Love Your Heart with Food (+ Recipes)

February is heart health month!  Stroke, high blood pressure, and cardiac arrest are a few diseases related to the heart and are life-threatening. A heart-healthy diet can help prevent and manage these kinds of diseases. Other benefits of a heart-healthy diet are; reduction of low-density lipoprotein (the “bad” cholesterol), increase of high-density lipoprotein (the “good” cholesterol), and last but definitely not least is that it lowers one’s risk for heart disease.

A heart-healthy diet is rich with plant-based fiber and unsaturated fats, while limiting salt and unhealthy fats like trans and saturated. According to the American Heart Association, raw almonds, cacao, and dark chocolate are some tasty foods that help lower the bad cholesterol,  also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which clogs the arteries. Check out the recipe below featuring some of these ingredients.

As we know, eating too much salt can be problematic, but why? There is a relationship between high blood pressure and an excessive intake of salt which then could lead to heart disease. Some ways to decrease your salt intake is by:

  • Avoiding having a salt shaker on the table
  • Using natural herbs and seasonings like celery, thyme, or lemon juice
  • Looking for products with <300 milligrams of sodium per serving
  • Limiting processed foods

One of the best ways to ensure a heart healthy diet is by preparing the majority of your meals at home. That way you can control the ingredients, like the amount of salt added or using healthier fat sources. Furthermore, by eating a plant-based diet, you can ensure that you are meeting your fiber requirements, which keeps your heart and your digestive tract healthy. 

The recipes below feature garbanzo beans (chickpeas), which are full of fiber and plant-based protein. By combining them with unsaturated fats like avocado in this Smashed Chickpea & Avocado Salad, you get a ton of creamy flavor and you won’t even know you’re eating beans! They can also be used in dessert recipes like these Chickpea Blondies to create a thick batter without using flour, which increases the protein and eliminates simple carbohydrate for a more nutritionally balanced treat. 

Smashed Chickpea & Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas or garbanzo beans
  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas.
  2. In a bowl, using a fork smash the chickpeas and avocado together. Add in cilantro and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Spread salad on a sandwich, put on top of salad greens, or scoop with whole grain crackers or veggies.

Note: If you’re not crazy about chickpeas, swap for a can of drained tuna for a heart-healthy protein and get smashing!

Serving size: 3/4 cup; Calories: 218, Protein: 8g, Total Carb: 30g, Fat: 8g, Fiber: 10g , Potassium: 279 mg

Recipe inspired by Two Peas & Their Pod

Chickpea Blondies

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup almond butter (or any nut butter of choice)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup, agave, or honey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • cooking spray

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray an 8×8 inch dish with cooking spray.
  2.  In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients except chocolate chips.  Process until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.
  3.  Spread batter evenly in dish.  Note:  if you spray your spatula with cooking spray it will prevent the batter from sticking.
  4.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges are slightly browned. Cut into 16 pieces after cooling for 15 minutes.  Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Serving size: 1 bar (1/16 of recipe):  Calories: 120, Fat 6g, Carbs 13.5g, Sugar 7g, Fiber 2.8g, Protein 3.5g