Pack in the potassium with a Tropical Chia Parfait

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As Heart Health Month comes to a close, I am compelled to write about the mineral that is so important when it comes to your heart!

Potassium is the mineral I’m talking about. It is a mineral that cannot be produced by the body, so you have to turn to food for this important heart protector.

This mineral is also an electrolyte. You’ve probably heard that electrolytes are good for recovery after a hard workout. They also assist in a number of regulatory functions in the body like: water balance, Ph balance, nerve impulses, digestion, blood pressure, and muscle contractions.

Specific to the heart, eating a potassium-rich diet has proven to lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease.

If you get muscle cramps, there is a chance you are not getting enough potassium. Reach for a banana or another potassium-rich food if you find yourself coming down with a lot of muscle cramps or spasms.

Foods that contain potassium are those such as:

  • Fruits like bananas, apricots, kiwi, oranges, and kiwi
  • Veggies: leafy greens, carrots, and potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Lean meats
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Nuts

So let’s pull from that list to make you a delicious and nutritious, potassium-packed dessert!

Tropical Chia Parfait

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup/ honey or coconut sugar
  • ½ banana chopped
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut
  • Whole grain, low sugar granola

Instructions::

  1. Mix chia seeds, milk, vanilla, and sweetener in a bowl.
  2. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours – overnight is best
  3. Assemble: in a small bowl or mason jar spoon in ¼ of mixture then add fruit, granola, and coconut. Add another ¼ of mixture and top with remaining fruit, granola, and coconut chips
  4. Enjoy!

*recipe makes 1-2 servings. Chia pudding can remain covered in fridge for up to 5 days

 

 

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Soak up some soluble fiber with Carrot Lentil Coconut Stew

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men; about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.

Americans do not get enough fiber and this could be one contributing factor of the alarming rate of heart disease in our country. Fiber protects the heart!

One type of fiber is soluble; this type of fiber is found in beans, lentils, peas, oats, oat bran, and apples. Research has shown that fiber can lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, both of which reduce the risk of heart disease.

I have created a delicious lentil stew recipe that is loaded with soluble fiber. Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients, they are mostly  warming spices that will give your immune system a boost—perfect for this time of year! Enjoy!

Carrot Lentil Coconut Stew using Crock Pot/Slow Cooker

      Ingredients:   

  • 2 Cups of Dry Red Lentils
  • 1 Cup of Medium Spiced Salsa (I like Newman’s!)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vegetable Oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped.
  • 3 Large Carrots, cut in half length wise and thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 Teaspoons of Turmeric
  • 1 Teaspoon of Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon of Fenugreek
  • 1 Teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of lemon pepper
  • 6 cups of Vegetable Stock
  • Korean Chili sauce (you can purchase at any Asian Market)
  • 1 can of lite coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
  • Chopped Cilantro and Unsweetened Shredded Coconut for topping/garnish

 

                Directions:

  1. Rinse lentils and soak overnight in 5 cups of water
  2. In a big soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
  3. Add the onions, carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring them until they are soft.
  4. Add the garlic, turmeric, fenugreek, salt and lemon pepper and stir for one minute.
  5. Add the salsa and bring to a boil.
  6. Stir in the lentils and vegetable stock.
  7. Transfer this concoction to a slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours.
  8. Stir in coconut milk and lemon, cook for 15-20 minutes on HIGH.
  9. Add a couple of squirts of the Korean Chili sauce. Mix Well.
  10. Serve in soup bowls. Garnish with cilantro and coconut.. or a swirl Korean Chili sauce.

 

 

Make friends with monounsaturated fats

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Fats get bad media! Yes, it’s true that you should reduce the amount of saturated fats and trans fats that you get in your diet, but you absolutely need unsaturated fats for your brain and your heart.

In this entry I want to give a shout out to monounsaturated fats. Did you know that monounsaturated fats can help lower your LDL cholesterol, which will reduce your risk of having a stroke or heart attack? These awesome fats also usually contain vitamin E, which most people need more of.

The best sources of monounsaturated fat are: olive oil, sesame oil, and safflower oil. Monounsaturated fats are also found in most nuts and seeds.

So befriend these healthy fats. One easy way to do so is by making your own salad dressings. Here are a few that use olive oil.

Very Basic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Italian Vinaigrette

Add ½ teaspoon minced garlic, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes to the Very Basic recipe.

Honey Mustard Recipe

Add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 teaspoons of raw honey to the Basic recipe (it may help to melt the honey first in the microwave for 20 seconds).

Lemon Heaven Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic

Enjoy these dressings!! Your heart will thank you! Homemade salad dressings make salads so much more exciting!

 

 

 

Dark Chocolate Whatever you Want Bark

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Move over sugar-laden box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day!  I have a recipe that your sweetheart will swoon over! Dark Chocolate Whatever you Want Bark.

But first, let me tell you why you should fall in love with dark chocolate!

Did you know that chocolate actually comes from a plant? Crazy, right?! Chocolate is derived from that cacao plant. Cacao is rich in flavanols which can help lower your blood pressure and prevent blood clots. It’s also rich in antioxidants which helps the “bad” cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls.

To receive these benefits, it’s best to get cacao in its purest form. This includes cacao powder or cacao nibs. Cacao powder can be mixed in to milk or with your oatmeal to get a rich chocolate flavor. If that doesn’t quite curb that chocolate craving, the next best thing is dark chocolate. When you’re reaching for a chocolate bar, opt for ones that are at least 70% cacao. If you’re sticking to the dark chocolate, studies have shown that daily consumption can reduce the chance for nonfatal heart attacks and strokes for people with a higher risk for these problems.

Milk chocolates and other candies are usually processed much more than dark chocolate and much of the nutrients are lost in this process. In addition, there’ are a lot of added sugars and other additives mixed in. Sugar (processed sugar) is evil; remember my blog entry last week where i go into detail about how too much sugar in your diet leads to an elevated risk for heart disease.

Say goodbye to added sugar and enjoy this recipe that is super easy and quick to make!

Dark Chocolate Whatever You Want Bark

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz 70% dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Whatever toppings you want…Suggestions:
    • Goji berries
    • Almond/ peanut butter
    • Pomegranate seeds
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Shredded coconut
    • Chopped nuts

Instructions:

  • Melt chocolate and coconut oil in microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring until completely melted
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Pour melted chocolate over sheet and spread to edges with a spatula
  • Add your toppings
  • Place in freezer for one hour
  • Take out and break into pieces

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid Added Sugars for a Happy Heart

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Do you have a sweet tooth like me? It can be hard to avoid sugar when you are craving something sweet, but I’m here to guide you as a nutrition expert and a sweet tooth expert! Because February is Heart Health month, I am going to focus on how sugar harms the heart.

First things first, the type of sugar that can cause the most havoc on your heart is added sugar. By added sugar, I mean sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing or added at the table. Some of the disguises of added sugar go by the names of High Fructose Corn Syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, brown sugar, raw sugar, syrup, honey, or fruit juice concentrate.

In the past decade, dozens of research studies have been finding a connection between added sugar and heart disease. A 2014 longitudinal study found that people who consume a lot of added sugar are at a much higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day for men. It is SO easy to consumer higher than those recommended amounts.

Here’s how you can measure how much added sugar you are consuming:

1 teaspoon = 4 grams of sugar

This means that women should not have more than 24 grams of added sugar and men should not have more than 36 grams of added sugar.

Here are just a few examples of foods that have a high content of added sugar.

The biggest culprit is soda. In a standard can of soda, you’re looking at 36 grams of added sugar. Ditch soda and you are taking an amazing step toward improving your health!

A standard serving of most yogurts has 18-24 grams of added sugar. Choose plain Greek yogurt for the least amount of added sugar.

A lot of cereals on the market have 15-20 grams of sugar. Look for options that have 5 grams of sugar or less.

Of course, you have other big-time culprits like candy, cookies, cake, any dessert type foods!

But added sugar can show up in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect like bread, salad dressings, soups, and condiments like ketchup.

You can fulfill a sweet tooth without consuming added sugars. Turn to fruit! Fruit has natural sugar and contains plenty of antioxidants. The more colors of fruit you consume, the more antioxidants you are getting!

You can also curb your cravings for sweets by getting a lot of lean protein in your diet (chicken and turkey breast, fish, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, etc.) and some great complex carbohydrates (oats, barley, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, and more).

Avoid added sugar as much as possible and your heart will thank you!