March 26th, 2019

From Our Table: Ten tips for heart health

By Medicine Hat News on February 26, 2019.

Submitted Photo
Szechuan Orange Ginger Chicken from "The Lighthearted Cookbook" is a Heart Health Month favourite of columnist Joanne Smith.

It just seems appropriate that Heart Health Month falls in February which is the “love month” where we celebrate Valentine’s Day.

There is so much information about heart health out there, some of it conflicting and it can become very confusing. There is too much information to cover in one column but let’s look at a few tips to help sort through how to do your best to have a healthy heart.

1. In case you are skimming this article and might even quit reading after this point I want to make the most important point first. Your heart health and in fact your overall health is not dependent on singling out specific nutrients and foods. You will not be healthy by simply reducing sodium and fat in your diet for example. The key is to focus on the big picture – your sleep pattern, your exercise routine and what you choose to eat.

2. When choosing healthy food I like to recommend my own little expression. The closer a food is to its God-given source the better it is for you. Eat whole foods that you can recognize as food without a long list of ingredients.

3. Eat lots of vegetables. You just can’t get much more basic and healthy then bright, colourful, crisp and delicious veggies. The brighter the colour the better as these are packed with vital vitamins and minerals.

4. Other plant-based foods like fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes should also be enjoyed in a healthy diet.

5. When eating meat or any animal based food choose those lower in fat and once again closest to their God-given source. Limit ultra processed meat sources that are higher in salt and often high in fat. For example, a roast chicken versus salami.

6. Limit packaged foods that are usually high in salt, fat and preservatives.

7. Avoid trans fats and limit hydrogenated vegetable oil and shortening.

8. Read the food labels to see exactly what is in the food you are choosing to put into your body.

9. If you are overweight and have high blood pressure and cholesterol simply lowering salt and fat in your diet will not be nearly as effective as losing weight. Even small weight loss can make a big difference to your heart health. Remember to choose a weight loss plan that fits your lifestyle and you can follow forever for successful and sustainable weight loss.

10. You do not have to live in complete denial of your favourite foods that may not completely fit into the healthy food category. There is always room for a few of your favorite soulful foods you choose for taste and enjoyment and sometimes just plain comfort. Just be intentional about your choices and the amount and how often you eat them. If you allow yourself to include them in the big picture of your healthy lifestyle you will be much less likely to binge eat them. Food is created to be enjoyed!

In the spirit of Heart Health Month I’d like to share a recipe from one of my favourite cookbook authors Anne Lindsay. This is from her book “The Lighthearted Cookbook.”

Remember your heart health and health in general depends on your big picture of healthy choices and you are well worth the effort!

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Szechuan Orange-Ginger Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch squares

2 bell peppers seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 orange

1 tsp chili paste

2 Tbsp sherry

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger root

Using a vegetable peeler remove rind from orange (orange only, no white). Cut rind into thin julienne strips about one and a half inch long. Squeeze orange and reserve 1/4 cup of the juice.

In a small bowl combine orange juice, chili paste, sherry, sugar and cornstarch. Stir until smooth.

Heat oil in wok over high heat, add chicken and stir fry for 2 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove chicken and add orange rind, garlic and ginger root. Stir fry for 10 seconds then add peppers and stir fry 1 minute. Add chili paste mixture and bring to a boil. Return chicken to wok and stir until heated through.

Delicious served with whole grain rice.

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