February is heart month. This month brings awareness to staying heart-healthy and how you can improve your cardiovascular health to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
In addition to staying active and reducing stress, eating well is one of the most important ways you can lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy for your heart can help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar and also lower your chance of developing health problems like diabetes and heart-related issues.
We’ve rounded up some of our favourite heart-healthy recipes. Fatim Ajwani, Registered Dietitian at Toronto Rehab’s Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program at UHN shares some surprising health benefits that can be found in these recipes.
Green bean salad
Try this green bean salad for your next side dish. Use fresh or frozen green beans for this quick and delicious side. This salad follows a Mediterranean style of eating which includes lots of plant-based foods including colourful vegetables and olive oil.
“Extra virgin olive oil contains healthy fats and antioxidants can help lower your cholesterol, decrease inflammation and reduce your risk of heart disease. Use it in salad dressings as well as in your cooking and baking.” – Fatim
- 1 bag of green beans (approx. 1lb)
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp sliced almonds or feta cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add green beans
- Cook green beans for five minutes or until tender-crisp
- Drain beans and let cool while you start making the salad dressing
- In a small container mix olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano and three cloves of minced garlic
- Pour dressing over the beans, mix and let the beans cool in the fridge for a couple of hours
- Sprinkle with nuts or feta cheese just before serving
Sesame ginger veggie quinoa with salmon
Salmon is one of our favourite good mood foods and provides an excellent source of protein and is rich in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. This healthy and delicious dish is a flavourful mix of sesame, ginger, soy sauce and your favourite vegetables.
“Using a base of quinoa cooked in milk not only boosts fibre, but also gives you important minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium which are essential for good blood pressure.” – Fatim
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 2 tsp butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, diagonally sliced
- 2 carrots, diagonally sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp minced fresh gingerroot
- Pinch hot pepper flakes
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth or water
- 2 cups milk (regular or plant based)
- 2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce, divided
- 2 tsp sesame oil, divided
- 4 thin skinless salmon fillet (each 4 oz.)
- 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
- In a large skillet, toast sesame seeds over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Return skillet to medium heat, add butter and swirl to coat. Sauté onion, celery and carrots for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, ginger and hot pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute or until fragrant. Stir in quinoa.
- Stir in broth, then stir in milk. Stir in 1 tbsp of the soy sauce and 1 tsp of the sesame oil and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring once, for 7 minutes until quinoa is slightly tender.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the remaining soy sauce and sesame oil. Pat salmon fillets dry and brush both sides with soy sauce mixture.
- Stir edamame and any remaining soy sauce mixture into quinoa. Nestle salmon fillets in quinoa, spacing evenly around the pan. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until white juices just start to show on salmon and salmon is just opaque. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Spoon portions onto plates and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Fudgy chocolate brownies
These brownies are made with one ingredient you may have never thought you would add to a brownie recipe – black beans! Black beans give these brownies their fudgy texture and boost protein and fiber. These delicious brownies are the perfect heart-healthy snack just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Tip: Thoroughly rinse black beans to help reduce excess salt and starch.
“Including legumes, like beans, lentils and chickpeas on a regular basis is part of the Mediterranean way of eating and can reduce the risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Use legumes in soups, salads, curries, dips in your baking! Check out cardiaccollege.ca and cookspiration.com for more legume recipes and cooking tips.” – Fatim
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a square baking pan (8” x 8” or 9” or 9”) with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Combine all ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a food processor or blender and mix until smooth. Pause as needed to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- Fold in 1/4 cups chocolate chips
- Pour batter into the pan and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Stick a toothpick into the batter and if the toothpick comes out clean, the brownies are baked.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then cut into 12 brownies
- Store in the fridge in an air-tight container
Which heart-healthy recipe was your favourite? Take a picture of your meal and tag us on social media @UHNfoundation.