By Helen Grebe
It’s the season of love when one ponders affairs of the heart. Speaking of affairs of the heart, according to the CDC heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
In 2010 alone, heart disease cost the U.S. approximately $316.4 billion dollars and made no exceptions to sex, race or ethnicity. The short takeaway, we could all start taking better care of this great organ.
So this Valentine’s Day, love your heart back with some helpful tips (and restaurant recommendations) for eating heart healthy in Atlanta.
Start a Love Affair
… with veggies. Green is good for the heart. Leaf vegetables are typically low in calories, low in fat, high in protein per calorie, high in dietary fiber, high in iron and calcium, and very high in phytochemicals such as vitamin C, folic acid as well as Vitamin K. One study showed that an increment of one daily serving of green leafy vegetables, lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11 percent. Don’t forget your herbs, too, which are high in polyphenol compounds that reduce oxidative stress and prevent chronic heart disease. Incorporating rosemary, garden sage and thyme when you flavor your veggies will add that extra heart-healthy punch.
While raw is best, steaming your vegetables (rather than boiling or cooking with oil) enables them to retain more of their phenolic acid and vitamins (which promotes a healthy heart). Plus steaming your food cuts down on the salt and sodium often used to bake or cook produce. A key part to a heart healthy diet is to reduce salt and sodium intake.
According to the American Heart Association, practicing portion control is a key component in being kind to your heart. Eating five small meals a day was proven to help your body digest your food better and also limited over-eating, a known cause for added weight to the body which can stress your heart. Choose lean, low-fat protein choices for your entrée (think chicken, turkey or fish) and keep them to a 3 or 4 oz. serving. Ask your server to grill, bake or broil your choice of entrée for a heart-healthy preparation. If you must have red meat, opt for the filet which is the leanest cut and limit servings of red meat to no more than once a week. If your portions are large when ordering out, get a doggy bag and take half home.
Olive You, Too
Your heart is begging you to cut out trans and saturated fats, which are abundant in today’s American diet. While going completely fat free isn’t good, limiting our fat intake is smart. When you eat or cook, use monounsaturated fats, which are known to be heart friendly and include olive and canola oil. Don’t forget to ask your server when dining out what your entrée will be cooked in. Ask for salad dressings on the side (and dip your fork tongs in before hitting the plate versus dumping the dressing over the salad). Many restaurants will substitute a salad or fruit for fries (high in saturated fat). Don’t be fooled by turkey burgers or other items on a menu that look “lean.” Always ask for details…is that turkey burger made out of 99% fat free breast? Remember, you are your best advocate.
You Make Me Sweat
Get active and sweat! Exercise is good for your heart and your overall health, reducing cholesterol, excess body fat and promoting the flow of oxygen rich blood throughout your system. While eating healthy is important, combining a healthy diet with an active lifestyle is a must. The AHA recommends you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
You don’t have to swear off the good stuff. When that sweet craving hits, head for dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants that are good for the heart. Chocolate is also high in polyphenols, so treat yourself. Just make sure you don’t over-indulge, adding large portions of fat to your diet. If you favor a glass of wine versus dessert, opt for red wine
Make it Whole
Choose whole grains over processed, bleached flour products like white bread. Whole grains have fiber, which not only fills you up but also helps lower your cholesterol and risk for heart disease.
For Date Night or a Night Out
Seasons 52: Incorporating the fresh appeal of a farmer’s market and appropriate portions, this restaurant is a nice addition to the Atlanta scene. They have a scrumptious cedar-plank roasted salmon but considering nothing on the menu is over 475 calories, you can’t go wrong! seasons52.com
Miller Union: With simple, rustic preparation and fresh produce of the week, it’s fair to say Diet Coke is not on this menu. Try their Sapelo Island clams & fish of the day with citrus aioli and have them make you a hand-made organic soda to accompany it. millerunion.com
Ru Sans: Conquer that sushi craving with sashimi, made with lean protein and steamed rice. Limit sauces on the side and you’re the epitome of good!
Zoe’s Kitchen: Zoe’s makes it easy with all heart healthy fares marked on their menu with a heart. zoeskitchen.com
Uncle Maddio’s: This pizza joint is ahead of the trend with heart healthy, vegan options like Daiya cheese, whole wheat crusts and a plethora of veggies on their menu. unclemaddios.com
Souper Jenny: This neighborhood café has standing room only for a reason. Try their turkey chili to warm up your heart. souperjennyatl.com
F20: Try the Mediterranean salad with heart healthy olives, tomatoes and red grapes. fresh2order.com
Evos: With menu items like their air fries (baked versus deep fried) and a whole kids section called healthy kids that incorporates 50-70 percent less fat than leading restaurants, this menu is a heart-healthy smorgasbord! evos.com
For the Purists
Café Sunflower: Start with the steamed dumplings and move on to their roasted portabella mushroom melt. cafesunflower.com
R. Thomas Grill: Offering fresh to order juices, macrobiotic fare and raw foods, health is an order away. We like their veggie omelet with egg whites and their Grilled Range Chicken accompanied with broccoli and fennel. rthomasdeluxegrill.net
For a Sweet Treat
Menchie’s: This frozen yogurt is a diamond in the city offering yogurts that are fat free or reduced fat but taste as good as the real stuff. Just watch the toppings. menchies.com
Cacoa Atlanta: Chocolate divinity is what you encounter when at Cacoa Atlanta. Try their “Love Bar” composed of 75 percent dark chocolate derived from Hispaniola beans. Just don’t eat the whole bar in one sitting. cacaoatlanta.com