While it’s still chilly and rainy here in Seattle, we are slowly inching our way into warmer and dryer weather! Soon we will be surrounded by Spring blossoms, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the coveted Pacific Northwest Sunshine. Spring is an exciting time of new growth! With Spring cleaning and the tradition of starting fresh, this is a wonderful time to incorporate more healthy habits into our routine. As the weather warms up, outside activities like biking, kayaking, and hiking are enjoyed by many! Activities like these depend on a strong and healthy heart to keep them going. Below you’ll find out how fats, fiber, and flavor impact our heart health and how to create habits that allow us to enjoy all of our Spring activities with confidence.
Fat in foods helps keep us fuller longer and makes our food satisfying to our taste buds! Fat found in plants typically have a higher proportion of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can lower cholesterol numbers and reduce the risk of heart disease. Generally, fatty cuts of meat and full-fat dairy products will have higher amounts of saturated fats. Wild-caught salmon is a great example of a source of omega-3, an unsaturated fat that’s excellent for heart health and, as a bonus, also high in potassium which can help regulate blood pressure.
To limit saturated fats, try some of these tips when cooking:
Increasing Fiber-Rich Foods
When we increase the amount of fiber in our diet, we can lower our risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels - all while increasing the amount of vitamins and minerals we’re getting. Fiber slows down digestion in our gut which prevents blood sugar spikes, offers prolonged satisfaction, and can help reduce eating past fullness and the feeling of discomfort associated with that experience.
To increase your fiber, consider adding more of these foods to your meals:
Our bodies only need a small amount of sodium to function. The general recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for adults is to enjoy 2,300mg or less of salt a day. However, many Americans are consuming amounts way above these recommendations. Consuming high amounts of salt can increase blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease. While reducing sodium may seem challenging at first, try slowly incorporating some of the tips below. You may be surprised at how satisfying they can be!
Tips to keep the flavor and reduce salt:
Make It Fun!
Adding heart-healthy habits to our daily eating patterns doesn’t need to feel overwhelming or boring. Start with some tips that feel doable for you and invite some friends to join in! Try having a themed dinner night where you and a couple of friends all bring a dish to share that focuses on fat, fiber, or flavor and see how creative you can get! Sometimes a little healthy competition is just what we need.
Other ideas to immerse yourself in heart-healthy habits:
Friendly Reminder: Prioritizing your heart health doesn’t mean you have to skip dessert!
In fact, dark chocolate contains flavonols that can help with lowering blood pressure. Below are two delicious recipes for when you want something sweet that’s also heart-healthy.
Almond and Apricot Biscotti makes 24 cookies
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons low-fat milk
½ teaspoon almond extract
⅔ cup dried apricots, chopped
¼ cup almonds, chopped
Optional: dark chocolate for melting
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and baking powder. Whisk to combine. Add eggs, milk, oil, honey, and almond extract. Stir with a wooden spoon until it just begins to come together. Using floured hands, add in apricots and almonds until well-blended. Place dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log 13x3 inches and 1 inch high. Invert dough by lifting plastic wrap and placing the top-side face-down onto a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool for 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut on a diagonal into 1” slices. Transfer back onto the baking sheet, cut-side down. Bake for an additional 12 minutes or until edges begin to brown slightly. Heat chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until completely melted. Drizzle over biscotti and let sit to harden.
(adapted from mayoclinic.com)
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt makes 4 cups
4 cups frozen strawberries
3 Tablespoons honey
½ cup plain Greek zero or low-fat yogurt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Add frozen strawberries, honey, yogurt, and lemon
juice to the bowl of a food processor. Process until creamy – about 5 minutes. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month.
(Adapted from www/justataste.com)
Violet Lederman, Dietetic Intern
A place for our consultant Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) to share nutrition science, yummy and healthy recipes, tips on seasonal ingredients, and other nutritional musings. Enjoy!