Celebrate American Heart Month and Valentine's Day by having a heart-smart meal with your sweetheart.
A healthful diet and lifestyle can reduce the risk of heart disease. According to data provided in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010, 81.1 million Americans — 37 percent of the population — have cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease includes diseases of the heart and diseases of the blood vessel system (arteries, capillaries, veins) within a person's entire body. The major risk factors for heart disease are high levels of blood cholesterol and other lipids, type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), metabolic syndrome, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity and tobacco use. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
This is a great time to start making healthier food choices as a step to reduce the risk of heart disease. How about a heart healthy Valentine's Day meal for that special person in your life?
Implementing food preparation guidelines conducive to heart health is a great step for a heart healthy diet. One way to reduce the sodium and fat intake is to season foods with ingredients such as herbs, spices, vinegars and citrus and other fruit juices instead of salt (which is high in sodium) and added fats.
Herbs grow in temperate climates and are the fragrant leaves of plants. A few examples of commonly used fresh herbs are basil, chives, dill, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme. Dried forms of the herbs can be whole, crushed or ground.
Spices grow in tropical areas and come from the bark, buds, fruit, roots, seeds or stems of the plant. A few commonly used spices include cinnamon, cloves, mustard seeds, black pepper and paprika. Seasoning blends may be mixtures of herbs and spices. Some plants supply both the herb and spice.
There are a variety of vinegars available each having certain characteristics. Balsamic vinegars are often used as an intense sauce or condiment on finished dishes, in marinades, dressings and cooked in recipes. Cider vinegar, also called apple cider vinegar, is a full-bodied vinegar and frequently used in pickling. Distilled white vinegar is often used in pickling when no color is preferred. Herb vinegars are vinegars, often cider or wine vinegar to which herbs such as tarragon or rosemary are added. Malt vinegar is most often used as a condiment, traditionally with fish and chips. Rice vinegar is weaker in acid content and milder than most vinegar. Sherry vinegar is much like a cross between balsamic and red wine vinegar. The three most common types of wine vinegar are red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar and Champagne vinegar. Red wine vinegar is the strongest in flavor of wine vinegars and Champagne vinegar is the weakest. All are excellent for marinades or in vinaigrettes.