Whole and plant-based foods are your heart's best friend. Processed foods like oils and white flours are the enemy. Stick to those basic rules and you'll help keep your heart in good working order, according to Lauray MacElhern, the managing director of the UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine
MacElhern says heart-healthy recipes use whole foods and as many colorful veggies as possible. Meat and dairy should also be reduced. In place of meat and dairy, she recommends replacing them with as much green leafy vegetables, legumes, beans, fruit, seeds and nuts as possible. Add in stress-reducing activities such as meditation and yoga to your daily schedule and your heart will benefit even more.
One popular recipe at UCSD's Natural Healing & Cooking program uses adzuki beans, a centuries-old component in Chinese medicine, and combines it with winter squash, which is full of antioxidants and phytonutrients. Serve with brown rice and dark leafy vegetables or wrapped in a lettuce leaf or steamed green for a low-carb option.
Adobo Adzuki Beans & Squash
1 cup of adzuki beans, washed and soaked overnight
2 cups of hard winter squash (butternut, buttercup, delicata, hubbard, red kuri squash, hokkaido pumpkin), cubed
1 onion, sliced
2 teaspoons of Adobo seasoning, to taste
1 cup of chopped cilantro, green onion, or arugula
Place adzuki beans in a pot with enough water to cover beans by 3 to 4 inches. Soak overnight. Discard soaking water.
Place beans and four cups of fresh water in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and bring to boil. Do not add salt to beans. Scrape off any foam that begins to appear in the boiling beans. Cover and return to a simmer until the beans begin to soften (about 40 minutes). Strain beans and remove excess water.
In a separate skillet, on medium heat, saute cubed squash and sliced onions with sea salt, adobo seasoning and a bit of water to prevent sticking. Cook 10 to 20 minutes until tender. Add beans to skillet.
Turn off flame and allow dish to sit several minutes covered before serving. Stir in chopped greens (cilantro, green onion, or arugula) at the end, with a bit reserved to garnish on top.