This February for Heart Health Month, let's focus on the positive.
Too often when discussing eating for heart health we focus on the things we should be decreasing (sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar) rather than focusing on the many positive things we could be adding to our diets.
So what can you add to your food intake for heart health?
We know from national surveys that the majority of Americans are not consuming recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, diary, seafood, and heart healthy oils. This translates to a lack of important nutrients, such as Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and fiber.
Think of one healthful item from each category above that you could add into your diet over the month of February. Here is a list of one of my favorite foods from each category to give you some ideas.
Apples are the quintessential Northwest fruit and are extremely versatile. They are full of heart-healthy fibers, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Try this recipe for a quick and tasty snack idea. (Ed. note – you can even substitute apples in other recipes – check out this video by Chef Eric using apple chips with a low-fat, heart-healthy cheese fondue.)
Leeks, like other Allium family vegetables, are a great source for antioxidants and phytochemicals that boost immunity and decrease inflammation. Leeks are currently in season in the Northwest. Leeks can be added to omelets, soups, or any recipe that calls for onions. However, one way that really showcases the leek is to simply roast them with a little oil, salt, and pepper, as in this recipe.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a complete protein (has all the essential amino acids), is high in fiber and is full of vitamins and minerals. One of the best things about quinoa is that is it quick-cooking (15 minutes!), so it is a fast substitute for longer cooking grains. Quinoa is often used in place of rice or bulgar, such as in this tabbouleh recipe.
Kefir is akin to yogurt, as it is made from fermented milk (or soy or coconut). However, kefir is more liquid and, therefore, is drinkable! It is high in probiotics (healthful bacteria) and is great in smoothies.
Dungeness Crab season will be shortly coming to an end, so get them while they are still fresh. Like most other seafood, they are a fabulous source of minerals, lean protein, and those heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids we hear so much about. Dungeness is delectable on a salad or made into crab cakes.
Walnuts are not only a source for omega-3s, but they also have fiber and lots of minerals. They are great as a snack or as a topping for side-dishes or salads. You could add some spices for even more flavor and antioxidant power.
Want some other heart-healthy ideas or recipe inspiration? Check out our healthy recipes archive – over 100 heart-healthy recipes waiting for you to try.