Berry Oatmeal Muffins

This recipe is a great grab-and-go breakfast or a satisfying snack. Fiber from the oatmeal makes this a filling treat, and the mixed berries are rich in a family of phytochemicals called anthocyanins, among others. Anthocyanins are found in many plant foods that vary in the red/blue/purple color range. Research has shown that these chemicals may have a protective effect on our heart health and on neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, in addition to acting as powerful antioxidants. 

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Citrus Shrimp

Shrimp is a great protein option to keep on hand. They freeze well and cook fast, and their small size makes them a kid-friendly finger food—perfect for busy families. Shrimp gets a bit of a bad reputation for being a high cholesterol food, but overall it is a lean protein. Over many studies and analysis over many years, research has found that dietary cholesterol is not correlated with blood levels and for that reason does not pose a risk to our heart health. The thing to watch is your total fat intake, especially intake of saturated fats. These fats are typically animal-based and solid at room temperature. They are known to contribute to poor cholesterol levels and increase risk of plaque build up in the arteries, increasing risk for heart disease and stroke. However, notice shrimp is very high in sodium, like many other crustaceans and mollusks from the sea, and this may lead to temporary increase in blood pressure and edema. 

Read the Research:

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Spinach Feta Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust

This recipe is a healthier—and, honestly, easier—twist on a classic dish. Quiche is typically a decadent, savory treat with a super buttery crust and a creamy egg filling.

Instead of using butter and white flour to make the crust, this version uses simple slices of sweet potato, a nutritious complex carbohydrate filled with fiber and nutrients. The addition of Greek yogurt, rather than cream, to the egg mix still produces a delightful creamy texture but with added protein and less saturated fat. This also works great with scrambled eggs or omelets. If you’re watching your cholesterol or fat intake, substitute half the eggs with their equivalent in liquid egg whites, or 4 whites from whole eggs.  

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Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus is a classic spring vegetable, and roasting or grilling are by far the best ways to prepare it. These methods will give an enjoyably fibrous-yet-soft texture, a juicy stalk and crispy charred leaves at the head. Asparagus is full of many nutrients such as Vitamin A, E, C, K and folate, and the fiber strands make an excellent prebiotic to feed your gut bacteria. 

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Lucky Corned Beef with Horseradish Sauce

You may have heard how we need to cut back on red meats. The saturated fats in red meats are known for increasing our cholesterol, having a negative effect on our heart health. However, when we do have red meats, making sure that we keep to the leaner cuts is key.

The cooking method is one way you can tell if a cut is lean or not. When meats have less fat on them, they need more time at a lower temperature to turn out juicy and tender. Too hot and too fast will cause the protein to tighten rapidly, leading to a tough, chewy piece of meat. This cooking method is sometimes used for higher fat meats, such pork ribs, but it remains a helpful indication of leanness. You may notice the thick layer of fat on the brisket; you can trim some of it off, leaving behind the meat. For an even leaner option, choose a corned beef round, which has less fat within the meat (also known as marbling).  

Horseradish is the real star of this show; the perfect sharp accent to cut through the savory meat. It’s been used medicinally for hundreds of years for its anti-inflammatory effects. It has also been researched for its possible cardiovascular benefits and antibacterial properties.  

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Mushroom Soup

Eating fungi has a multitude of health benefits. Mushrooms are a great source of fiber and are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Though mushrooms are fungi, and technically not vegetables, we categorize them as such for dietary purposes. When compared to other veggies, mushrooms have some of the highest amount of vitamin D when exposed to UV light. They are also a good source of B vitamins, particularly B2 and B3, and the B12 that is in mushrooms is more bioavailable than the forms in other vegetables. Much research has been done on mushrooms and their potential benefits on healing cancers and neurogenerative diseases, but the research continues and there are no definitive recommendations.

Mushrooms make a tasty addition to any meal. This soup is a Hungarian classic—creamy, bright, savory—and the perfect thing to ease the pre-spring chill.  

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Spinach Dal

We’ve talked about lentils before and how they are an excellent plant-based protein full of fiber and iron. Dark leafy greens, spinach in particular, are also a great source of iron. Iron is important in your body because it is a major component of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen through your bloodstream.

There are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from animal sources, and non-heme iron comes from plant sources, like spinach. Non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed as heme iron because our body must go through steps to convert it to heme iron after we eat it.  To help maximize your absorption of iron from dark leafy greens, add an acid to your dish, like a fresh squeeze of lemon juice or a vinegar-based dressing.  

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Mini Cheese Pancakes

This is the perfect breakfast treat to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This version of the classic pancake is fluffy and filling, thanks to the extra protein from the cottage cheese. To build a balanced meal, we should include all the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats. This way meals and snacks are more filling and satisfying. Make this dish even better by being playful; who doesn’t love a heart-shaped pancake, even if it’s just for you!

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Lovely Lentil Loaf

February is Heart Health Month, and this is just the recipe to kick it off! This savory loaf is made from lentils and is packed with plant-based protein, fiber and many other vitamins and minerals.

Typically, a loaf would be made from ground beef and can be high in saturated fat, which has been shown to increase our total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol. Cholesterol has an important role in our bodies, but too much can build up in our arteries causing plaques to form. The buildup plaque causes our arteries to stiffen and narrow, restricting blood flow.

Even small adjustments like switching from an 80/20 ground beef to the leaner 90/10 or 95/5 is beneficial. However, with plant-based recipes, not only is there the benefit of little to no saturated fat, but there is also a ton of fiber. Fiber binds to excess cholesterol and removes from our bodies, helping us maintain a healthy balance.  Lentils are also very high in iron, an important nutrient we often get from red meats. Iron is found in many plant-based foods, particularly lentils, beans, legumes and dark leafy greens.

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