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Heart Healthy Cooking Tips for a Stronger Cardiovascular System

By: Martha M
If your daily routine includes toast with butter or you have bread as a frequent side dish, make sure the spread is heart healthy. A heart healthy diet is low in saturated fat and has as little trans fat as possible. Since many bread spreads are mostly fat, it’s important to make sure that the fats are heart healthy.

If you use margarine, make sure it is trans-fat free. Real margarine was traditionally made with partially hydrogenated oils and contained a significant amount of trans fat. Some still do, but many spreads are now available with little or no trans fat. Look for 0 grams trans fat on the nutrition facts label.

Butter is not a bad choice if used occasionally. But butter is high in saturated fat – one tablespoon has more than 7 grams of saturated fat. Using butter as a bread spread each day will make it hard to keep saturated fat levels low. Whipped butter is one alternative. Whipping adds air, making it easier to use less butter to cover your bread.

Try using a bit of olive oil on your bread. Olive oil has a healthy fat profile but still gives you the texture of fatty spreads. You might find you enjoy the taste of olive oil over butter or margarine after a few uses, too!

Try alternatives that are lower in fat or have healthier fat. Nut butters, hummus and other bean dips, salsa, jams and jellies, or mashed guacamole can make healthy, great tasting spreads with less saturated fat than butter.

Modify recipes toward heart health. Each time you prepare a dish, think about how you can alter the ingredients to make it heart healthier. One way is to simply reduce ingredients that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium, and use more ingredients like vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.

For mixed dishes, casseroles or soups with red meat, you can often use less meat and add more vegetables, beans, tomato sauce, pasta, or rice. This works especially well with full flavored meats like sausage and salty ham. The flavors from these meats go a long way. Adding small amounts to an otherwise veggie-packed stew or pasta dish lets you enjoy the flavor, but with less of unhealthy fat and salt.

Take this idea one step further and replace red meats entirely with beans or tofu. You’ll get lots of extra fiber and nutrients, and little saturated fat and cholesterol.

Cheese should also be reduced or replaced when cooking heart healthy. Cheese is high in fat and saturated fat. Using lower fat cheese is an option but most don’t perform as well when cooked.

Serving suggestions. When serving the meal, start with smaller portions of meat and cheese and larger portions of vegetables, beans and whole grains.

For dishes that have a creamy or cheesy sauce, serve more rice or pasta (preferable whole grain) and use less sauce to start.

If you find that you crave a sweet treat after meals, try desserts with a heart healthy punch. Fruit and fruit desserts can fulfill your need for sweets and provide healthy fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. If you can’t resist ice cream, use a small portion as a topping for fruit instead of filling up a bowl.

About the Author
Get more information regarding trans fat.

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