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February is Heart Health Month. There are many ways to show your cardiovascular system some love, and diet remains one of the best proactive ways to support a healthier heart and reduce your risks of heart disease and other cardiovascular health concerns. For example, a very recent study found that a diet that focused on nuts and seeds (a great source of phytosterols), oats and other grains (an important way to increase your fiber intake) and monounsaturated fats (such as the healthy fats in avocado) helped reduce heart disease and stroke risks by an incredible 14%. Start your culinary journey towards a healthier heart with these three delicious recipes.

Foods For a Healthier Heart

A heart-healthy diet can play a crucial role in reducing the risk of heart disease. “The best diet for preventing heart disease is one that is full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, and vegetable oils,” reports Harvard. “People with diets consistent with this dietary pattern had a 31% lower risk of heart disease, a 33% lower risk of diabetes, and a 20% lower risk of stroke.”

The reasons are clear. For example, fish like sardines, trout and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids. That can help lower blood fats (triglycerides) and reduce your risk of heart disease. Similarly, oats and whole grains — great choices for a healthier heart include brown rice and quinoa — contain soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health.

Other great foods to improve heart health include:

  • Blueberries, strawberries, and other berries, which are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber (all of which contribute to heart health by reducing inflammation and improving blood vessel function)
  • Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, as they’re good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and heart-healthy nutrients
  • Leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, and other vegetables, since they are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that promote overall heart health.

As you can see, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor to have a healthier heart. Each of these ingredients are the foundation for amazing meals throughout the week, and the next three recipes show you how easy it is to eat for a healthier heart.

BREAKFAST: Quinoa Berry Smoothie

If you think of quinoa as only something you eat as a warm side dish for lunch or dinner, think again! This smoothie combines the protein-packed goodness of quinoa with the vitamins and antioxidants from the berries, potassium from the banana, and the probiotics from Greek yogurt.

1/2 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
1 cup mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup almond milk (or any milk of your choice)
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (optional, depending on your sweetness preference)
Ice cubes (optional)
Chia seeds or sliced almonds for topping (optional)

Cook quinoa according to package instructions and let it cool.

In a blender, combine the cooked quinoa, mixed berries, ripe banana, Greek yogurt, almond milk, and honey or maple syrup. If you prefer a colder smoothie, you can add a handful of ice cubes.

Blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. If the consistency is too thick, you can add more almond milk until you reach your desired thickness.

Pour the smoothie into a glass and garnish with chia seeds or sliced almonds for some added texture and nutritional value. Enjoy! Your day is well on its way towards a healthier heart.

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LUNCH: Tangy Broccoli Chicken Salad

Reimagine the humble broccoli vegetable — it’s great for far more than just eating in a raw veggie platter or as a steamed side dish. This broccoli and chicken salad is not only rich in fiber from the broccoli but also provides a good source of protein from the chicken. The addition of dried cranberries or raisins adds a touch of sweetness, and the dressing brings a delightful tangy flavor. Enjoy this protein-packed broccoli salad as a refreshing and satisfying meal or as a side for another lunch idea on your menu!

For the Salad:
3 cups broccoli florets, blanched and cooled
1 cup cooked and shredded chicken breast
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup sunflower seeds or sliced almonds (for crunch)

For the Dressing:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Blanch the broccoli florets in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then transfer them to an ice bath to cool. Drain and set aside.

Cook the chicken breast, either by grilling, baking, or boiling, until fully cooked. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the blanched broccoli, shredded chicken, chopped red onion, cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries or raisins, and sunflower seeds or sliced almonds.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss everything together until well coated.

Cover the salad and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Before serving, give the salad a final toss and adjust the seasoning if needed. Enjoy this lunch chilled!

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DINNER: Easy Trout Stir Fry

If you’re eating for a healthier heart, this scrumptious dinner hits all the main points — fiber and antioxidants from veggies and the incredible health benefits of omega-3 fats from the trout. Short on time on a busy weekday? No problem. This meal is a quick and flavorful dish with a balance of savory, sweet, and tangy flavors and it takes just minutes to whip together while looking like it came right from a restaurant!

2 trout fillets, deboned and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil (for stir-frying)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
1 carrot, julienned
2 green onions, chopped
Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Cooked rice or noodles for serving

Pat the trout fillets dry with paper towels and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Season the trout with a tablespoon of soy sauce and set aside to marinate for about 10-15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, and rice vinegar. Set aside.

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and chopped ginger, stirring quickly for about 30 seconds until fragrant.

Add the marinated trout to the wok and cook for 2-3 minutes, turning the pieces to ensure they are cooked on all sides. Once the trout is cooked through, remove it from the wok and set it aside.

In the same wok, add a bit more oil if needed. Stir in sliced bell pepper, broccoli florets, and julienned carrot. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender but still crisp.

Return the cooked trout to the wok with the vegetables. Pour the prepared sauce over the mixture and toss everything together until well-coated.

Add chopped green onions and toss for an additional minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve over cooked rice or noodles. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired.

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