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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Pamper Your Heart

Are you wearing red today in support of The American Heart Association's National Wear Red Day®? It's a wonderful reminder to pamper our own hearts and avoid the life-altering diagnosis of heart disease. Pampering your heart means being smart, and as good as it may sound, lazy days on the couch with a box of chocolates in hand is actually not what this loving organ desires. One of the keys to a healthy heart is a nutritionally sound diet filled with lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. But most of us already know this; so why does heart disease continue to be the number one killer?

We need to put our knowledge into action. There are three things we need to act on before lifting that fork full of food into our mouth: 1. Limit saturated and trans fat. 2. Go for low-sodium. 3. Choose foods with omega-3 fatty acids.

Saturated fats come from animal products, including beef and cheese, but can raise bad cholesterol levels, increasing your risk for heart disease. Select lean cuts of beef and pork, looking for the word "loin" or "round" in its name. Remove the skin from chicken, drain off all the fat from cooked ground meat, cut back on processed meats, such as hot dogs and bacon, and choose low-fat dairy products, such as 1% or non-fat milk and low-fat cheese. Saturated fats can also be found in palm oil, coconut oil, and butter. Replace these with healthy oils, such as olive or canola.

Trans fats are man-made fats that can also raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. They may be found in some fried foods, pastries, and stick margarines but in order to be sure, look for the words "partially hydrogenated oil" on the ingredient list on package labels, and if you see it, don't buy it!

It's no lie, that cutting back to the recommended amount of sodium (1500 mg per day for anyone over 50 years old, African American, or those with diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease) can be difficult, but not impossible. When shopping look at the nutrition facts label, which is a great source of information, especially if you know the 5 and 20 rule: If the percent daily value is 5% or below for that nutrient, it's low. (That's a good thing when looking at saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.) If the percent daily value is 20% or more for that nutrient, it's high. (That's not a good thing when looking at saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium). So if a can of soup has 18% of the daily value of sodium, that's probably not the best choice since it's close to 20%.

Finally, look for foods with omega-3 fatty acids, which are good fats that can protect against heart disease. Fatty fish, such as salmon or albacore tuna is an excellent source. But if fish just isn't your thing, add heart healthy fats found in walnuts, almonds or pecans to cereal or salads. Use flaxseed or canola oil, or try ground flaxseed mixed in meatloaf, pancakes or muffins.

Knowledge is power, but it's more about our actions. Make the commitment to pamper your heart with healthier foods. Go through your cabinets and gather the foods that don't belong (high sodium, saturated and trans-fat ingredients). Then, make a grocery list of healthier foods that can be substituted for these, and buy them next time you go to the store. It's these foods and your healthier lifestyle that your heart will fall for.


Grilled Tuna Steak with Olive and Celery Relish

Olive and Celery Relish

1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/3 cup pitted ripe olives, chopped

1/4 cup celery, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon olive oil

Freshly ground pepper to taste


Grilled Tuna

1 3/4 lb. tuna steak, trimmed

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon black pepper


Combine all relish ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside. Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush each side of tuna with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Grill tuna until seared on both sides and cooked all the way through (about 4 minutes on each side). Serve with Olive & Celery Relish.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutritional Information per serving: 190 calories, 5 grams total fat, (0.5 grams saturated fat,) 50 milligrams cholesterol, 120 milligrams sodium, 1 gram carbohydrate, 0 gram dietary fiber, 33 grams protein


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