by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training
Prepare your loved ones a heart-healthy meal for Valentine’s Day—and show them that you’ve got a heart of gold!
Valentine’s Day is usually about hearts, candy and flowers. But here’s another way to show everyone that
you really care. You can prepare a delicious meal featuring heart-healthy foods—a meal that you and your loved ones can literally eat to their heart’s content.
The Gift of a Heart-Healthy Meal
You may want to start off with a toast to your good health. You can use champagne, which, like wine, contains natural antioxidants from the grapes. Or, you can make a festive non-alcoholic drink by adding a splash of 100% fruit juice to some sparkling water. Red-purple juices like 100% grape and pomegranate are rich in polyphenols. These are naturally occurring compounds in the fruit, which help to increase blood flow and support healthy blood pressure.
For your first course, have a colourful salad. Bright orange carrots, red tomatoes and deep green spinach owe their colours to a group of heart-healthy antioxidant pigments called carotenoids. For added benefit, toss in some avocado and dress your salad with a little olive oil. Since carotenoids are fat-soluble, the addition of small amounts of heart-healthy fats to your salad will help your body absorb these beneficial compounds from the vegetables. Cooked beans make a heart-healthy addition, too, since their water-soluble fibre can help to keep cholesterol levels in check.
For the main event, grill up some fresh fish. Fish is generally low in total fat and saturated fat. And it’s also one of the best sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help to control the levels of certain fats in the blood, like triglycerides and cholesterol.
Then let yourself go “a little nuts.” Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios are rich in compounds called phytosterols that can help keep cholesterol in check. Try toasting them lightly in the oven or a dry frying pan. It brings out their natural flavour. And then you can sprinkle them on top of some steamed veggies for a great side dish, or add them to your salad.
Finally, no Valentine’s Day would be complete without a little bit of chocolate. Naturally occurring compounds in cocoa, called flavonoids, act as antioxidants. And the darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids you get. So, have a bite of dark chocolate to finish your meal. Or, for a doubly healthy dessert, drizzle some melted bittersweet chocolate over fresh berries. The natural red-purple pigments that give berries their beautiful colour act as antioxidants, too.