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10 tips to help you eat better for your heart

CTCA

blog heart healthy berries

For people fighting cancer and heart disease, it’s especially important to eat right. This February is American Hearth Month, the perfect time to start eating better for your heart and your well-being. Two of our clinical oncology dietitians, Megan Gutierrez and Crystal Langlois, have a handful of suggestions to help you get started. Along with maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity, they recommend 10 tips.

  1. Get more fiber in your diet. Eat fresh veggies and fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and brown rice.
  2. Cut back on the salt. Season instead with herbs and spices such as garlic, oregano, ginger, basil, thyme, cumin, sage or rosemary. Also read nutrition labels to choose foods low in sodium (less than 140 mg per serving).
  3. Choose foods low in saturated fat and trans fat. Remove skins from chicken breast, drain fat from ground, cooked meat before eating and avoid partially hydrogenated oils found in processed cakes, cookies, crackers, muffins, French fries and doughnuts.
  4. Eat veggies and fruits high in antioxidants such as berries, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes and pumpkin.
  5. Use low-fat cooking methods. Bake, roast, boil, blanch, stir-fry, sauté, stew, microwave or steam.
  6. Make your own salad dressings. Use herbs, spices, oil (canola, walnut or olive) and vinegar.
  7. Choose lean meats. Skinless chicken breast or turkey breast, salmon, tuna and sirloin are excellent options.
  8. Choose foods high in omega-3 and monounsaturated fats. Salmon, olive oil, flaxseed, walnuts, mackerel, sardines, albacore tuna and avocados are great examples.
  9. Eat more raw, cooked and minimally processed non-starchy vegetables. Veggies that are good for the heart include: cucumber, celery, mushrooms, spinach, artichokes, broccoli, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, onions, leeks, cabbage, asparagus, radishes, arugula and cauliflower.
  10. Eat equal amounts of potassium and sodium. Potassium is found in seafood, poultry, whole grains and fresh and dried fruits and veggies. Diets low in potassium and high in sodium can put you at a greater risk for high blood pressure.

Recipes

Chilled Chia Oatmeal with Blueberries

  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup skim milk or alternative milk, unsweetened
  • ¼ cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Add all dry ingredients to a medium jar or container with a lid. Add milk and yogurt. Place the lid on and shake until well combined. Remove the lid, add blueberries and stir until combined. Replace the lid and refrigerate overnight or up to two days. Serve chilled.

Makes 1 serving. Per serving: 300 calories

Braised Kale with Black Beans and Tomatoes

  • 1 bunch of kale (about 8-10 leaves)*
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 large or 6 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 1-15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1½ cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano or basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Using a sharp paring knife, slice off the hard, central vein of each kale leaf. Stacking 3 to 4 leaves at a time, cut them crosswise into half-inch strips. Rinse in a colander or sieve and shake well, leaving some moisture clinging to leaves.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add kale and mix until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic, then add beans and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until kale is tender, about 30 minutes. Season with herbs and pepper. Serve as a side dish or over brown rice for a main course.

*Lacinata, also called “dino (dinosaur) kale” or cavolo nero, is the best choice, but any kale, including curly green or red Russian, can be used.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 175 calories

Recipe adapted from the American Institute for Cancer Research Test Kitchen.

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