NOT many of us think about our hearts, except when it's broken, of course, and then our hearts become the centre of our pain and our thought process.
But otherwise, when all is going well, that very important organ on the left side of our chests doesn't figure greatly in our day-to-day thoughts.
But heart disease, especially in women, is a condition that continues to worry health professionals, and incidences are increasing due to poor dietary choices, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, and ageing.
Just this April, renowned cardiovascular expert and Heart Institute of the Caribbean Chairman Dr Ernest Madu urged people around the region to take stock of the fact that cardiovascular diseases are on the increase and have been the leading cause of death and disability in most countries across the globe for the past 25 years.
How can you protect your heart and be heart healthy? Nutritionist Keisha Black says you can start by making tasty, heart healthy meals for your family as a start, that includes fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and low carbs.
Here she shares four meal substitutions that are heart healthy.
Whole grain chicken alfredo
Chicken alfredo is a comfort food for many, but if you have it the traditional way it's loaded with ingredients that may not be good for you. Substitute some of the ingredients with healthier alternatives and enjoy the same great taste by:
1. Using whole grain pasta instead of regular pasta
2. Using coconut cream instead of heavy cream and using cornstarch or flour as a thickening agent
3. Using broccoli along with your chicken protein to bulk up the meal
4. Using vegan cheese instead of parmesan and going light on the butter
If you like salads, or even if you don't, you know that adding fried or grilled chicken breast to a bed of lettuce and lathering it with ranch can't exactly be healthy. The best salads actually follow the Mediterranean diet — using nuts and seeds for protein and olive oil-based dressings.
1. Use tuna, fish, or chicken breasts for your protein
2. Add nuts, like pecans or walnuts, and fruits, like apples, raisins, and cranberries, for the crunch and sweetness
3. Use vinaigrettes instead of creamy dressings
4. Add sliced avocados for that extra zing.
No one is really using great globs of oil to fry their chicken any more — it's all about the air fryer. But oven frying is also another great option if you don't have that appliance, and will give you that Colonel crunch without the grease.
1. Use breadcrumbs, whole wheat flour, and an egg wash to coat your chicken to prepare for 'frying'. The crumbs will form the crispy skin.
2. There's no need to grease your pan before putting the chicken in the oven as the fat from the chicken will be adequate.
Make your own seasoning
Salt will literally be the death of you — foods with high salt content can increase blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. One way to reduce salt is to reduce your intake of powdered seasoning.
How to execute:
1. Make your own green seasoning. Blend your herbs and spices like scallion, basil, onions, ginger, thyme, pepper, pimento, garlic, and others, and store in a mason jar for your future use. This is perfect for seasoning your meats, no added powdered spices necessary.
2. Choose salt-free or reduced salt seasoning blends if you must use powdered seasoning.
Further, Black said, "For everything that's under the sun there's a healthy alternative that's just as tasty or maybe even tastier than the store-bought ingredients that you spend money on."
Black added: "Many times it's just out of convenience why we don't do better, but if you want to be healthy and live longer, you have to tun yuh hand and make fashion, as our parents would say."
Black also encouraged individuals to use the Internet to research healthier meal options.
"With technology at the click of the mouse, you can find recipes online for making your own food and for even healthier versions of the foods you love. You can create everything — from your own sauces to everything else, keeping your health in mind. So there's really no excuse for high cholesterol or heart-poor diets because, even if you are very busy, you can make and freeze what you need to keep you and your family healthy."