February is national heart month, a time to think about our heart health. If you read my About info, you’ll see I’m a two-time survivor of near-fatal heart incidents. I now head a local chapter of Mended Hearts, a support group for those with heart issues. So I was intrigued when I received this piece and decided to run it as a guest post. If you have any symptoms of heart problems, do not hesitate to see a doctor ASAP. Doing that saved my life, twice!
A whole food, plant-based diet low in sodium and free of fats has been conclusively shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. But which foods are the stars and stewards of healthy hearts?
The list below gives our “Top 10” heart healthy foods. Each item has valuable medical attributes that make them integral ingredients to include in any diet that promotes and maintains heart health.
Anyone with heart issues, or anyone who wants to eat healthy, should be familiar with the Mediterranean Diet, it consistently comes out on top in comparisons of popular diet trends, as I wrote here. So here’s a great holiday gift idea — The Everything Green Mediterranean Cookbook.
Author Peter Minaki put this together during the Pandemic to help people lose weight and get in shape after all the pandemic pounds they may have gained.
And while the name might lead you to think otherwise, there are fish and chicken recipes in here, just no red meat options. If you love artichokes like I do, you’ll find some interesting recipes for those, along with a variety of other options.
Each of the 200 recipes includes nutrition information so you can gauge salt, fat and sugar content and make ingredient substitutions as you like.
Amazon sells the book for $15.19 new, prices vary across various websites.
Salmon has replaced red meat to a large extent in my diet since my first angioplasty in 2012 brought about a radical rethinking to my eating habits. My recipe page has a hot of salmon recipes you can try.
The headline is a bit misleading because while the piece does say don’t overcook or undercook salmon (that’s the worst mistake), it also lays out some important details to cook salmon properly such as:
Don’t cook it cold, let it reach room temperature first.
Cook it in an oven at 400 degrees
Use a shallow dish or a shallow oven-proof skillet to cook it to allow for good airflow around the fish.
Let it rest before cutting/serving.
Remembering those should help you to become a salmon master in no time.
Keep your cholesterol numbers down, particularly the “bad” cholesterol, and you’ll keep your heart healthy…at least that’s what we’d like to think. Sadly, Americans constant search for easy answers about eating and good health gravitate to simple solutions that, most of the time, are simply wrong.
The biggest issue, the article notes, “the amount of cholesterol in your food doesn’t necessarily translate to the amount of cholesterol in your blood vessels..”
To elaborate, the article goes on:
‘”Eating foods rich in cholesterol does increase blood cholesterol, usually by a small, but still significant amount,” explained Dr. Stephen Devries, a preventive cardiologist and executive director of the educational nonprofit Gaples Institute in Deerfield, Illinois. But the effect of eating foods that contain a lot of cholesterol “may not be as high as one might expect, because most of the cholesterol in blood actually comes from the body’s own production.” When you consume a bunch of cholesterol, your body will usually make less to compensate.’
So sorry, it’s not as simple as we’d like. Believe me, I know from first-hand experience. I’ve been on cholesterol-lowering medication since my first stent in 2012 but it didn’t prevent a second blockage in 2017 (and a second stent) and my blood pressure has been elevated recently, so a third blockage could be developing which may require a third angioplasty this summer.
Our bodies and their relationships with what with eat are still much more complex than we know, or would want them to be unfortunately.
“Each additional weekly serving of 114 grams or 4 ounces (½ cup) of fried foods increased the risk for heart attack and stroke by 3%, heart disease by 2% and heart failure by 12%,” according to results of the study. AS a point of reference, there are 117 grams in a medium McDonald’s french fry order. So eating that every week adds a 3% chance of heart attack or stroke.
As good as they are, put down the french fries. You want to live to see the end of this pandemic don’t you?
“Covid and the move to more eating at home sent a lot of people looking for healthier recipes like we provide,” says site Founder and Editor John N. Frank. “While a lot of people were binging on chips and junk food, I’d like to think some realized they need to get the salt, fat and sugar out of their diets as they think more about what they eat every day.”
Frank started the blog in late 2012 after his first angioplasty to open a blocked artery which nearly killed him. He’s since had a second stent inserted in a different artery in 2017.
He has utilized his prior experience as a food journalist to find or modify recipes to get out the excessive salt, bad fats, and high amounts of sugar that many Americans eat every day without realizing what’s in their food.
Frank recently was named a 2020 top executive by Marquis’ Who’s Who in recognition of his career in journalism, his work on this blog, his efforts to start a small theater and his volunteer work with Mended Hearts, a national peer-to-peer support group for those dealing with heart disease.
“I’ve been stuck inside all year like everyone else but I’ve tried to keep busy,” he jokes.
The start of any year is notorious for people resolving to lose some weight. Indeed, all the major weight-loss programs already are running ads to attract new clients this time of year.
Like millions of others, I’m resolving to drop some pounds this year too. But I don’t use any commercial diet plans. Rather, I merely need to return to what I was eating after having my first angioplasty in 2012.
Following that surgery, I dropped 25 pounds by cutting out everything I enjoyed — red meat, candy, cookies, doughnuts, cake, rich, creamy ethnic foods (think most things from Europe), high-salt ethnic foods (think anything from Asia).
Sadly, after three years of that, I began slipping back, mainly with M&Ms and cream-filled doughnuts, until, in 2017, I was forced to have a second angioplasty to open yet another blocked artery.
That second surgery really had me questioning whether changing my diet had any impact on my artery-health, since it seemed like the answer was a resounding no.
So for the past two years, I’ve been eating much more junk food than before and have gained back that 25 pounds I lost. That officially makes me a fat old man these days and I don’t like that image. So I’m starting all over again.
Here’s today’s lunch salad which I made at home. Restaurant salads are normally load with salt, fat and sugar, avoid them or strip them down to their basics if you must eat one.
I try to add as much as possible to the basic spring greens lettuce mix to give the salad some texture. Here’s a look at ingredients before I built the salad. The only thing missing in this photo is the turkey I put on. That’s leftover from our low-salt Christmas turkey.
The feta cheese is fat-free and the olives (in that black liquid) are low-salt. The beets are sold at Costco, they’re sealed and shelf-stable, not the jarred ones that are loaded with salt.
The mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers and even the lettuce mix were on sale at a local supermarket. Eating healthy is expensive, so always shop the sales each week to find deals.
I topped all this with olive oil (a so-called good fat) and balsamic vinegar.
Food science is inexact at best. I’m constantly reminded that as different nutritionists or diet proponents say they know what’s healthy and it may not be what the other person is pushing. The humble egg is a great example of that. Once it was considered bad, then good, but now bad again, according to a new study.
For years, doctors and nutritionists told people worried about their cholesterol levels not to eat eggs, or at least not egg yolks which contain relatively high levels of cholesterol. But then eggs started making a healthy comeback, spurred I’m sure by studies paid for by the egg industry.
The mission for this blog since I started it in late 2012 has been to help people with health issues eat tasty, satisfying food rather than just the bland stuff nutritionists propose after a major health incident such as my angioplasty in 2012.
But helping people is only possible if they’re listening, otherwise I’m just another tree falling in the forest, unknown and unseen and not helping anyone.
Regular readers of my blog know I began this after having angioplasty to open an 80% blocked artery very close to my heart. Doctors told me I did not have a heart attack but had come very, very close on the day when I felt the pressure on my chest and it seemed like air had stopped reaching my lungs.