Looking to cook your dearest a dish that says "I love you" this Valentine's Day? Make it heart-healthy! Foods in this category work together to lower a person's risk of health problems like hypertension and heart disease — and they can also help you live longer.
Believe it or not, you don't have to sacrifice taste to whip up something that keeps you and your sweetheart's tickers ticking. Here's a quick-start heart-healthy food guide to get you on the right cardio-culinary track with delicious, nutritious Valentine's Day recipes.
The basics on eating for heart health
Heart-healthy eating may sound like a special or complicated diet, but it's pretty simple: Eat foods grown from the ground (like fruits, vegetables and whole grains), go lean for animal products (like low-fat milk and lean meats) and include healthy fats (like salmon, beans and unsalted nuts).
This combination may seem easy enough to do every day. However, eating a heart-healthy diet also means avoiding or limiting things like saturated fats, sodium and added sugars. That may seem a bit harder even on a good day, but especially so on Valentine's Day — when the temptations of juicy steaks, creamy pastas and delectable chocolates are everywhere.
Fortunately, with a little careful planning, you can build your Valentine's Day menu around good-for-you ingredients without sacrificing delicious celebration. According to AARP, these ingredients include:
- Beets, which have been found to help manage high blood pressure.
- Walnuts and pumpkin seeds, which in moderation may help lower your risk for fatal heart-related issues.
- Olive oil, which can boost good cholesterol.
- Salmon, which may lower your risk for heart failure and other heart conditions.
- Broccoli and Brussels sprouts, which help keep blood vessels healthy.
Heart-healthy food guide: Three recipes to try on Valentine's Day
Preparing a delicious meal for your sweetheart is a tried-and-true way to show you care. While reservations at a special spot might be your tradition, challenge yourself to switch things up this year by lovingly preparing something homemade.
Best of all, you don't have to wait until the evening! Try these anytime recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner to create a full-day celebration of love and heart health.
Biscuits in bed
As found in the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's collection of African American style dishes, these homestyle biscuits provide a heart-healthy update to a breakfast classic. With no cholesterol or saturated fat, they're the perfect way to start the day as a breakfast-in-bed surprise. Serve with a low-fat yogurt parfait with fresh berries and pumpkin seeds for an extra nutritional boost.
Chicken salad picnic
After breakfast in bed, take your sweetheart on a picnic in the park with this portable chicken salad lunch from the National Institute of Health. Add a hydrating refresher with no-sugar-added beet juice.
Salmon dinner for two
This grilled seafood recipe from the American Heart Association packs a heart-healthy punch. There's salmon — a fatty fish rich in good-for-you omega-3s — as well as olive oil, a good-cholesterol pantry staple. Pair with some steamed Brussels sprouts and a whole wheat roll and you've got yourself a delicious dinner for two!
What about wine and chocolate?
You may have seen news about the potential health benefits of red wine and dark chocolate, but according to the American Heart Association, headlines often don't capture the whole story. While both of these foods may have flavonoids that lower heart risks, the evidence is murky on whether that alone means they're truly heart-healthy.
Dark chocolate gets some fame for being a rumored aphrodisiac, but the research on these sex-drive boosters is also mixed. If anything, researchers suspect foods thought to be aphrodisiacs may instead just calm you down so you can better enjoy the romance.
Still, it's Valentine's Day — if you choose to have a special treat, do so in moderation. You can even sneak some heart-healthy ingredients into your dessert, like this chocolate avocado-chia pudding from the American Heart Association.
After all, while you can eat heart-healthy all year long, Valentine's Day comes only once a year. Make the most of it with a labor of love in the kitchen. It might just become a new tradition for you and yours!