How to prepare a heart-healthy meal?

Diet plays an important role in managing a normal cholesterol value. Eating more fiber and less saturated fat is the principle, it sounds easy but not executable. What to eat and how to cook them remains a question mark in the heads of many.

How to prepare a meal that is good for your heart and blood vessels then? There’re a few points to take.

Add colors

Make your meals colorful, with red, yellow, purple, white, green, orange foods.

Red: raspberries, tomatoes, guava, watermelon, red cabbage, kidney beans, cherries, strawberries, beets and chili.

Yellow: lemons, plantains, pineapple, star fruit, yellow winter and summer squash, squash blossoms, yellow peppers, corn, quince and bananas.

Purple: blueberries, eggplants, figs, purple potato, red cabbage, purple Cauliflower, purple asparagus, blackberries, purple carrots, acai berries, purple corn, ube, lavender, grapes, plums.

White: white-fleshed potatoes, cauliflower, white onions, garlic, parsnips, mushrooms, turnips, white corn and kohlrabi, or turnip cabbage.

Green: green beans, broccoli, spinach, asparagus and more.

Orange: sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, carrots, mangos, oranges and papaya.

Make sure to put one or two of each color on your plate every day.


Tips for cooking

1. Add fresh herbs and reduce salt

Whether you grow your own or buy at the market, fresh herbs can wake up any recipe, along with your taste buds, with fresh and bold flavor, without adding salt flavor.

  • Add basil to a dish right before serving. Basil can be substituted for mint in most recipes.
  • Add cilantro to a dish just before serving.
  • Add mint to a dish right before serving.
  • Chop the leaves of oregano right before using, a combination of oregano, mint and lemon will taste good.
  • Chop parsley stems and leaves and add to a dish during the final minutes of cooking or right before serving. Italian flat-leaf parsley is the most versatile in dishes.
  • Chop rosemary leaves and add to a dish, use a small amount since rosemary has a strong tasting.
  • Add thyme at the beginning of cooking process for the best flavor.

2. Use healthy oil

Use oil that contains monounsaturated fat to cook.

Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Oils rich in monounsaturated fats also contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant vitamin most Americans need more of.

Oil rich in monounsaturated fats are:

  • olive oil,
  • canola oil,
  • peanut oil,
  • safflower oil and
  • sesame oil.

3. Watch out the condiments

Ketchup on market is usually high in sodium and sugar which is unwanted.

  • Look for low-sodium or no-salt-added, no-added-sugar versions of ketchup.
  • Make your own ketchup! Cook the following ingredients together on the stove at medium heat for an hour, adjusting the amounts to your liking:
    • 1 (6 ounce) can low sodium tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoons brown sugar or substitute sugar-brown sugar blend
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Many of hot sauce are high in sodium. There are some other ways to add heat to your food:

  • Use chopped hot peppers, like jalapeno, poblano or chipotle as an ingredient or a topping.
  • Try a few dashes of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.
  • If you want to make your own sauce, blend these together in a blender:
    • 2 jalapeno peppers with seeds
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 2 tablespoons vinegar
    • 1 (6 ounce) can low-sodium tomato paste

Make your own salad dressing to reduce sodium.

Soy sauce is extremely high in salt. Even the reduced-sodium version contains high sodium. Instead, try this simple recipe that mimics the savory, meaty flavor of soy sauce:

  • 1 cup low sodium beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (balsamic, cider or rice)
  • 2 teaspoons molasses or brown sugar or substitute sugar-brown sugar blend
  • 1/8 teaspoon of each: ginger powder, garlic powder, black pepper & salt

Whisk all ingredients in pot. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute then reduce heat to medium. Cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.


Reduce sugar drinks

A lot of people get extra, unneeded calories through sodas, ice teas, energy and coffee drinks. And you know what, when you drink calories, you aren’t as satisfied compared to eating the same amount of calories in solid food as research has suggested. It indicates that people might drink more sugar and calories than eat.

Try to read the labels of your beverages, added sugar can be in a form of sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrups, concentrated fruit juice and honey.  A drink may contain several forms of them.

Try to cut back the sugar added beverages, and replace with water, or green tea, or herb tea without any sugar.

When you are in the mood for a milkshake or want an afternoon snack, blend ½ cup frozen fruit with no added sugars, ½ cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt with no added sugars and ½ cup low-fat milk.


Get good fats

Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats is a part of a healthy eating pattern. Remeber these:

  1. Go fish – eat fish which is rich in omega-3 fatty acid, remember to remove the skin
  2. Be nutty – take a handful of nuts every day, remember to take unsalted ones
  3. Add avocado – add avocado into your recipe, it’s a good source of vitamin, antioxidants, healthy fat and fibers
  4. Check the oils

These foods are high in saturated fat and you should try to avoid them.

  • fatty beef,
  • lamb,
  • pork,
  • poultry with skin,
  • beef fat (tallow),
  • lard and cream,
  • butter,
  • cheese and
  • other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk.
  • fried foods


Try healthy substitutions


While ice cream may come to mind first, there are a variety of other smooth snacks that can be just as satisfying. Try munching on this:

  • Fresh avocado spread on whole grain bread OR ½ avocado eaten plain with a spoon
  • Warm 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter in the microwave for 10 seconds and drizzle over ½ cup low-fat, no added sugar frozen yogurt.
  • Puree some berries and swirl into a cup of low-fat yogurt with no sugar added.


Pretzels and chips have a crunchy texture that you may crave, but they can come with a lot of extra sodium that you don’t need. Try munching on this:

  • ¾ cup whole grain cereal, no added sugar
  • Crunchy unsalted nuts
  • Whole grain crisp breads
  • Plain popcorn; to add some flavor, experiment with various spices like cinnamon or your favorite spice or herb


Sweet tea or soda may sound refreshing, but it can take a while to work off all those empty calories. A medium-sized fancy mocha coffee drink with whipped cream can be 400 calories- and that’s before adding sugar or honey. Try sipping on this:

  • Plain iced tea made with a squeeze of lemon. You can sweeten with berries or a non-caloric sweetener
  • Add fruit slices to a glass and fill with club soda
  • Instead of the fancy mocha drink, choose a small latte made with nonfat milk and topped with cinnamon which is about a quarter of the calories.


Jelly-like candies or even kids’ “fruit” snacks might sound like squishy fun in your mouth, but other options pack more nutrition.
Try munching on this:

  • Fresh grapes are sweet and juicy; freeze them for a few minutes for a fun texture
  • Make tapioca pudding with squishy tapioca pearls; follow the directions on the box, only use half the amount of sugar or a non-caloric sweetener and fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Cherry tomatoes and room-temperature string cheese are squishy, stringy fun


Some folks may not like apples because they can be soft and mealy or grainy; the same can be true of over-cooked potatoes. Try munching on this:

  • Choose crisp apple varieties like: Braeburn, Honey Crisp, Fuji and Gala; avoid Cortland, Red Delicious or Rome which can be softer
  • Choose red potatoes or white potatoes and don’t overcook; avoid Russet potatoes which are high in starch making them perfect for mashed potatoes – but also making them seem ‘mealy or grainy’



Related posts:

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  2. How many calories should you take every day
  3. Calculate your risk of developing heart disease in 10 years
  4. What is your ideal weight? Click here to know
  5. What’s your risk of stroke in 10 years









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