These simple changes can boost heart health - without sacrificing flavor.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States --
one in four deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease. But it is never
too late to begin taking better care of your heart, and one of the most
important paths to preventing cardiovascular disease is to improve what you eat..
"Even small diet changes can help lower the risk of heart disease,
and is a great start to establishing an overall healthy lifestyle,"
Tawnya Dorn, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at
Queen of the Valley Medical Center.
Dorn recommends that people of all ages eat more fruits and vegetables,
limit unhealthy fats and choose whole grains over refined products. It
is also best to
limit red meats, sugary beverages and foods high in sodium. The good news is eating healthier
doesn’t necessarily mean giving up all the foods you love. These
easy food swaps are just as delicious as they are heart-friendly!
1. Instead of: Butter | Try: Avocado
When people think of
avocados, they usually think of guacamole or salads. But mashed avocado can actually
be used as a substitute for butter in baked goods and more. Swapping avocado
for butter not only slashes calories, avocado offers less cholesterol
and saturated fat than butter. The richness of avocado mostly comes from
heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. “These are the fats that can
actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and boost HDL (good) cholesterol,”
says Dorn. “Also, avocados offer more protein, fiber, vitamins and
minerals than plain butter.” Fruit muffins, cakes and even chocolate
frosting can be made with avocado instead of butter. Bonus tip: Use whipped
avocado instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches – it binds perfectly
with tuna, egg or chicken, and is just as satisfying as mayo.
2. Instead of: Oil | Try: Applesauce
Here’s another “secret” ingredient for baking that works
well: Use applesauce instead of cooking oil. The pectin in applesauce
coats flour, the role oil usually plays in the chemical process of baking.
Applesauce actually can take the place of eggs in baking as well, a plus
for vegans. Banana bread, pumpkin bread, oatmeal cookies, muffins and
breakfast breads all turn out moist and naturally sweet with this simple
swap. “Just make sure to use unsweetened applesauce,” says
Dorn. “You don’t want to add extra sugar calories where they’re
not needed.” If you can’t find unsweetened applesauce, it’s
easy to make it yourself –just boil chopped apples until liquefied.
3. Instead of: Rice | Try: Cauliflower
Instead of white rice, swap out heart-healthy cauliflower instead. Use
a box grater or food processor to grate out rice-sized morsels of raw
cauliflower, then steam or braise. The tender, moist “grains”
of cauliflower are perfect with tossed vegetables, fish or any savory
entrée – and are packed with heart-friendly nutrients. “As
a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower improves blood pressure and lowers
inflammation, two key elements of heart maintenance,” says Dorn.
“There are few better vegetables for the heart than cauliflower,
and substituting it for rice is another good way to add it into one’s
diet.” And with its high vitamin and mineral content, cauliflower
offers a wide range of health benefits that are hard to top.
4. Instead of: Pasta | Try: Shredded Zucchini
Pasta lovers can still enjoy a rich-tasting plate of
spaghetti while skipping the heavy carbs by simply substituting shredded or “spiralized”
zucchini squash. Use a spiral vegetable slicer to create long, noodle-like
strands of zucchini, then steam, boil or saute in light olive oil. Toss
with a vegetable-based sauce for a flavorful, heart-healthy entrée
that satisfies. Spaghetti contains 10 times as many calories as zucchini,
and doesn’t offer the nutrient bonanza of squash. “Zucchini
is high in potassium and antioxidants, known to control blood pressure
and lower the odds of developing heart disease,” says Dorn. “By
swapping out typical side dishes like rice and potatoes for vegetables,
you’re doing your heart a lot of good without losing the enjoyment
of a meal. That’s important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle
5. Instead of: Ice Cream | Try: Frozen Bananas
Rich, homemade ice cream that only takes one ingredient? Yes, please! Simply
slice and freeze two whole bananas; blend until smooth and fluffy. That’s
all there is to it. Enjoy frozen banana in its soft-serve state, or re-freeze
for more of a traditional ice cream texture. For flavor variations, add
strawberries, raspberries or chopped nuts – the healthy nutrients
in these super-foods add even more benefits for your heart. But even a
plain banana is considered one of the most heart-healthy foods around.
“The potassium in bananas has been shown to help maintain healthy
blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke,” says Dorn. “The
fiber, vitamin C and B6 in bananas are all good for heart health, too.
And at just over 100 calories per banana, this is one dessert anyone can
be happy about.”
“Incorporating more healthy foods into your existing diet, and swapping
out heavy ingredients, doesn’t have to be hard,” adds Dorn.
“Explore your options, think creatively, and try simple, everyday
changes that can help jumpstart a healthier lifestyle.”
Do you have a heart-healthy food swap recipe? Share a comment here.