Choose a Healthy Heart

Although food often acts as a friend to our bodies, keeping them well-nourished and healthy, it can also be an enemy. Not too many would disagree that food is tasty, and that tastiness is what makes it so easy for us to consume what we want when we want it. But sometimes, the food we love can come back to bite us.

Aside from the brain, the heart is one of the most essential organs to the body’s functioning, so we should be sure to take proper care of it. However, many foods work against our bodies by encouraging high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high insulin levels.

Fairly common in daily diets, these dangerous foods include fast-food burgers, deep-fried foods, candy, sugary or sweetened treats and drinks, and diet soda, according to Time.

A lot of the science behind these foods comes down to their ingredients and preparation.

Processed meats, like fast-food burgers, hot dogs, and any other meats that are modified for the consumer’s taste or the product’s shelflife, contain saturated fats, which can often raise cholesterol levels and ultimately lead to heart disease.

While food preparation plays a big role in health, some foods are just harsh on the body.
Sugar is one of them. Not only is sugar addictive, which causes the consumer to eat more and more of it, but an excess can also lead to high cholesterol and diabetes.

But consumers should look out for sugar’s alternative, artificial sweeteners, as well. Although diet sodas lack sugar, they can alter gastrointestinal bacteria, according to Time, and lead to weight gain, which can then lead to obesity, diabetes, and other problems relating to heart health.

With all the readily available unhealthy foods out on the market, it can be hard to select heart-healthy foods. However, giving up those unhealthy foods doesn’t have to mean giving up tasty foods.

According to Healthline, some of the best heart-healthy foods include berries, avocados,
beans, garlic, dark chocolate, and some nuts, like walnuts and almonds. These foods contain various mixes of nutrients, including antioxidants, good fats, fiber, and other essentials that prove to have a positive impact on the heart, such as lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk for heart disease.

Since these foods are more ingredients than they are actual meals, it will take some creativity to incorporate them into a daily diet. Cooking meals at home will always be the best option, leaving no question to which ingredients are going in. Heart-healthy
recipes include garlic herb oven-roasted chicken, breakfast scramble, salmon patties or burgers, chili, roasted vegetables, Mediterranean vegetable lentil soup — the list goes on.

While keeping track of nutrition facts and consumed ingredients is important to making
healthier decisions, there will almost always come a time where it’s impossible to rush home and cook a meal. Sometimes a heavy workload can shorten lunch, or life just gets in the way, leaving us scrambling for a quick meal. It may be stressful at first, trying to decide which fast-food drive-thru offers more than the standard burger or fried chicken
sandwich with fries, but there’s no need to worry.

While healthier options are a bit harder to come by and are sometimes more expensive at fast-food and other eat-in restaurants, they are available.

Topped with strawberries, blueberries, apples, grilled chicken, and, if it’s worth risking
the added sugar, mixed nuts, Chick-Fil-A’s grilled market salad isn’t a bad choice. When looking for a place to sit down and have a quick bite, Chipotle’s burrito bowl or steak salad can provide nutritious meals without the regret. Just be sure to ask for guacamole, salsa, black beans, and veggies.

Although it can be tempting to cave to cravings and pick up a big, juicy burger on the way home from work, the first step to being heart healthy is making better decisions. Is the burger worth it? It may not hurt now, but after satisfying that craving five, 10, or 50 times, your body may already be reacting.

So, be sure to consider your options. The choices you make today will affect the body you have tomorrow.


Garlic Herb Oven-Roasted Chicken

Prep: 10 min.
Cook: 40 min.
Total: 50 min.

Ingredients:
• 3 pounds whole chicken, cut into parts
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3 tablespoons avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
• 40 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
• 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
• 4 sprigs fresh thyme
• 1 large lemon, cut into slices (about 1/8-inch thick)

Instructions:
1.Heat oven to 350 degress F.
2.Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towel, then season the skin with salt and pepper.
3.Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat until it’s very hot, but not smoking.
4.Place chicken pieces skin side down into oil and cook 3-4 minutes, or until chicken releases easily from the pan and is golden brown. You may need to do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the chicken.
5.Transfer browned chicken pieces temporarily to a platter. Reduce burner heat to medium and add garlic cloves to the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent garlic from burning.
6.Turn off burner heat and place chicken pieces skin side up on top of the garlic. Place sprigs of rosemary and thyme and slices of lemon on and around the chicken, cover the pot with a lid, and place onto the middle rack of the hot oven.
7.Cook for 40 minutes, or until cooking thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a breast reads 163℉. Remove pot from the oven and transfer the chicken pieces and garlic cloves to a serving platter. Tent platter with aluminum foil and allow the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.


Salmon Burgers

Prep: 20 min.
Cook: 8 min.
Total: 28 min.
Yields: 3 servings

Ingredients:
• 3/4 pound raw, wildcaught salmon (bones removed)
• 1/3 cup wheat breadcrumbs
• 1 tablespoon garlic paste
• 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
• Juice from 1/2 lemon
• 1 jalapeño, chopped (seeds removed)
• 1/4 cup green onion, chopped
• Pinch sea salt and pepper
• Cilantro for garnish
• Coconut oil spray
• Burger:
• 1 sprouted grain bun
• 1 ounce goat cheese
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• Red onion
• Lettuce
• Tomato slices

Instructions:
1.Chop up raw salmon into chunks and ensure that the bones have been removed. (While canned salmon can be used for this recipe, it is highly recommended that you use raw salmon. When blended, raw salmon turns into a “sticky paste,” like minced meat, which makes it much easier to bind together and form patties. If canned salmon is used, you will need to ensure it is completely drained and add more breadcrumbs and at least one egg to help with binding.)
2.Add salmon, breadcrumbs, garlic, paprika, and lemon juice into a blender. Slowly pulse blend until it creates a thick, sticky paste.
3.Dump the contents into a bowl and add green onions and jalapeños. Mix together using your hands and form about three large patties.
4.Place the patties in the freezer for about 20 minutes so they can become firm.
5.Spray a nonstick skillet with coconut oil and set it on medium heat.
6.Add the patties and cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes, until the outer coating is brown and the edges are crispy.
7.Enjoy these patties with a fresh salad or assemble a burger. If you are taking burgers for lunch, do not pre-assemble the burger. Keep the ingredients separate so that the burger is not soggy and you can reheat the salmon patty.


Mediterranean Vegetable Lentil Soup

Prep: 30 min.
Cook: 60 min.
Total: 90 min

Ingredients:
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 large garlic cloves, minced
• 3 medium celery stalks, diced
• 5 medium carrots, diced
• 1 parsnip (or 1 small potato), diced
• 2 tablespoons pesto
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 1 tablespoon dried thyme
• 1 tablespoon fennel seed
• 8 cups low-sodium bone broth (chicken, beef, vegetable)
• One 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes with basil
• 1 1/2 cup dried green lentils
• 1 cup frozen sweet peas
• 3 cups chopped kale (or spinach or other leafy green)
• 2 cups cauliflower florets (or broccoli) very small pieces
• 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
• 3 teaspoons salt, or more to taste

Instructions:
1.Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat.
2. Sauté the onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and parsnips for about 10 minutes, or until they start to turn golden.
3.Add the pesto and spices and stir to combine.
4.Add the stock and tomatoes. Turn the heat up to high and bring the soup to a boil.
5.Add the lentils, peas, and kale, or other greens if using. Let the soup come back to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for about 40 minutes.
6.Add the cauliflower florets, pepper, and salt to taste. Cover and continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes until all vegetables and lentils are tender.
7.Taste and adjust any seasoning with salt and additional pesto, if desired.

Written by: Leah Morton

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