Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day this month, but February shouldn’t be the only time when you do something great for your heart! Keep it strong all year long with nutrient dense foods—rich in omega-3 and antioxidants—to help lower your risk of heart related disease. It’s just a bonus that they’re also delicious! Read on to find our top 5 heart-healthy ingredients (and 3 recipes that use them).
Salmon and other cold-water fish are known to help improve overall heart heath as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically unsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids help reduce inflammation and oxidation in the body. By reducing inflammation, the body can decrease damage to vital places, such as blood vessels. Try eating at least 1-2 servings of omega-3 rich fish a week (salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna).
These are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but specifically contain the amino acid arginine. These amino acids help to relax blood vessels, and can contribute to better blood flow and lessen clogging. The added benefit of walnuts is that they contain insoluble fiber, which helps to facilitate removal of harmful toxins from the body.
Ideally, try to find cocoa powder that is unsweetened and is at least 70% of cocoa. This ingredient is rich in magnesium and antioxidants, which can help with damage from free radicals in the body, while improving circulation and blood flow.
Carrots are rich in an antioxidant called carotenoids; one that is associated is beta-carotene. This antioxidant can help reduce free radical damage to the body and help to improve your immune system. Studies have shown a reduction in chronic diseases such as heart disease by adding this antioxidant into your diet!
Garlic contains an enzyme called allicin, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol. To create allicin, the garlic should be smashed and left to sit for about 10 minutes. An important note to remember is that your LDL cholesterol should always be lower than your HDL in the right proportions. When they’re imbalanced, there’s a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Bonus: Red Wine
Have a glass of red wine with this meal! Not only will it pair nicely, but you’ll also be getting a powerhouse antioxidant and the added benefit of stress reduction! This can work wonders on your cholesterol, and help reduce blood pressure.
Here’s how to use the heart-healthy ingredients in a main dish, side and dessert.
Crispy Salmon with Dill, Lemon, and Sweet Potato Carrot Mash
What You Need (for the mash):
2 medium whole sweet potatoes
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 tbsp. butter (or oil of choice)
1 garlic clove minced
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
What You Do:
Start out by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on a lined baking tray and prick through the skin 2-3 times to let out steam. Place in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You will know they are done when the potato is soft to the touch.
While the potatoes are roasting, place carrots into a pot with a steamer attachment with water filled to about an inch up. Steam carrots for 5-8 minutes or until a fork can pierce carrot easily.
Once steamed, place carrots in a bowl with garlic and thyme.
Add in the cooked sweet potatoes with butter, salt and pepper.
Mash until creamy, leaving a few chunks.
Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
What You Need (for the salmon):
2 (4-6 oz.) salmon fillet (skin on)
sea salt, to taste
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 whole lemon, cut into wedges
2 tbsp. dill, chopped
What You Do:
Begin by preheating a nonstick skillet (I used a cast iron pan) at medium to high heat.
Take your salmon fillets and blot with a cloth to dry it fully. This is crucial in creating a crispy skin on your fish. Sprinkle with sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil on both sides.
Once the pan is hot, add 2 tbsp. of oil and place salmon skin side down, press on salmon for a few seconds to ensure the fish lays flat.
It’s important that you don’t move or lift the salmon during this process, the key is to wait until the skin crisps and then the fish will pull away from the pan easily.
Flip salmon after about 5 minutes, and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes; or until desired doneness is reached.
Once ready, place the salmon onto desired side dish (in this case, the sweet potato carrot mash). Dress it with a squeeze of lemon and chopped dill.
Note: It isn’t necessary, but having a splatter screen will prevent oil from spitting on you or all over your kitchen!
Raw Chocolate Truffles
Makes 10-15 balls
What You Need:
1 cup raw walnuts
10-12 whole pitted dates
1 tbsp. coconut oil
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla powder (or ½ tsp. vanilla extract)
½ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. spirulina powder (optional)
1 tsp. maca powder (optional)
Shredded Coconut, Cocoa Powder, Chopped Goji Berries, Spirulina, etc.
What You Do:
Start out by placing walnuts and dates in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture sticks together easily and has a minced appearance.
Next, add coconut oil, cocoa powder and shredded coconut. Pulse a few times until incorporated.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together, this should only take a few pulses.
Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and roll in hands to create a ball. Place on a plate and continue rolling until all the truffle mixture is all used.
Now is your chance to be creative! Take whatever topping you choose and place a few tablespoons of topping on a plate. Roll truffle into the topping until well coated.
Once all truffles are rolled in toppings, place in the refrigerator for an hour.
Laura Herman, Natural Chef & Holistic Health Coach