Your heart is one of your body’s most important organs. Pumping 100,000 times a day on average, it’s essential for distributing the much-needed oxygen and nutrients to your cells and other organs. Yet, according to the American Heart Association, heart disease continues to be the greatest health threat to Americans and is still the leading cause of death worldwide. How can we make sure we don’t add to these statistics? Eating a proper diet, getting plenty of exercise (about 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week), maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking all contribute to a healthy heart.
I’m often asked what I eat to keep my heart healthy. Mostly, I stick with a Mediterranean-style diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, and healthy fats. I drink plenty of water each day as well. Staying well hydrated helps your heart pump blood more easily.
Preparing heart-healthy meals does not need to be complicated. In fact, it’s better to try and keep it simple! Here are some of my favorite meals you can make that your heart—and your stomach—will thank you for.
I vary my meals so as not to get bored with eating the same things every day. My favorite breakfast options include a combination of oatmeal with ground flax, fresh or frozen berries, a banana, and sometimes a pinch of cinnamon a single hardboiled egg. Another go-to is avocado toast with smoked salmon.
Here, I try to keep it simple with a salad or leftover whole grain pasta that I toss with either grilled chicken, salmon, tuna, or any variety of beans. Hummus with veggies is a great option if you’re on the move. Plus, making your own hummus is so easy! If you do go for a store-bought brand, look for one with as few ingredients as possible and a sodium level of less than 140mg.
This is where I do most of my cooking, and will be able to have leftovers for lunches the next day or two. Dinner always consists of a protein such as fish, chicken, beans or lentils paired with a steamed or grilled vegetable. Try our Indian spiced lentils, salmon with mustard sauce, or lentil and chickpea soup.
Snacks and Dessert
I love to snack on a small handful of nuts, a fresh piece of whatever fruit is in season, sliced apple or banana with almond or peanut butter, a piece of string or other cheese with a few whole-grain crackers. My favorite treat by far is these amazing black bean brownies. I promise you they taste every bit as good as any brownie you have ever eaten! If you serve them to others, don’t let on that you made them with black beans… Even your kids will love them. In fact, my friend’s 10-year-old son told me “I never expected that from a vegetable!”
Remember, eating right along with proper exercise can help you to keep your heart healthy. Always consult your physician for diet and exercise tips that work for your body, and then come visit your local YMCA to get started on your new wellness routine!