Nobody wants to have a heart attack or a stroke, and yet every seven minutes someone dies of heart attack or stroke in Canada.
Given that there is information available about the kind of lifestyle that reduces the chance of getting heart disease, it seems strange that heart disease is still so prevalent.
Part of the reason is that lifestyle is just one of several factors that influences heart health. Another part of the reason is that knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. I suppose that single fact keeps psychologists, life coaches and writers of self-help books in business.
People need to be informed of what is known, encouraged to act on it and supported in overcoming barriers and sustaining efforts to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has assumed some of the responsibility in these areas and has designated February as Heart Month to draw attention to these and other aspects of its work.
My particular interest is in the area of food, especially enjoying good food, and I like to use a positive approach. Instead of concentrating on “can’t eat this” or “that’s not good for you,” I prefer to explore ways of enjoying heart-healthy eating.
Two of the general principles involved in cooking and eating for heart health are selecting plenty of vegetables and fruits and eating food that contains lots of fibre.
I enjoy vegetables and fruits, almost all of them, and feel very lucky to be able to have the seven servings per day recommended (for my age group) in Canada’s Food Guide. We have garden vegetables and apples in the freezer and can afford to buy carrots, turnip, onions and other winter vegetables.
The only fly in the ointment is, sometimes, lack of planning. However, a weekly menu plan is the best tool I’ve found to help me with this.
I have learned a few tricks to make it easier to include vegetables and fruit in meals when there is a lot of time pressure. Spend an hour or so right after buying groceries to prepare vegetables for the next few days: chop onions or peppers; make celery sticks; dice soup vegetables; rinse leafy greens. Make sure prepared vegetables are dry and then refrigerate them in plastic bags or covered containers until needed. Buy vegetables that have been cleaned and chopped, if necessary, and use plenty of frozen vegetables. Serve canned tomatoes, and precook long-cooking vegetables such as turnip and beets on days off to reheat when they are needed. Go for speed and not finesse when necessary; for example, instead of meticulously removing stems and veins from spinach, just slice them into ribbons, stems and all.
Consuming lots of vegetables and fruits helps to increase fibre intake, and eating whole grains and legumes increases it further.
There are two types of fibre: soluble, which helps reduce levels of LDL cholesterol and, thereby, reduce the risk of heart disease, and insoluble, which makes you feel full without adding calories, and so helps with maintaining a healthy weight, as well as reducing the risk for heart disease.
Whole grains generally provide insoluble fibre, except for oatmeal and oat bran, which are sources of soluble fibre. When reading the ingredient list on breads or cereals, look for 100 per cent whole grain or 100 per cent whole wheat at the first of the list.
When baking, you can get good results with more recipes by substituting whole wheat flour for up to 50 per cent of the all purpose flour. I can’t resist making the substitution and generally prefer the flavour in baked goods.
Legumes, also called pulses, include dried beans, peas and lentils. They are inexpensive sources of fibre, used widely around the world. As a result, there are hundreds of recipes for legume dishes, from many cuisines. This one that is based on Middle Eastern felafel, but it is baked in the oven rather than being deep fried to keep the fat content down.
Baked Chickpea Patties
Adapted from www.heartandstroke.com
10 mL (2 tsp) canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
5 mL (1 tsp) dried oregano
2 mL (½ tsp) dried basil
1 can (540 mL/19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 egg white
25 mL (2 tbsp) chopped fresh Italian parsley
Lemon Herb Yogurt Sauce:
125 mL (½ cup) plain low fat yogurt
15 mL (1 tbsp) each minced fresh Italian parsley and mint
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 mL (½ tsp) finely grated lemon rind
In non-stick skillet heat oil over medium heat and cook onion, garlic, jalapeño, oregano and basil for about 5 minutes or until softened.
Meanwhile, in bowl mash chickpeas using potato masher until smooth. Scrape onion mixture into bowl and stir to combine. Add egg white and parsley and stir until well combined and smooth.
Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and form into 1 cm (½ inch) thick patties. Place patties on parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in 220 C (425 F) oven for about 20 minutes, turning once halfway through or until golden.
Lemon Herb Yogurt Sauce: Meanwhile, in bowl, stir together yogurt, parsley, mint, garlic, lemon rind and salt. Serve with chickpea patties.
Serve on their own or tucked into a pita.Makes 2 servings.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.