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.

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

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!

Are you grateful for your health?

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Maybe your weight isn’t where you’d like it to be or your waistline isn’t ideal. While maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health, I want you to take a minute to examine health beyond your weight, beyond what you see in the mirror.

Think of how remarkable your organs are. With Thanksgiving in mind, I want you to take a moment to truly feel grateful for some of the miraculous inner workings of your body that take place every second of every day. You are alive because of these factors and you are a beautiful human being!

Be grateful for your cells

Have you ever thought about your health on a cellular level? Your body is made up of over 37 trillion cells. Cells are like little tiny factories with specific functions. For example, blood cells carry oxygen to all our organs. When you eat, you are feeding these cells!

Be grateful for your heart

Some of my clients think about their heart health, especially if they have goals to reduce their blood pressure or cholesterol. Have you ever stopped to think about how incredible your heart is? Your heart is the hardest working muscle in your body. Your heart and blood vessels together make up your cardiovascular system. When your heart beats, it is pumping blood through your body, carrying oxygen and nutrients you need to survive. Exercise and a healthy diet are not only great for giving you a likeable number on the scale, they keep your heart muscle strong.

Be grateful for your lungs

Did you know that you breathe an average of 13 pints of air every minute? How fascinating is that? Did you know that breathing eliminates 70 percent of your body’s waste? Need to relieve stress? Deep breathing is always available to you because of your lungs and research has proven this technique literally relaxes your brain!

Be grateful for your brain

How do you walk, talk, eat, sleep, and think? All through messages your brain sends. Your brain is always working, even when you are sleeping. Every action you take you can do because of your brain!

And guess what, did you know that dozens of research studies have found that the practice of gratitude can have so many positive effects on your brain? Gratitude can improve your sleep, reduce stress levels, heal anxiety and depression, and increase energy and vitality.

Don’t save gratitude for Thanksgiving. Be grateful every day. You are alive! You are amazing!

Five ways to keep your heart healthy

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It’s February—National Heart Health Month. I talk about heart health a lot. It’s a huge deal—heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women! I am going to do something a little bit different in this blog!

I usually talk about heart-healthy foods. In this entry, I am going to discuss some lifestyle choices you should make to reduce your risk of getting heart disease.

 Exercise

Exercise improves overall heart health! Exercise gets your heart pumping harder, which strengthens it. It’s suggested to exercise moderately at least 150 minutes per week for maximum benefits. You don’t have to hit the gym to get exercise. Take your dog for a light jog. Dance with your girlfriends!  Try an app like Sworkit to get in a great 20-60 minute workout at home. Even a 10 minute mini-workout is better than no workout!

Sleep

Get enough sleep. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Studies have linked getting sufficient quality sleep had healthier arteries than those who didn’t.  Turn electronic devices off at least an hour before bed.  Determine a relaxing sleep ritual for yourself (maybe reading or doing some yoga or stretching, or even a warm bath).

If you have difficulty sleeping, make sure your room is dark (consider blackout curtains). White noise machines also help light sleepers.

Smoking

Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke.  Smoke can damage your arteries and lead to the buildup of fatty material. When fatty material builds up in your arteries, they narrow, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Ask your doctor what you can do to quit smoking as soon as possible.

Alcohol

Keep alcohol to 1-2 glasses per day(1 drink for women and 2 drinks per day for men). Drinking more alcohol increases chances of developing high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and other heart disease risk factors.

Stress Reduction

Stress is a major factor in heart disease. Several studies show that meditation is an effective modality to reduce stress. It also helps to reduce anxiety, and harmful hormones. Meditating can lower heart rate and blood pressure.

And do something that will make you laugh! Laughter is good for your heart; it actually raises your HDL (good) cholesterol!

Eat well, exercise daily (even if for 10 minutes), sleep well, quit smoking, limit alcohol, and reduce stress and your heart will thank you!

Nuts about nuts!

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What food is so versatile, so delicious, high in protein, fiber, minerals, and healthy unsaturated fats? By the title of my blog, I’m sure you guessed it—nuts! And I am nuts about nuts because they are widely available, so good for you and each one tastes different, which means I never get bored with them. In this blog, I will share some nutrition information about my five favorite nuts.

Each of these nuts are amazing at possibly helping to prevent heart disease and they are great (when eaten in small serving sizes) for weight-loss efforts. Study after study find that nuts are the perfect heart-healthy food choice!

Almonds

A small handful of almonds contains roughly:

Calories: 161

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 14 grams

Protein: 6 grams

Carbs: 6 grams

Fiber: 3.5 grams

Vitamin E: 37% of the RDI

Magnesium: 19% of the RD

Pistachios

A small handful of pistachios contains roughly:

Calories: 156

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 12.5 grams

Protein: 6 grams

Carbs: 8 grams

Fiber: 3 grams

Vitamin E: 3% of the RDI

Magnesium: 8% of the RD

Cashews

A small handful of cashews contains roughly:

Calories: 155

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 12 grams

Protein: 5 grams

Carbs: 9 grams

Fiber: 1 gram

Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI

Magnesium: 20% of the RDI

Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts originate from a tree in the Amazon and are an incredibly rich source of selenium

A small handful of Brazil nuts contains about:

Calories: 182

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 18 grams

Protein: 4 grams

Carbs: 3 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Vitamin E: 8% of the RDI

Magnesium: 26% of the RDI

Walnuts

Walnuts are a very popular nut and an excellent source of the omega -3 fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

A small handful of walnuts contains roughly:

Calories: 182

Total mono and or polyunsaturated fat: 18 grams

Protein: 4 grams

Carbs: 4 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI

Magnesium: 11% of the RDI

Add nuts to your morning oatmeal or yogurt. They’re great in salads. You can crush them for a “breading” for poultry and fish. Some like cashews blend well in smoothies as well. And even just a small handful of nuts is a great snack to keep you satiated between meals!

Welcome whole grains

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I know, I know, you are going to tell me that you are trying the ketogenic diet, or paleo, Atkins, South Beach, or some other diet that “bans” carbs! I think each diet has merit to some degree or another, but I am actually going to tell you why you would want whole grains!

First of all, let me set things straight. I am NOT advocating refined carbs like crackers, cookies, white bread, flour tortillas or even white rice. I am suggesting you welcome whole grains—grains that contain the entire grain kernel—the bran, germ, and endosperm (for example, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, and popcorn).

Whole grains are filled with fiber and almost every person I know (even healthy eaters) do not get enough fiber in your diet. Fiber helps keep things moving in your digestion system, keeps you fuller longer (so yes, it can help with weight loss), and it also lowers your risk of getting heart disease.

Whole grains also loaded with important B vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are amazing for reducing stress levels and giving you energy.

Speaking of energy—if you experience major dips in your energy throughout the day, whole grains can help prevent that! Why? They help regulate your blood-sugar levels. Lulls in your energy level often indicate that your blood sugar levels are not remaining steady throughout the day. Fix that with whole grains!

Are you unsure about how to try incorporating whole grains into your diet? Here are just a few tips:

  • Use whole wheat pasta when you would normally use regular pasta.
  • Swap white bread for whole grain bread.
  • Eat oatmeal for breakfast!
  • Look for whole grain crackers!
  • Instead of white rice, try cooking with brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, or millet.

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