How to Breakup with Salt in your Home Cooking

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Did you know that May is High Blood Pressure Awareness Month? One of the biggest culprits of high blood pressure is sodium. And sodium abounds in almost every packaged food on the grocery store shelves and almost every dish you order at a restaurant.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) a day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. What can you do to reduce your salt intake?

One of the simplest ways to reduce salt intake is to cook more at home. This will help you control the salt that goes into your food. Soups for example are so easy to “throw together” and I promise you that almost every recipe will have less sodium than canned soup, many of which contain close to 40 percent of the amount of sodium you should have in a given day.

Here are some ways the American Heart Association recommends reducing salt when preparing food:

  • Use onions, garlic, herbs, spices, citrus juices and vinegars in place of some or all of the salt to add flavor to foods.
  • Drain and rinse canned beans (like chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.) and vegetables – this can cut the sodium by up to 40 percent.
  • Combine lower-sodium versions of food with regular versions. If you don’t like the taste of lower-sodium foods right now, try combining them in equal parts with a regular version of the same food. You’ll get less salt and probably won’t notice much difference in taste. This works especially well for broths, soups, and tomato-based pasta sauces.
  • Cook pasta, rice, and hot cereal without salt. You’re likely going to add other flavorful ingredients to these foods, so you won’t miss the salt.
  • Cook by grilling, braising, roasting, searing, and sautéing to bring out the natural flavors in foods – that will reduce the need to add salt.
  • Incorporate foods with potassium, like sweet potatoes, potatoes, greens, tomatoes and lower-sodium tomato sauce, white beans, kidney beans, nonfat yogurt, oranges, bananas and cantaloupe. Potassium helps counter the effects of sodium and may help lower your blood pressure.

You can learn more about ways to reduce salt at restaurants and even find recipes at the American Health Association’s Break up with Salt website.

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Celebrate World Pistachio Day with Me

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Happy World Pistachio Day! Yes, that’s right, today is a day to celebrate pistachios. Let me give me a little Pistachio 101 lesson on this little powerhouse. Related botanically to cashews and mangoes, pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees, and are one of the only two nuts mentioned in the Bible. Americans started enjoying pistachios in the 1800s, but the first commercial crop wasn’t harvested until 1976. Today, California produces 300 million pounds of pistachios a year. They are also produced in Syria, Greece, Italy, and Turkey.

These little green nuts. are packed with amazing nutrients, such as B-complex, healthy mono-unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, vitamin E, copper and other minerals. Studies show that daily consumption of nuts, like pistachios, may reduce the risk of heart disease and may lower blood pressure. Emerging research shows that pistachios can help manage blood-sugar levels even when consumed with a high-carbohydrate meal. Now, that’s powerful!

Here are some more fun facts about pistachios:

  • One serving of pistachios is 49 nuts! No deprivation here!
  • New research shows that your serum antioxidant levels rise when you at pistachios.
  • New research also shows that your LDL (BAD!) cholesterol levels can lower when you eat pistachios.
  • Here’s my favorite! Pistachios can make you happy! These little green nuts are actually referred to as the smiling nut in Iran and the happy nut in China.

I enjoy many of the pistachio products made by Setton Farms. Pistachio Chewy  Bites are awesome and handy little snacks to take with me when I travel. They are so simple and natural and yummy-a pistachio cranberry combo. If you are a chocolaholic, you will love their Dark Chocolate Pistachios. If you like things to be spiced up a little, try their flavored pistachios. Setton’s flavored pistachios are available in five different flavors. Consumers can choose from Chipotle BBQ, Chili-Limon, Garlic Onion, Jalapeno and Salt & Pepper.

Did you know there were so many fun ways to enjoy pistachios? Try any of these—you will thank me!

 

Reach for an Avocado for your Heart

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For this last week of Heart Health month, I am going to feature some of my favorite heart-healthy foods. Today, I will zoom in on Avocados. I LOVE Avocados, they are king of Omega-9s, a heart-healthy fat. I’m including an Avocado DESSERT recipe in this blog as well.

Why Avocados are Heart-Healthy:

-They may lower your bad cholesterol and total cholesterol

A recent study at Penn State tested three different diets, all designed to lower cholesterol. One diet was low fat, one was moderate fat, and one was moderate fat with an added Hass Avocado. The researchers tested the diets with 45 healthy, overweight adults. All three diets significantly lowered LDL — also known as bad cholesterol — as well as total cholesterol. However, participants experienced an even greater reduction in LDL and total cholesterol while on the avocado diet, compared to the other two diets, according to this study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

They may lower you triglyercide levels

People tend to know more about cholesterol than they do about triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. However, many people eat more unhealthy carbs and unhealthy fats than they can burn so the triglycerides remain stored. High triglyceride levels provoke metabolic syndrome, which is a high risk factor for heart disease.

A recent pilot study found that when avocados are added to a burger, your triglyceride levels do not increase. When the burger is eaten alone, your triglyceride levels do increase. How cool, right? You can help combat the unhealthy effects of a burger by adding avocado!

They help you absorb all the antioxidants from other healthy foods

Avocados can actually help increase the absorption of nutrients from other vegetables! This is a concept known as nutrient fusion. For instance, a salad with lettuce, carrots, some spinach, and salsa is rich in carotenoids (example: beta carotene), which are extremely health-promoting. Add an avocado in your salad, and you automatically increase your body’s ability to absorb those nutrients! Why? Because these carotenoids are lipophilic (which means they are soluble in fat, not water); if you eat them along with a healthy fat, like avocados, you enhance their bioavailability!

So, on your next trip to the grocery store, pick up some avocados…trick your loved ones with this avocado mousse dessert!

Awesome Avocado Mousse (Makes 4 servings)

By Kelly Springer. RDavocado_mousse

Ingredients:

-3 avocados

– 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

-1/4 cup cocoa powder

-2 Tablespoons maple syrup

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

-Unsweetened dried coconut for garnish

 

Directions:

Blend the first five ingredients until smooth. Pour into 4 ramekins or small bowls. Chill for at least two hours. Garnish with dried coconut.

 

 

 

 

Become “Healthy for Good”

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Healthy for Good™ is a movement started by the American Heart Association (AHA). I encourage you all to sign up. Their approach is smart; they are encouraging everyone to: Eat Smart. Add Color. Move More and Be Well. When you sign up for this free movement, you will be given encouragement and resources. Here is the plan broken down:

Eat Smart

You won’t find any fad diet pointers from me and you won’t find fad diet tips from the AHA either. Eating smart is about making healthy choices, such as swapping out processed food for nutrient-dense, wholesome food. It’s about eating balanced meals, including BREAKFAST.

Add Color

The best way to get all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need to boost your health is to incorporate a colorful array of fruits and veggies into your snacks and meals. Click here to read a blog I wrote about the nutrients found in different colored vegetables and fruits. Click here for an awesome infographic that will give you ideas of great food choices representative of each color.

Move More

Of course nutrition is my focus, but I am the first to say that exercise is just as important!  The AHA states that a good starting goal is at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. That’s just 21 minutes a day folks! You can even break it down into two mini workouts of around 10 minutes each. Find forms of exercise you enjoy and will stick with! Dance, bike, swim, take a kick-boxing class, walk your dog! Just move! Take the stairs more. Park in that parking spot that is furthest away from the store you are going to.

Be Well

Along with eating well and being active, real health includes getting enough sleep, practicing mindfulness, managing stress, connecting socially, and more. Stress is a major problem in this day and age and it will harm your health more than anything else. Click here for a great inforgraphic with awesome tips on how to manage stress.

Let’s all focus on our health! By eating smart, adding color, moving more, and being well, you will no doubt be on the road to Healthy for Good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Protecting your sweet heart when dining out on V Day

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Valentine’s Day is next week! Quick, how can we be heart-healthy with the dining out indulgences that come with Valentine’s Day? From choosing what to drink to ordering dessert (yes, I said the “D’” word), I will share with you my favorite heart-healthy tips.

Making a healthy beverage choice

Red wine is a great heart-healthy choice; it contains a heart-healthy flavonoid called resveratrol. Drink a lot of water as well; not only will this help prevent you from overeating, but also, hydration is important for heart-protection. Dehydration actually makes your heart work harder. Results from a 2002 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that drinking five or more glasses of water a day was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease than those who drank less water.

Making a wise appetizer and entrée selection

The foods that will hurt your health are those that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugar. The foods that your heart will love are those high in healthy fat, lean protein, and fiber.

It’s often hard to find a healthy appetizer. Avoid anything fried and dips as well. Some dips sound healthy (spinach artichoke for example), but they are loaded with saturated fat because of the high-fat cheese and cream used to prepare them. I tend to choose things like spring rolls (not fried) or guacamole, which is loaded with healthy fats and fiber.

For the entrée, fish is my first vote! Fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association (AHA) states, “Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lowers blood pressure.” The AHA recommends at least two servings of fish a week. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

If you are not a fan of fish, choose lean meats like chicken or turkey breast. Red meat is not a wise choice when trying to protect your heart; the saturated fat has long been linked to heart diseases.

Overall, if you see the words sautéed, pan-seared, crispy, scalloped, or pan-fried, dodge them! They are loaded with fat. Instead, choose foods that are steamed, broiled, grilled, poached, baked, or roasted.

Fill up on fiber. Research shows that fiber lowers cholesterol. Look to your side dishes for fiber. Some of the best choices include: broccoli, leafy greens, peas, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and any type of bean. Whole grains are also an incredible source of fiber (think quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, barley, etc.).

Another thing to keep in mind when dining out is portion control. Restaurant portions are often double the size we should be eating. Eat half and save the rest for the next day’s lunch. This will allow room for dessert!

Split dessert with your date. If there happens to be dark chocolate molten cake or mousse on the menu, go for it. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. It’s good for the heart and circulation. A recent study found that dark chocolate helps prevent your arteries from clogging.  It has also been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of “good” cholesterol. Any dish with fruit is also a smart move because like veggies, fruit is a fabulous source of fiber.

Dining out is an American way of life; enjoying quality food is your right. Stick to the heart-healthy tips I’ve shared and you can dine out without regret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Surprising Foods that are Super for your Heart

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February is National Heart Health Month. Last February, I wrote about why the Mediterranean Diet is great for your health; click here to read up on that. I’m going to do something a little different for this blog. I am going to clue you in on five surprising foods that keep your health beating strong!

  • Potatoes

Potatoes get such a bad rap when fad diets accuse them of being a scary carb! This is not true, well sure, they are carbohydrate-based, but get this? One medium potato has only 118 calories and it is loaded with heart-healthy fiber, especially if you eat the skin! They are also high in potassium and magnesium, which research has proven, can lower your blood-pressure. And what can be easier than a baked potato? Wrap one in foil, stick it in the oven at 450 and in 45 minutes, it’s done. Add some low-fat cheese and broccoli and you have quite a healthy dinner!

  • Lean Beef

When I have clients who are red meat lovers, I don’t shun them. There are actually forms of red meat that are healthy choices. In fact, a recent study by Penn State researchers found that those who ate lean beef as part of a heart-healthy diet lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol by 10 percent. If you love your red meat, choose cuts that are loin or round; these are the leanest types. Grass-fed loin or round is your best bet!

  • Coffee and Tea

Caffeinated coffee and tea can raise your blood pressure due to the caffeine; however, it’s only a temporary rise if you consume either within reason (less than four cups a day). The good news is that coffee and tea are both high in antioxidants that have heart-protecting properties.

  • Spicy Foods

Some people get heartburn from spicy foods, but, keep in mind that the feeling of heartburn stems from your esophagus. If you can handle spicy foods, add some chili peppers or jalapenos to your meals; they help blood flow freely to your heart.

  • Eggs

I swear that for years, researchers’ stance on eggs seemed to vary weekly, but now, the general consensus is that eggs are good for your heart; eggs can increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. They’re a great protein-rich source for energy so they can also help curb you from snacking on refined, processed foods that are bad for your heart.

So plan your meals and snacks with your heart in mind. Protecting your heart is an important part of living a long and healthy life!

 

 

Improve your Heart Health this New Year

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I have a lot of clients who come to me seeking to lower their alarming cholesterol levels, lower their blood pressure, or both. Both of these conditions affect your heart health and I want to give you some tips on how to improve both.

Let’s start with blood pressure. To lower your blood pressure through diet, you want to consume foods high in potassium and low in sodium.

Reduce canned or processed foods. Much of the salt you eat comes from canned or processed foods like soups or frozen dinners—even poultry or other meats often have salt added during processing. Eating fresh foods, looking for unsalted meats, and making your own soups or stews can dramatically reduce your sodium intake. Cook at home, using spices for flavor. Cooking for yourself enables you to have more control over your salt intake. Make use of the many delicious alternatives to salt. Try fresh herbs like basil, thyme, or chives. In the dried spices aisle, you can find alternatives such as allspice, bay leaves, or cumin to flavor your meal without sodium. Substitute reduced sodium versions, or salt substitutes. Choose your condiments and packaged foods carefully, looking for foods labeled sodium free, low sodium, or unsalted. Better yet, use fresh ingredients and cook without salt.

Potassium helps you heart by reducing the effects of sodium! Many people turn to bananas for potassium. Yes, they are a great source, but there are some tasty veggies with even higher amounts. Some foods that are high in potassium include avocados, spinach and sweet potatoes.

Now, let’s talk about lowering your cholesterol. There are multiple ways to address your cholesterol nutritionally Increase your soluble fiber intake; soluble fiber reduces your LDL cholesterol. A common food choice that truly helps to do this is oatmeal! Check out my blog with overnight oat recipes. Having a high-fiber breakfast will also help your metabolism and maintain a healthy weight, both of which also help your heart health. Other foods high in soluble fiber include: apricots, mangoes, oranges, grapefruit, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and turnips.

Healthy fats raise your ratio of HDL (or good cholesterol)  to LDL (or bad cholesterol). Some healthy fats to consider are salmon, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. And there are certain flavonoids found in dark chocolate, red wine, apples, spinach and tea that help lower cholesterol.

Here’s to your heart! Stay tuned for more heart health blogs in February, in honor of heart health month!