Are You Cooking Away the Heart-Health Benefits of Food?
It’s not just what you eat — it’s how you eat it. Nutritious foods can have powerful heart-health benefits: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fish or other lean protein, and whole grains can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
But if you batter and fry your fish or load your veggies with butter and salt, you may be canceling out the benefits of those foods. In fact, healthy cooking is just as important as choosing the right foods. Luckily, you can enjoy the benefits of a heart-healthy diet without sacrificing flavor or a sense of fullness.
The key to low-fat cooking is finding ways to enhance the flavor and retain the nutrients in foods without adding a lot of fat or salt, according to Joan Salge Blake, MS, RDN, LDN, a clinical associate professor at Boston University's Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Healthy Cooking: Cutting Back on Salt
"Go to Mother Nature first," Salge Blake says. "By pairing nutritious foods together, you can get a lot of flavor." For example, a stir-fry or kabobs with a mixture of vegetables can satisfy the taste buds without having to add more than a drizzle of olive oil.
When you're preparing foods, a number of heart-healthy ingredients can make great substitutes for salt. "Many people are accustomed to using salt to flavor dishes, but we can train our taste buds to appreciate other flavors that almost mimic salt," says Marisa Moore, RDN, LD, an adjunct professor in the department of nutrition at Georgia State University in Atlanta and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
In place of salt, try marinating fish or poultry in Dijon mustard and lime or another citrus juice, such as lemon, orange, or grapefruit.
"Vinegar is another untapped resource," Moore adds. "Balsamic vinegar reduces as it cooks and becomes syrupy sweet. It can be a wonderful glaze for vegetables and meats." Vinegar is also available flavored with a variety of spices, fruits, and vegetables, such as tarragon, peppercorn, garlic, jalepeno pepper, orange, pear, peach, and raspberry, which can add even more heart-healthy flavors to meals.
Garlic, fresh herbs, and other spices are also good choices to add flavor to foods without adding fat or salt. Moore adds that smoked paprika is a lesser-known spice that can enhance the flavor of a number of foods, particularly beans, spinach, and turkey burgers.
Heart-Healthy Diet: Cooking With Less Fat
Minimizing total fat intake and limiting saturated fats are two important rules for low-fat cooking. These unhealthy fats can raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease.
You can make many of your favorite dishes healthier by substituting high-fat ingredients with low-fat or non-fat alternatives. For example, instead of cooking with butter, opt for a vegetable oil such as canola oil, corn oil, or sesame oil.
Salge Blake adds that extra-virgin olive oil, a flavorful “healthy” fat, should be a staple of low-fat, heart-healthy cooking, too. Olive oil can also be used as a salad dressing, either combined with balsamic or flavored vinegar or mixed with ingredients such as lemon juice, honey, or course-ground mustard. Iif you prefer a hint of heat, add a few red-pepper flakes or a dash of ground cayenne pepper.
The Mediterranean Diet
When selecting foods for heart-healthy cooking, consider the components of what's known as a Mediterranean diet. A 2013 study inThe New England Journal of Medicinefound that eating a Mediterranean diet — which is rich in fruits and vegetables as well as fish, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil, and nuts — resulted in about a 30 percent reduction in heart attacks, strokes, and heart-related deaths among people considered to be at high risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week in order to reap the heart-health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Salmon, sardines, tuna, and halibut are especially high in omega-3s.
It's also a good idea to replace whole-milk dairy products, such as milk, cream cheese, and sour cream, with low-fat or non-fat versions. Moore advises using leaner cuts of red meat and pork, such as sirloin and round, and cooking with skinless poultry. However, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating vegetables, legumes, and seafood over meat.
Heart-Healthy Cooking Techniques
In addition to choosing heart-healthy ingredients, it's important to consider the cooking method.
"If you’re trying to cook for a heart-healthy diet, stay away from frying," Moore says. "I recommend stir-frying. It's cooked at a high heat, which adds flavor due to the carmelization of vegetables, and it's also quick and easy. If you don't have a lot of time, you can buy everything already chopped. It's also versatile — you can add chicken, shrimp, or tofu." To stir-fry, use an oil such as canola, peanut, or pure olive oil, but not extra-virgin olive oil, which has a lower smoke point.
Grilling and broiling are two more ways to reduce the amount of fat you use in preparing food. "The best part about grilling fruits and vegetables is that each one has its own fabulous taste and flavor, and you don't need to add a lot of fat or salt," Salge Blake says.
If it's not grilling season, Moore points out that broiling chicken or other foods indoors is the next best thing. "If you want a little crispy crunch on your food, the broil setting on the oven can actually provide a really nice crust and give that grilled flavor," she says. Grilling and broiling also allow any fat in the food to drip away.
Other heart-healthy cooking methods include:
How to Preserve Vitamins When Cooking
Cooking techniques that are fast and limit how much water or other liquids you need to use will preserve the most nutrients in your food, Salge Blake says. "In some cases, there are water-soluble vitamins that may be lost if you boil foods and toss the water," she says. "Use the minimum amount of heat and water for the shortest amount of time. The longer you cook, the more nutrients you lose."
Moore says that the exception to this rule is making soup. "With soup, you actually retain the nutrients because you’re eating the broth." By combining the right foods with simple, healthy cooking methods, you’ll enjoy satisfying new flavors and improve your heart health as well.
Video: 15 Foods That Reduce Your Heart Attack Risk by 80%
How to Store Dragon Fruit
Nikes Back To The Future Sneakers Will Officially Go On Sale
7-Minute Arm Workout Challenge
3 Jumping Jack Alternatives That Are Way Easier On Your Knees
How to Calculate Normality
Fruit Enzyme Quiz Quiz Statistics and Answer Key
How to Contact the President of the United States
This oil diffuser has a super modern design and makes my apartment smell great
Cod Liver Oil
8 Ways To Recharge Your Energy And Your Spirit
Prada Embraces a New Marketing Strategy with Spring 2019 Ad Campaign
Infidelity Anonymous: How To Survive If It Happens To You
Jimmy Kimmels Wife Had the Most Poignant Reaction to His Gut-Wrenching Monologue