People often forget to connect their everyday behaviors to their bodies. Overeating, a lack of exercise, increased stress levels and poor sleeping patterns weigh heavy — quite literally — on our hearts. Heart health is not only affected by genetics but also by poor lifestyle choices.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., but luckily, there are small yet practical steps to minimize risk and improve your overall heart health! Eating healthily and cultivating a heart-healthy diet will decrease your chances of heart disease and other medical conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, that impact overall heart health.
Why Should We Look After Our Hearts?
Our hearts are responsible for pumping oxygen-full, nutrient-rich blood to every living cell and removing toxins and waste. Having a healthy heart is imperative to your overall health. You are always young enough to change your ways and adopt a healthier way of life.
Here are some of the reasons why you should maintain a healthy heart:
- Preserve healthy cholesterol levels
- Lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Regulate blood pressure
How Can We Take Care of Our Hearts?
There are many ways to ensure that you keep your heart healthy. Regular exercise strengthens the muscles of the heart. Limiting or stopping smoking altogether places less stress on the heart and lungs.
The most straightforward place to start is in the kitchen. Changing the ingredients in your fridge and pantry can improve blood pressure, maintain cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Here are some tips to keep in mind when following a heart-healthy diet:
- Control portion size;
- Reduce sodium intake;
- Choose whole grains;
- Eat more fruit and vegetables;
- Limit unhealthy fats.
Don’t let this overwhelm you. Several delicious heart-healthy recipes to choose from have considered all these factors for you!
Easy Heart-Healthy Recipes to Make
Making the change to a heart-healthy diet has never been easier. These heart-healthy recipes are perfect for simple, flavorful and, most importantly, healthy meal ideas!
Heart Healthy Oatmeal Recipe
Perfect for this time of year, apple cinnamon overnight oats can be eaten as a quick breakfast option or a healthy afternoon snack.
- ½ cup of oats
- ½ cup of apple, chopped
- ½ cup of nonfat milk or milk alternative
- ¼ cup plain, non-fat yogurt
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 1 teaspoon of chia seeds
How To Prepare
- Pour the oats into a Mason jar or container of your choice.
- Pour in the milk and yogurt. Add a layer of chopped apples and chia seeds.
- Top off with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey.
- Place in the fridge overnight and enjoy the next day!
You’ll be pleasantly surprised in the morning when the oats and chia seeds have puffed up, resulting in a creamy, easy-to-eat delight of a meal!
Heart-Healthy Hummus Recipe
Dips don’t have to be jam-packed with preservatives, flavorings and saturated fats. You, too, can enjoy hummus the heart-healthy way!
- 15 ounces of can of low-sodium chickpeas, undrained
- ¼ cup of tahini
- ½ tablespoon of ground cumin
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of low-sodium miso
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Water to thin the hummus, if desired
- Sesame seeds for topping
How To Prepare
- Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
- Taste and adjust any seasonings to your preference.
You’ll feel transported to the islands of Greece and the dunes of Morocco with this hummus recipe, all without the guilt!
Heart-Healthy Zucchini Bread Recipe
Heart-healthy does not mean no bread! This zucchini bread recipe is the perfect alternative to processed bread.
- ⅓ cup of melted coconut oil
- ½ cup of honey or maple syrup
- 2 room temperature eggs
- ½ cup of low-fat milk of choice or water
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon of fine-grain sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ cups of grated zucchini, with the moisture squeezed out
- 1 ¾ cups of whole wheat flour
- ¾ cup of roughly chopped raw walnuts or pecans
How To Prepare
- Preheat the oven to 325 F and grease a loaf pan.
- Toast the nuts in a pan. Once cooled, chop the nuts and set aside.
- Combine the coconut oil and honey in a large mixing bowl. Add in the eggs and beat well.
- Whisk in the milk, baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and nutmeg until well blended. Add the zucchini and fold it in.
- Add the flour and nuts. Stir just until combined.
- Pour the batter into the greased loaf tin.
- Place in the oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
- Let the bread cool on a wire rack. Cut and serve.
Whether you dress it up with wholesome toppings or dress it down and serve it as is, this bread is a delightful addition to any meal!
Heart Healthy Meatball Recipe
Are you looking for an Italian-style meatball without putting a strain on your heart? Look no further than this heart-healthy meatball recipe!
For the Topping
- 1 cup of seeded and diced tomato
- ¼ cup of finely chopped sweet onion
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic
- ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
For the Meatball
- 16 ounces of extra-lean ground beef
- ¼ cup of wholewheat breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup of egg whites
- 2 teaspoons of chopped garlic
- ¼ teaspoon of onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon of salt and black pepper
- ¼ cup of shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
How To Prepare
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Add all topping ingredients to a medium-sized bowl. Mix until all combined.
- Mix the beef, breadcrumbs, egg whites, garlic, onion powder, black pepper and cheeses in a large bowl. Roll out 12 meatballs.
- Lay meatballs in a tray and cover the tray with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
- Serve with the topping.
This recipe works well as an easy weeknight dinner, with leftovers for lunch the next day!
Heart-Healthy Juice Recipe
Juices are an effective way to get all-important vitamins and minerals into your diet. This beet juice is a quick and easy heart-healthy option for when you’re on the go.
- 3 large beetroots, washed
- 2 medium-sized apples washed and cut into squares
- 2 large carrots washed, stem removed, cut into pieces
- 1 large orange, peeled
- Juice from half a lemon
How To Prepare
- Put all the ingredients into the juicer and juice. Set the lemon juice aside.
- Add the lemon juice and stir well.
- Pour into serving glasses.
The beetroot and lemon improve blood flow by reducing blood vessel inflammation — a great option to add to any heart-healthy diet.
Take Care of Your Heart, And It Will Take Care of You!
Lowering cholesterol and managing blood pressure to prevent heart disease and minimize the risk of a heart attack can often be daunting. These recipes will take you from not knowing where to start to a happy, healthy heart!