Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Recipe
Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
Valentine’s Day is usually about hearts, candy and flowers. However, here’s another way to show everyone that you’ve got a heart of gold; you can prepare a delicious meal featuring heart-healthy foods. This meal will be one that you and your loved ones can literally “eat to your heart’s content”.
It’s nice to start off with a toast to your good health. You can use champagne, which, like wine, contains natural antioxidants from the grapes, or you can make a festive non-alcoholic drink with 100% fruit juice and some sparkling water. Red-purple juices, like grape and pomegranate are rich in polyphenols. These naturally occurring compounds in the fruit help to increase blood flow and keep blood pressure in range. Or, you can get a little shot of antioxidant vitamin C by adding a splash of orange juice to your sparkling water.
For your first course, have a colorful salad. Bright orange carrots, red tomatoes and deep-green spinach owe their colors to a group of heart-healthy antioxidant pigments, called carotenoids. For added benefit, toss in some avocado or dress your salad with olive oil because these heart-healthy fats help your body absorb the carotenoids from the vegetables. Cooked beans make a heart-healthy addition, too, since their water-soluble fiber helps to keep cholesterol levels in check.
For the main event, grill some fresh fish. Fish is one of the best sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids which help to control the levels of certain fats in the blood, like triglycerides and cholesterol.
Then, let yourself go “a little nuts”. Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios are rich in compounds called phytosterols that can help keep cholesterol in check. If you toast them a little bit in the oven or a dry frying pan, it brings out their natural flavor - then you can sprinkle them on top of some steamed veggies for a great side dish, or add them to your salad.
Finally, no Valentine’s Day would be complete without a little bit of chocolate. Naturally occurring compounds in cocoa, called flavonoids, act as antioxidants,and the darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids you get. So have a bite of dark chocolate to finish your meal, or for a doubly healthy dessert, drizzle some melted bittersweet chocolate over fresh berries. The natural red-purple pigments that give berries their beautiful color act as antioxidants, too.