With this month’s focus on American Heart Month, it occurred to me that you, our readers, might wonder what makes a recipe heart healthy. We always focus on lean, but this month, we’re going for heart health too. And, here’s what makes the difference:
–Keep it lean. Lowering the amount of fat is key to all heart-healthy plans. Our recipes start well with the lean beef, but then I do my best to add as little fat as possible to the finished dish. It’s where non-stick skillets and low-fat versions of other ingredients (cheeses, sour cream, non-fat milk) come into play. Those versions don’t always work, but that’s where I start.
–Increase vegetable consumption. I love adding vegetables to my recipes to add flavor, color, texture and, yes, I admit it, quantity. I like a big plate of dinner. But besides filling me up, vegetables are always heart healthy choices. (Watch for our triple decker meatloaf with loads of added vegetables this month.)
–Don’t be afraid of the “good fats.” Those are monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, which I use often in my recipes, and the fats found in avocados. So even when I’m eliminating the fat, the oil I am using tends to be the oil that is good for me.
–I like wine in the recipe. I know many readers have good reasons for NOT cooking with wine, and I respect that. You can always substitute another liquid (water or stock) for wine any time I call for it in a recipe. I like the complexity and the acidic notes it brings to complement a dish, but happily for me, studies support moderate consumption of alcohol being part of a heart-healthy diet.
–Add more heart-healthy ingredients. There’s a ton of research out there naming specific ingredients that pack health-boosters for your heart. Antioxidants, which can be found in red grapes, cocoa, blueberries and so many other colorful fruits and vegetables. Walnuts have omega 3 fatty acids, which help control cholesterol.
–And finally, as with everything … Our recipes keep the portions moderate. 4 ounces uncooked (about 3 ounces cooked) beef, small portions of starches and cheese and generous helpings of vegetables.
Want to read more? Cleveland Clinic has articles about ingredients and how to keep eating heart-healthy during down economic times (oatmeal anyone? How about our beef vegetable soup with toasted oats from last month?)