A healthy heart is a happy heart

February 2, 2011 

Lifestyle isn't always easy to change. But it can be done, and better nutrition is often the key. Everyone wants to live a heart-healthy life, and knowing the risk factors for heart disease can help.

Some risk factors can be changed; others -- such as our age, gender and family history -- cannot. February is American Heart Month, a perfect time to work on those factors we can control -- our high blood pressure, weight and cholesterol. The American Heart Association's "Go Red For Women" campaign is intended to dispel the myths and raise awareness of heart disease as the No. 1 killer of women and alert them to ways they can change their lifestyle. You can find many heart-healthy tips at the Go Red website, www.goredfor women.org.

It is important to know some basics about nutrition in order to make heart-healthy choices. Try limiting cholesterol (found in meat, egg yolks, organ meats and whole-fat dairy products) and saturated fats (found in solid shortenings, butter, lard, bacon drippings, and coconut and palm oils). For a dietary boost, look for unsaturated fats (they can help lower blood cholesterol) and fiber ("nature's broom" -- it aids in digestion). Beware your sodium intake.

The American Heart Association recommends the following guidelines for a heart-healthy lifestyle:

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Choose five or more a day.

  • Eat a variety of grain products, including whole grain breads, cereals, crackers and pasta. Choose six or more servings a day.

  • Include fat-free and low-fat milk products, fish, legumes, skinless poultry and lean meats.

  • Choose fats with two grams of saturated fat or less a serving, such as liquid and tub margarine, canola and olive oil.

    Here are some heart-healthy recipes to get you moving in the right direction.

    Bayou Andouille and Chicken Chowder

    Vegetable oil spray

    2 ounces andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

    2 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, all visible fat discarded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

    14-ounce can fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

    1 1/2 medium green peppers, chopped

    8 ounces baking potatoes (russet preferred), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

    3/4 cup frozen whole-kernel corn

    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

    1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half

    4-ounce jar diced pimientos, drained

    1/2 cup finely snipped fresh parsley

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/4 cup pepper

    2 ounces shredded fat-free or low-fat sharp cheddar cheese

    Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Remove from heat and lightly spray vegetable oil spray (being careful not to spray near a gas flame). Cook the sausage for 3 minutes or until beginning to richly brown on the edges, stirring constantly. Transfer to a plate. Lightly spray the Dutch oven with vegetable oil spray. Add the chicken. Cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the broth, bell peppers, onion, potatoes, corn and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered, for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Remove from the heat. Stir in the sausage, half-and-half, pimientos, parsley, salt and pepper. Let stand, covered, for 15 minutes to all the flavors to blend and the liquids to thicken slightly.

    To serve, ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with cheddar.

    Old Fashioned Chicken and Rice

    6 boneless chicken breasts

    7 pieces raw bacon

    2 cups brown rice

    1 can cream of chicken soup

    1 can cream of mushroom soup

    1 can cream of celery soup

    1/4 cup water

    Salt and pepper, to taste

    Heat over to 350 degrees.

    Line 9-by-13-inch casserole baking dish with raw bacon. Add as a layer, the uncooked brown rice. Layer pieces of chicken on top. Next add salt and pepper. Mix all three soups together and spoon over the chicken. Add the water. Cook uncovered for 1 hour.

  • Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. E-mail her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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