Eating a balanced diet that is low in fat will keep your heart happy and healthy. But healthy foods don’t have to be bland. When preparing your food, reach for ingredients that are big on flavor. Here are some of our Denver cardiologists’ favorite ingredients to spice up your healthy meals.
Citrus is a great option for adding fresh flavor to seafood, chicken, and vegetables. Try squeezing some lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit juice over your next meal for a hit of tangy, fruity flavor, or use a zester for a stronger amount of flavor. Using citrus in your next meal will also provide you with some important health advantages like flavonoids, phytonutrients that lower the body’s production of cholesterol and limonene, an oil found in the peel of citrus that may inhibit a variety of cancers.
Fresh garlic is another option for adding flavor without any additional fat. This fragrant, flavorful herb has been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. To get the most of these health benefits, crush or chop the garlic cloves and let them sit for 10-15 minutes to give the anticancer compounds a chance to form. Then cook your garlic on low or medium heat to preserve these enzymes.
If you’re looking to add some heat to your dish, choose from a wide selection of chili peppers. Those that are especially spicy will have the most capsacin, the ingredient that gives peppers their spice and also provides medical benefits such as increased heart health, prevention of prostate cancer, and stopping ulcers. To prepare fresh chilies, remove the stem, slice lengthwise and remove the seeds, slice thinly, then add to your dish! If fresh chilies are a little too hot, dried red pepper flakes are a great alternative. And don’t worry about eating something so hot it burns – while it seems counterintuitive, that burn is actually good for your heart! Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong published a study (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120327215605.htm) that showed capsaicinoids can actually lower blood pressure, reduce blood cholesterol, and ease the tendency for dangerous blood clots to form.
Ginger is another super spice for both your taste buds and your health. This hot, fragrant root will add a tasty kick to your food and can decrease motion sickness and nausea, relieve pain and swelling, and provide an incredibly high amount of antioxidants. Try making a glaze for salmon or carrots by mixing ground ginger with honey and heating the mixture, or sprinkle over fresh fruit and yogurt to satisfy a sweet tooth.
How to use this Information
Keeping your healthy dishes low-fat but high flavor is easy to do when you pick the right ingredients. Try to choose spices that not only add a punch of flavor to your dish, but provide additional health benefits. This way, your meals will be low-fat, heart healthy, and delicious! If you have questions about how your diet can be a great tool for preventative heart care, give the Health & Nutrition Team at South Denver Cardiology a call at 303-744-1065.