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Less Salt, MORE Flavor

Health with Less Salt

April is the perfect month to celebrate the springtime by embracing all of Mother Nature’s various gifts including her glorious bounty of spring produce. It is also a great month to take advantage of alternative seasonings to help you decrease your intake of salt. Just how much salt should we be eating for good health? The U.S. 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend we aim to consume less than 2300 mg (~1 teaspoon of salt) sodium/day (and less than 1500 mg—2/3 teaspoon of salt) for certain segments of the population who are at greater risk of heart attacks and stroke (such as adults older than 50, African-Americans, people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease). The American Heart Association, on the other hand, recommends that ALL of us aim for consuming a maximum of just 1500 mg of sodium per day. And yet the average sodium intake in the United States is about 3,400 milligrams a day. There are plenty of actions you can take to keep your salt intake down to a reasonable level. The best strategy is to cook at home more often, using fresh whole foods in their natural state. Fresh is best is an easy way to remember that the sodium lies in the box, bags, cans and menu foods. Here are a few cooking tips for ways to season your foods without added salt:

Cook at home, using fresh whole, natural foods (high in potassium and low in sodium), seasoned with herbs and spices, lemon juice, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), vinegars…

Fresh Herbs

  1. Proteins, such as chicken and fish:

Herbs like rosemary and dill are my favorite plus lots of fresh lemon juice.

  1. Vegetable dishes:

Curry adds tons of flavor to veggie dishes. I also like to roast veggies with EVOO and balsamic vinegar—you’ll never miss the salt!

(Try my Roasted Tofu and Cauliflower Curry with Brown Rice recipe.)

  1. Sides, such as rice and bean dishes, pilafs:

Nuts and dried berries such as sliced almonds and cranberries help spruce up rice and pilaf dishes. Beans can be flavored with red wine, onions and garlic or else make a bean chili flavored with lots of chili powder, onions, garlic and a hint of sweetness from corn kernels.

  1. Pasta dishes:

Think “heat and sweet” for tomato based pasta dishes. Brew up some homemade tomato sauce (commercial varieties are notoriously high in salt) and flavor with red pepper flakes, a touch of sugar and lots of fresh basil, garlic, oregano and onions.

  1. Soups/stews:

Use reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth. Flavor with lots of garlic sautéed in EVOO, herbs and spices.

  1. Snacks (to make at home vs. high-sodium chips and crackers):

Try air popped popcorn seasoned with salt-free sweet, savory or spicy tastes. First, spray your popped popcorn with a low-calorie non-stick oil spray. Then add your seasonings. Savory: try adding Italian seasoning and garlic powder or a lemon pepper combo. Spicy: try chili powder and paprika or a Cajun mix. Sweet: try adding some cinnamon sugar for a crunchy, sweet treat.

Quick tips:

– Keep a jar of fresh rosemary and garlic infused EVOO on the kitchen counter and splash some on all your veggies and salad dishes.

– Fresh lemon or lime juice and chopped fresh dill and garlic are fabulous with all types of fish dishes.

– Balsamic vinegar, especially the well-aged sweet variety, is an absolute must for salads.

Excess (salt) sodium intake is linked to the development of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Nine in 10 American adults eat too much salt every day. Perhaps this is because some of the saltiest foods we eat do not necessarily taste salty. Reducing your salt intake will help lower high blood pressure and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. I urge all of you to eat naturally by cooking more at home and flavoring your foods with alternative seasonings.

Best of health,

Dr. Janet

 

Recipe: Dr. Janet’s Roasted Tofu and Cauliflower Curry with Brown Rice

 

  • One 14-ounce container extra-firm tofu
  • One 2-pound head cauliflower, cut into 1- inch pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced
  • 4 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free seasoning blend
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice.

Nutrition Recipe

Preheat oven to 450°F. Remove tofu from the container and drain. Place several paper towels on a plate. Set the tofu on the paper towels and put several more paper towels on top of the tofu. Place a heavy plate on top of the tofu to press the excess moisture out of the tofu. Cut the tofu into 1-inch pieces and combine with the cauliflower. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring until golden brown about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry, ginger, ground cumin, and salt-free seasoning blend, to coat the onions. Mix the curry and onion mixture with the cauliflower and tofu. Stir gently to combine. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the tofu and cauliflower in a single layer on the sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Serve over cooked brown rice.

 

Serves 6

Nutrition per 1 cup cauliflower and 1/2 cup brown rice:

  • Calories: 279 kcal
  • Sodium: 62 mg
  • Potassium: 709 mg
  • Magnesium: 104 mg
  • Calcium: 205 mg
  • Fat: 11 g (EPA 0g, DHA 0g, ALA 0g)
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 37 mg
  • Dietary fiber: 8 g
  • Sugars: 6 g
  • Protein: 12 g

*Recipe excerpted with permission from Dr. Janet’s book: BLOOD PRESSURE DOWN: the 10-step program to lower your blood pressure in 4 weeks–without prescription drugs (Crown/Three Rivers)

Resolution: Love Life, Love Your Heart

Heart Health Month

February is Heart Health Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and has been since 1900. In fact, way back in 1963, in acknowledgement of the importance of the ongoing fight against cardiovascular disease, the Congress, by Joint Resolution approved a statute on December 30, 1963, as amended (77 Stat. 843; 36 U.S.C. 101), requesting that each serving President issue an annual proclamation designating February as “American Heart Month.”

So in celebration of Heart Health Month, here are two indulgent foods that will surely put a smile on your face. No deprivation here, you can truly love your heart and life by adding in these formerly forbidden foods into your heart-healthy day: dark chocolate and red wine!

Dark chocolate: Food for the Heart and Soul — with a high content of nonfat cocoa solids — is now the new guilt-free super food. The scientific evidence is stacking up linking daily consumption of deep, dark chocolate with phenomenal health benefits. When it comes to choosing chocolate for health, the chocolate must be the flavonoid-rich dark variety. This is because dark chocolate has a much higher percentage of cocoa than milk chocolate and it’s the cocoa that contains most of the flavonoids—plant substances which provide your body with a host of health benefits. Flavonoids work as potent antioxidants to protect us from free radical damage, the process which accelerates aging and promotes chronic illnesses such as heart disease.

Be wary of the kind of chocolate you choose as not all chocolate is created equally. For maximum health benefits, consume dark chocolate or naturally unsweetened dark cocoa powder. The key word here is DARK as the darker the chocolate, the higher the percentage of cocoa, and the more flavonoids it will contain. The problem is that a large amount of cocoa can make the bar taste bitter, so try different products to see what appeals to you. Look out for imposters like white chocolate (zero antioxidants) and hot chocolate mixes (negligible antioxidants). Better to make your own hot chocolate with dark unsweetened cocoa powder, fat free milk or light soy milk and a touch of sweetener. Another chocolate caveat, dark chocolate, while very good for health, is not a low calorie diet food. Eat it by the piece and not the pound, for when it comes to dark chocolate, the devil is truly in the details. It is often loaded with calories, fat and sugar, which is why if you choose to eat a chocolate confection, I suggest you make it no more than an ounce or two of at least 70 percent dark chocolate per day.

Red wine: Drink of the Gods — pair your dark chocolate treat with another sinfully delicious food: a glass of red wine and you have a powerful one-two knockout punch against atherosclerosis—the root cause of most heart attacks and stroke. Studies show that people who drink red wine in moderation—defined as one daily 5-ounce glass for women or two for men—are less likely to suffer a heart attack. Red wine stands apart from all other types of alcoholic beverages in its ability to neutralize heart attack risk due to its collection of powerful antioxidant polyphenols. To tap into wine’s huge cache of powerful polyphenols, be sure to pick red over white. Red wine has ten times the polyphenol content of white wine, because red wine is produced by fermentation of grape juice in the presence of the pulp (skins and seeds), where the polyphenols are produced. (White wine is made by quickly pressing the juice away from the grape solids, hence white wine is merely fermented fruit juice.) Two types of wine shown to top the antioxidant charts are pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.

One additional advantage of enjoying a glass of wine with dinner is that it encourages you to slow down, relax and truly savor your meal. There is no greater pleasure than to sit down to a leisurely dinner of deliciously fresh whole food, artfully prepared, tempered with a flavorful glass of pinot noir, and shared with friends and family. That’s what this month of love is all about.

One caveat: When it comes to drinking alcohol, it is clearly a case of a double-edged sword. One fact is certain: moderation is the magic word, meaning a little is good, and a lot is not better. Wine is beneficial for your health only in moderation.

Celebrate life this February by making a point to take care of yourself and your heart. Eat healthy, exercise, enjoy yourself and stay forever young at heart—here’s to life!

Thick and Rich European-Style Hot Chocolate Treat

Sometimes on these cold winter days, nothing (and I mean nothing) quite compares to the pleasure of sipping a sinfully rich cup of sweet, hot cocoa by the fireplace. Now this is loving life!

Makes three servings, ~½ cup each

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups vanilla soy milk
  • ½ cup natural unsweetened dark cocoa powder (or three squares of unsweetened baking chocolate, melted)
  • ¼ cup sugar (or 1/8 cup Splenda® Sugar Blend)
  • 1 ½ tbsp corn starch

Directions:

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat, pour immediately into three mugs and top with fat-free whipped topping and a dash of cocoa powder, if desired.

Nutrition (Per serving):

Calories: 190, Fat: 4 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 90 mg, Carbohydrate: 31 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugars: 22 g, Protein: 7 g

Note: one serving provides 25% of the DV for calcium, 15% for iron and 8% for vitamin A.

Butter is NOT Back: Heart Health Facts & Tips

Heart Health Tips

Confused about the latest nutrition advice to hit the airwaves: butter is healthy? For years, nutritionists and other heart health professionals have been advising cutting back on our intake of artery-clogging saturated fat, most notably BUTTER. This erroneous and potentially harmful nutrition advice is based on the new meta-analytical research, recently published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine,” which looked at dozens of studies on fats and heart disease from across the globe. Researchers reviewed all of the results and came to the conclusion that saturated fats had no effect on heart disease risk.

What the media has failed to mention is that this single meta-analysis is fraught with scientific error. (So much so, that a number of distinguished scientists are criticizing the paper and even calling on the authors to retract it.) While the research showed no link between saturated fat and heart disease, one of the study’s numerous flaws was that it did not include what people ate to replace saturated fat in their diet. If people replaced saturated fat with carbohydrates such as white bread and simple sugars, their risk for heart disease did not decrease. If, however, they replaced saturated fat with healthy fats — like olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish —then they would reduce their heart disease risk as all fats are not created equally. To address some of these flaws, the study authors quickly posted a new version of the publication.

Heart Health

Americans are thrilled to hear this news as the trend is to move away from processed foods and back to delicious butter, which is considered more of a natural, “real” food. With all the fear about trans fat (man-made hydrogenated fat), and the misleading remarks about saturated fat not being so bad after all, people are starting to erroneously believe that butter is now heart-healthy. Plus, there is nothing like the taste and texture of real butter and so Americans have simply thrown caution to the wind and really don’t know or care that they are eating that much butter. (In fact, butter consumption is at an all-time high—a dangerous trend that will surely contribute to an increase in American deaths from cardiovascular disease.) Perhaps if the public were reintroduced to the fact that butter is NOT a healthy fat and that it contributes to disease, then they would become concerned with their consumption.

5 Heart Health Facts You Need to Know:

1. 2150 Americans die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) each day, an average of 1 death every 40 seconds. Approximately every 34 seconds, 1 American has a coronary event, and approximately every 1 minute 23 seconds, an American will die of one.

2. The total direct and indirect cost of CVD and stroke in the United States for 2010 was estimated to be $315.4 billion.

3. According to the Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics–2014 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association, reducing saturated fat intake while at the same time replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils will reduce coronary artery disease.

4. “A heart-healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet (foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars) and foods high in whole grain fiber, lean protein, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables) you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy– for life!”

5. Despite what the media has led people to believe, butter is NOT a heart-healthy food. Butter is rich in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, two types of fatty substances that have proven to raise the risk of coronary artery disease. Butter is a major source of saturated fat intake in the U.S.

The fact is that the best way to fight heart disease (the nation’s leading killer) is to consume a Mediterranean diet, low in saturated fat and rich in olive oil (monounsaturated fat) and fish (omega-3 fat).

Case in point, the recent headlines:

“Mediterranean diet cuts heart disease risk by 30%: ‘Landmark’ study provides compelling evidence that it’s the type, not the level of fat that counts for cardio health.”

The take away message is to rely on information disseminated by nutrition professionals and make sure that the conclusions are from findings from groups of studies rather than a single study. Arm yourself with sound nutrition knowledge as knowledge is power. Just be sure to get your information from a registered dietitian/nutritionist, the true expert on food and nutrition topics and the primary source of trusted nutrition information.

Dr. Janet’s Parsley Chive Dressing

Dr. Janet’s Parsley Chive Dressing

  • Delicious served on a salad, or a fillet of Grilled Swordfish
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, stalks removed
  • 3 stalks fresh chives, cut into small pieces

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until ingredients are well combined, scraping down the sides of the container at least once.

Serves 12

NUTRITION IN A BOX

Per 2 tablespoon serving:

  • Calories: 123
  • Fat: 14 g (0 g EPA, 0 g DHA, < 1g ALA)
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 18 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 1 g
  • Dietary Fiber: < 1 g
  • Sugars: < 1 g
  • Protein: < 1 g

Recipe excerpt from Dr. Janet’s Book: Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease