouth-watering cooking and heart-healthy living!

Foods to Avoid for Heart-Healthy Diets

Fat ranks among the biggest culprits of heart-damaging foods. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends a number of guidelines regarding fat intake:

  • Limit your total fat consumption to between 25 percent and 35 percent of your daily calories.
  • Limit your saturated fat consumption to less than 7 percent of your daily calories.
  • Limit your trans fat consumption to less than 1 percent of your daily calories.

Along with fat, heart-healthy eaters should limit their salt intake, too. Doing so will lead to better blood pressure control. If you already have high blood pressure, are African American or are middle-aged or older, the American Heart Association advises no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. For all others, 2,300 mg or less is recommended.

Heart-Healthy Diets: Foods to Include in Your Diet

Instead of focusing on what not to eat, nutritionists urge patients to focus on the endless heart-healthy food options. First and foremost are:

  • fruits
  • legumes (beans, peas and lentils)
  • vegetables
  • whole grains.

Experts believe that these high-fiber options do wonders in fighting heart disease. Experts recommend you consume at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.

Varying the source of your protein can also improve heart health. Instead of eating only animal proteins, expand your diet to include proteins from fish and vegetables. Soy-based products, such as tofu and tempeh, are excellent heart-healthy vegetable proteins. Similarly, fish like salmon and tuna are full of HDL (high-density lipoproteins), the “good” cholesterol that keeps your heart healthy and strong.

Heart-Healthy Cooking

Cooking at home instead of eating out is another great way to stay on top of your heart health. Choose from the heart-healthy recipes below that pack a flavorful punch in every bite.

Fruit and Celery Salad

(adapted fromApple, Grape, and Celery Salad recipe that was featured in Everyday Food: A Martha Stewart Magazine)

This heart-healthy variation of Waldorf salad eliminates mayonnaise and tastes delicious as a crunchy snack or side-dish.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (Note: For a nuttier taste, spread walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for four to five minutes, or until lightly browned.)
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced thinly (use celery leaves for garnish)
  • 1 tart green apple, cored, halved and sliced thinly
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1 Tbsp white-wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • ground pepper, to taste.

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine celery, apple, grapes, walnuts, vinegar and oil.
  2. Season with pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Toss all ingredients and garnish with celery leaves.

Broiled Salmon with Spinach

(adapted from Poached Salmon with Spinach recipe from the American Heart Association)

Low in sodium and full of protein, this dish tastes great as an appetizer or entre.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of white wine (dry)
  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 2 green onions (scallions), sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh tarragon
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lemon, sliced.

Directions

  1. Rinse and pat dry salmon.
  2. In large skillet, combine water, wine, green onions, garlic and tarragon. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add salmon.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 8 to 10 minutes, or until fish is flaky.
  5. In a separate skillet, cook spinach with olive oil on medium heat.
  6. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Add nutmeg.
  7. Preheat broiler.
  8. Top salmon with spinach mixture and place on a broiler pan.
  9. Sprinkle with cheese and add pepper.
  10. Broil until cheese melts (one to two minutes).
  11. Squeeze lemon on top of each fillet and use the leftover lemon as a garnish.

Low-Fat Tabbouleh

(adapted from Low-Fat Tabbouleh recipe featured in Weight Watcher”s Magazine)

This refreshing side dish from the Middle East is overflowing with flavor and fiber.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 3/4 cup uncooked bulgur or cracked wheat
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3/4 cup fresh tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed.

Directions

  1. Pour bulgur in boiling water and stir well. Let stand at room temperature until water is absorbed (usually 25 minutes).
  2. Add parsley, tomato, onion and mint. Stir and then add lime juice, lemon, water, olive oil, salt and garlic.
  3. Cover and chill at least two hours. Toss before serving.
 Posted on : September 18, 2013