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10 Heart-Healthy Meals Cardiologists Cook for Themselves

Following a heart-healthy diet is easy when you have tested and taste-approved recipes straight from the kitchens of cardiologists.

Heart-healthy recipes

It’s so important to eat right for your heart. Fill your day with heart-healthy meals that include with fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Need help coming up with ideas? We asked cardiologists for some of their favorite heart-healthy recipes. Check out their nutritious and tasty heart-healthy recipes (and be sure to check out the best and worst diets for heart health) .

olive Tapenadeetorres/Shutterstock

Olive tapenade

Olives are a staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, and one of the best ways to incorporate them into the foods that you already eat is to make a tapenade. (Think: wraps, pasta dishes, pizzas, etc.) “Olives are antioxidant-rich, helping to lower bad cholesterol and the risk of heart disease,” says Jim Froehlich, MD, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan provider and University of Michigan cardiologist. “They also contain healthy monounsaturated fats, which reduce atherosclerosis and increase good cholesterol levels.” (Check out some more foods that lower cholesterol.)

Ingredients

Half-pound of Kalamata and green olives, pitted

1 anchovy fillet, rinsed

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of capers

3 fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Rinse olives in cool water.
  2. Place all ingredients in food processor and process to combine thoroughly, until it becomes a coarse paste.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and serve with your favorite vegetables and toast points.

grilled salmonmashe/Shutterstock

Grilled salmon with maple-mustard marinade

Part of a heart-healthy meal plan, this quick-and-easy marinade can be made ahead of time. “The flavorful marinade complements fresh tuna or salmon and provides just the right touch of sweetness, without packing on the calories, sugar, and sodium that people normally find in a store-bought marinade like teriyaki or barbecue sauce, plus, it’s also low in carbohydrates,” says Dr. Froehlich. “Our biggest dietary concern in the U.S. is excessive calorie intake because our diet is unnecessarily rich in carbohydrates,” he says. When combined with the heart-healthy fats found in fish, this marinade provides healthy oils and is rich with nutrients. “Olive oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids and part of a Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to decrease the risk for heart disease,” says Dr. Froehlich. Vinegar and garlic are rich in antioxidants, which fight free radicals in the body. “Free radicals build up over time and can contribute to heart disease and cancer, among other ailments.”

Ingredients

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 teaspoons of minced garlic

2 tablespoons of vinegar (Dr. Froehlich recommends balsamic)

1/3 cup natural maple syrup

1/4 cup spicy brown or Dijon mustard

4 8-ounce salmon steaks

Directions

Mix all ingredients together. Pour the marinade over the salmon and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight, then grill or bake. Makes enough for two pounds of fish.

Tuna avocado saladNadiia Korol/Shutterstock

Tuna-avocado salad with dried cherries

Finding recipes with heart-healthy fats like the ones in avocados can help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind), says Dr. Froehlich. The Montmorency tart cherries are good for heart health because they are packed with antioxidants that help fight inflammation and may help lower body fat and cholesterol, which are both associated with an increased risk of heart disease. “Albacore tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, which keeps you feeling fuller longer.” (For more ideas, check out some other things cardiologists do to protect their own hearts.)

Ingredients

1/2 avocado, diced

4 ounces of albacore tuna

1 heaping tablespoon of dried Montmorency tart cherries

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

Pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until combined.

overnight oatsJeniFoto/Shutterstock

Overnight oats

A great option for those who don’t have a lot of time in the morning to prepare breakfast, overnight oats offer many heart-healthy benefits. This version is from Andrew Freeman, MD, cardiologist at National Jewish Health. “Besides the antioxidants from the berries and the omega-3 fatty acids from ground flaxseed, oatmeal is loaded with fiber which can bind cholesterol in the diet, promote bowel regularity—it’s also quite satiating,” he says. “The soy milk adds a nice protein boost, and many of the spices and add-ins are loaded with antioxidants.”

Ingredients

1/2 cup of oats

1 teaspoon ground flaxseed

Small handful of almonds or walnuts

Small handful of dried blueberries

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup soy or almond milk

1 tablespoon almond milk yogurt

Directions

1. Layer the oats, flaxseed, nuts, dried blueberries, and cinnamon in a Mason jar and top with the soy or almond milk (organic or unsweetened).

2. Let it sit in the fridge overnight.

3. In the morning, top with a tablespoon of almond milk-based yogurt. Add a drizzle of maple syrup or chopped dates for sweetness.

Whole-grain-spaghetti with marinaraAnna Shepulova/Shutterstock

Whole wheat spaghetti with marinara and turkey meatballs

This recipe is an ideal staple for a heart-healthy meal plan because it packs in the flavor and has more fiber and vegetables and less saturated fat and sodium than the original comfort food classic. “The main premise for eating heart healthy is to eat real food, rather than food that is processed,” says Nieca Goldberg, MD, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Health and spokesperson for the American Heart Association. Turkey meatballs are lower in fat than traditional meatballs, especially if you use white meat turkey, she explains, but because you are using low-fat turkey, you want to give the meatballs some volume. “I like to add whole wheat bread crumbs or half a cup of multigrain cereal.” You can give the marinara sauce an added heart-healthy boost by adding more vegetables, such as parsley, chopped celery, or carrots for sweetness, she says. This allows you to reap the proven benefits of the DASH Diet, which includes lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

Ingredients

1 pound of extra-lean or fat-free ground turkey breast

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Fresh parsley

1/2 cup multigrain cereal (smashed) or whole wheat bread crumbs

1 pound of whole wheat spaghetti

57-ounce can of no-salt-added, low-sodium tomatoes

14-ounce can of low-sodium carrots

14.4-ounce package of frozen stir-fry peppers and onions

1 medium zucchini (chopped)

4 cloves fresh garlic (minced)

2 tablespoons of salt-free dried Italian spices

Directions

1. Mix the turkey, cereal, pepper, and fresh parsley and form into meatballs.

2. In a large pot over medium heat, mash the carrots and add the vegetables and spices, bring to a boil, and then cover and simmer.

3. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Make the spaghetti according to the directions, serve with the marinara and meatballs.

oven fried-chickenfrom my point of view/Shutterstock

Oven-fried chicken

Fried chicken is delicious but it is loaded with fat, says Dr. Goldberg. One of her favorite heart-healthy meals, oven-fried chicken, uses skinless chicken soaked in non-fat buttermilk. “The recipe calls for whole wheat flour, but sometimes I use cornflake crumbs (they are fat and cholesterol-free),” she says. Unlike traditional fried chicken, which requires you to fill the frying pan partially with oil, this recipe uses spritzes of cooking spray. “For flavor, we use herbs such as black pepper and paprika, which helps us avoid salt. I pair the chicken with oven-roasted potatoes coated with garlic and parsley instead of French fries and cook them at a high temperature so they get brown.”

Ingredients

Cooking spray

1 whole skinless chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 cup fat-free buttermilk

1 egg

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

2 large potatoes cut into 1-inch strips

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Spray a wire rack with cooking spray and place on baking sheet.

3. Whisk buttermilk and egg together in a shallow bowl.

4. Dip the chicken in the buttermilk mixture and then coat with flour, place on rack.

5. Lightly spray chicken with baking spray and bake 30 minutes, turn over and cook an additional 20 minutes.

Mediterranean Saladgresei/Shutterstock

Mediterranean salad

For salad to be considered a meal, it has to have substance, says Dr. Goldberg. “You can make it more substantial by chopping up some chicken, mashing an avocado into the salad, or adding some chickpeas or low-fat cheese such as feta.” For the dressing, she makes a quick vinaigrette, using just balsamic vinegar, olive oil, black pepper, and a teaspoon of mustard. “You don’t need to add salt because mustard already has salt.” For those looking cut calories, Dr. Goldberg suggests putting the salad dressing into the bowl first. “You cover the bottom of the bowl, then toss it up into the salad—you end up using less salad dressing that way.” (Here are other tricks to make your diet more Mediterranean.)

Ingredients

1 head of green leaf lettuce

1 chopped cucumber

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

15-ounce can of no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fat-free or low-fat feta, crumbled

Directions

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing, and enjoy.

Sweet-potato-friesbitt24/Shutterstock

Sweet potato fries

Sweet potatoes are a perfect side dish for heart-healthy meals. They are loaded with vitamin A (one potato has 400 percent of your daily requirement) and research like a 2014 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food shows that they have proven anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory benefits. They are also high in fiber and potassium and contain fewer calories (about 110 in one sweet potato) than a traditional potato. “Sweet potatoes are lower glycemic than white potatoes, and because they are a root vegetable, they are lower in carbs,” says Dr. Goldberg. One of her favorite recipes to make at home is sweet potato fries. “They smell great when they are cooking and they go well with turkey burgers,” she says.

Ingredients

2 whole sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

Extra-virgin olive oil

Black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Place the sweet potato wedges on a prepared baking sheet.

2. Drizzle with olive oil and pepper.

3. Bake at 425 degrees until brown.

Zucchini-noodlescasanisa/Shutterstock

Avo-fredo zoodles

Substituting zucchini noodles for traditional noodles are a good way to cut the carbs, says Dr. Goldberg. This recipe puts a heart-healthy twist on the traditional high-calorie and fat-laden pasta Alfredo by using a creamy, dairy-free avocado Alfredo sauce. (Find out the best and worst diets for heart health.)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

15-20 raw, medium shrimp

2-3 large zucchini, spiraled into zoodles

1 medium avocado (pitted, peeled, and cut)

1/4 cup fresh basil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic

Directions

1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, add the shrimp and cook until pink. Remove the pan from the heat and place shrimp in a covered bowl to keep warm.

2. In the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat the pan, add the zoodles.

3. Place the avocado, basil, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor and blend until creamy.

4. Stir the sauce into the zoodles and cook for four minutes.

5. Stir in the shrimp and cook for one minute.

Squash-spaghettiLilly Trott/Shutterstock

Spaghetti squash spaghetti

Spaghetti squash is low in calories (just 42 calories in one cup compared to 200 calories in traditional pasta) and is a great alternative to include in heart-healthy meals. It is also low in carbs and is loaded with nutrients such as vitamins C and A, which help prevent free-radical damage, as well as potassium and calcium, which help to lower blood pressure. If you have the time to prepare it, spaghetti squash is a delicious heart-healthy recipe, says Goldberg. The versatile squash also can be used as a serving bowl in creative recipes such as these turkey-and-kale-stuffed spaghetti squash boats.

Ingredients

1 3-pound spaghetti squash

Vegetable marinara sauce

Fresh basil

Pepper to taste

Directions

1. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, and place facedown on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for one hour.

2. After the spaghetti squash has cooled, use a fork to scrape out the flesh of the squash to create noodles.

3. Place the noodles in a bowl, cover with marinara sauce and fresh basil.

Next up: Check out these 13 foods that cardiologists try to never eat.

Sources

Kim Fredericks
Kim Fredericks is a freelance writer, content specialist, and editor with 20 years experience covering fitness, travel, hotels, design, real estate, and luxury lifestyle topics for major publications and web sites such as the Robb Report, Luxury magazine, Reader's Digest, and Oyster. Kim earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and English from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and a Masters in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston. She is an avid skier, golfer, and outdoor enthusiast. She lives in the NYC Metro area with her husband Victor and Rocky the Jack Russell. Visit her website: Kim Fredericks.