As you know, there are hundreds of opinions and facts on what constitutes “healthy food.” There are also a few points I like to bring to the table when teaching my classes:

— “Every body is different.”

— “Buy what’s in season for maximum flavor, nutrition and value.”

— “Try to eat foods in their most natural form, as they come from the ground.”

That diet includes, of course, heart-healthy foods such as fish, whole grains, vegetables and fruits. It’s also OK to treat yourself occasionally to a glass of red wine or a piece of dark chocolate, as was divulged in my last column. Today marks the end of Heart Health Month but that doesn’t mean we stop here. Use this list as a guide to create meals and snacks with a nutritious bent. Just a few simple swaps could make a big difference for your cardiovascular health.

— Eat fish high in omega-3s, such as wild or canned salmon, tuna, mackerel and trout.

— A handful of raw nuts such as almonds or walnuts will satisfy your hunger and help your heart. Plus, walnuts contain omega-3s.

— Berries are chock full of heart-healthy phytonutrients and soluble fiber. Try blueberries, strawberries, cranberries or raspberries in cereal or yogurt.

— Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and phytoestogens to boost heart health. Take them in ground or milled form to reap the greatest benefit. Otherwise, they just pass on through.

— Oatmeal: the comfort-food nutrient and fiber powerhouse.

— Dark beans, such as kidney or black beans, are high in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals and other good stuff. Veggie chili, anyone?

— A 4-ounce glass of red wine can help improve healthy (HDL) cholesterol levels. But we already knew this.

— Try marinated organic tofu or tempeh (fermented) in a stir-fry with fresh veggies for a heart-healthy lunch or dinner.

— Red, yellow and orange veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers and acorn squash are packed with carotenoids, fiber and vitamins to help your heart.

— Popeye was right: Spinach packs a punch! Use it in sandwiches and salads instead of lettuce.

— Fruits such as oranges, cantaloupes and papaya are rich in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and fiber.

— Tender, sweet asparagus is filled with mighty nutrients such as beta-carotene, folate and fiber, and only provide 25 calories per cup. Coming soon to market!

— Tomatoes, even sun-dried varieties in winter months, provide lycopene, vitamin C and alpha- and beta-carotene.

— Dark chocolate is good for your heart health, but as we reviewed last time, make sure that it’s at least 70 percent cocoa.

— Fresh broccoli florets dipped in hummus are a terrific heart-healthy snack with a whopping list of nutrients, including vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fiber.

Rancho Gordo Chili with Chocolate

Serves 6

1 pound ground bison or grass-fed beef

1/4 cup olive oil, plus a little extra if needed

1 white onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup New Mexican Red Chile Powder

2 tablespoons dried Oregano Indio

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2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 cups water

1/2 tablet Rancho Gordo Stoneground Mexican Chocolate, grated fine or broken into pieces

2 cups drained cooked Rebosero Beans, plus 1 cup cooking liquid

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 cup stale beer

1 tablespoon Rancho Gordo Sal de Mar

Scant 1 teaspoon sugar, if needed

In a large pot, cook the bison meat over medium heat, stirring and breaking it up with a wooden spoon and adding a little oil if the meat is particularly dry. When the meat is no longer pink, using a slotted spoon, transfer it to a bowl and set aside.

Add the 1/4 cup oil to the pot and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chile powder and stir until a paste forms. “Fry” the paste for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the oregano Indio, cumin, and 1 cup of the water and mix well. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chocolate and stir until incorporated. Add the beans and the 1 cup liquid, the bell peppers, the beer, the salt, the remaining 1 cup water along, and the reserved meat.

Stir well, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt as needed, keeping in mind that the flavors will intensify as the chili cooks down. Cover partially, reduce the heat to very low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended, about 45 minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning again. If the chili is a little bitter, add the sugar to smooth the flavors. Spoon the chili into warmed individual bowls and serve immediately.

Karen Schuppert is taking reservations for her upcoming class on “Stocking a Healthy Pantry.” No fee required but space is limited. Please RSVP to: Karen@karenschuppert.com

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