Happy Valentine’s Day! Look around – hearts are everywhere this time of year reminding you to take extra special care of your non-stop, hard-working ticker. February is also American Heart Month, raising awareness about heart health urging you and others to take steps to prevent heart disease.
In honor of this special time of year, here’s a heart healthy mixed greens salad recipe your heart will love. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of specific heart healthy ingredients it contains that significantly benefit the health of your circulatory organ.
Mixed leafy greens – You’ve gotta love leafy greens – from spinach, kale, red leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, mustard greens and others – there’s no doubt leafy greens love your heart. Full of fiber, potassium, vitamin K and nitrates, these dark greens can help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function, both good for lowering the risk of heart disease.
Barley – Whole grains are ideal for protecting heart health. Barley can be bought either hulled or pearled; I recommend using hulled barley as it has minimal processing leaving both the bran and germ intact. Barley is a good source of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber which studies have shown may reduce low density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol from the body. Hulled barley will have a chewier texture than pearled and will take longer to cook – but its well-worth the wait for your heart health!
Garbonzo beans or chickpeas – Whichever name you prefer to call them, garbonzo beans are your heart’s best friend. Many Americans have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Research states that the minerals, magnesium and potassium, found abundantly in beans, may help reduce hypertension. Garbonzo beans, like all beans, contain soluble fiber, also known for lowering triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, also risk factors for heart disease.
Raspberries – Adorned in red, raspberries are perfect for representing heart month. These sweet berries really do deliver by working hard for your heart. Just a half a cup provides 4 grams of fiber along with 25% of your recommended daily intake for vitamin C and manganese too. Their high polyphenol content, plant compounds packed with antioxidants and potential health benefits, are ideal for reducing heart disease risk.
Pistachios – Good things come in small packages and if that’s the case, pistachios are very good. Coming from the Greek word, pistakion, these little green treats can hold their own nutrition-wise when compared to other nuts.
Your heart will especially love pistachios – in addition to good-for-you fats, pistachios also have plant-based compounds that may act as antioxidants, including vitamin E, polyphenols, and carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin.
Scientific research has shown that adding pistachios to a healthy diet may help to lower levels of oxidized-LDL (bad) cholesterol and other measures of oxidative damage. Research has also shown that eating calorie-controlled amounts of pistachios may help to support healthy cholesterol levels.
Avocados – One of the most delicious and satisfying foods on earth are avocados AND let’s not forget, their contribution for improving and protecting heart health. Avocados contain heart healthy fats; in fact they are the only fruit that contains fat called monounsaturated fats. In one serving there are 3 grams of monounsaturated fat and 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat. They are cholesterol free (cholesterol is only found in animal foods such as beef, chicken, fish, cheese, and egg yolks), trans fat free and sodium free. Often referred to as “nature’s butter,” creamy avocados are perfect and healthier substitutes for spreading onto toast in place of butter or margarine.
The fatty acids found in avocados also help promote healthy blood lipid profiles and enhance the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals supporting cardiovascular health.
Olive oil – Olive oil is really in a class all its own. This heart-healthy oil is considered a leading component of the Mediterranean diet playing an important role providing benefits for heart health.
A large, randomized, controlled study in Spain showed that adding extra-virgin olive oil in your diet is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, especially for individuals who are at a high cardiovascular risk. Olive oil works its magic by helping improve cholesterol levels and blood pressure which reduces risk of blood clots that can cause sudden heart attacks or stroke.
Time to try out the recipe!
Now that you know how extraordinarily good this recipe is for your heart, it’s time to actually make it. Quick and easy to assemble, this salad offers an irresistible blend of chewy and crunchy – exactly what I like. The dressing has subtle notes of sweet mixed with savory, perfect for adding just the right touch bringing out the full flavors this salad provides. Ideal for a quick lunch or a romantic dinner, you’ll fall in love with this heart healthy mixed greens salad.
Heart Healthy Mixed Greens Salad – serving size – 1-2 cups, makes approximately 4 servings
Nutrition per serving: Calories – 280; Total Fat – 12 grams; Protein – 5 grams; Carbohydrates – 38 grams; Fiber – 8 grams; Sodium – 55 milligrams
Ingredients for dressing:
¼ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
Ingredients for salad:
2 cups cooked grains (you can use barley, farro, quinoa, or bulgur), cooled
5-6 cups of mixed leafy greens (your choice)
1 15-ounce can garbonzo beans
½ cup shelled pistachios
½ avocado, diced
2 cups raspberries
- Cook the grain you plan to use; once cooked, let it cool completely
- Make the dressing by combining the orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, and salt in a small bowl. Stir together well.
- Make the salad. Place mixed greens in a large bowl, and add in beans, pistachios, avocado, whatever grain you use, and toss gently. Place raspberries on top of salad and drizzle with dressing.