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Celebrate Heart Health Month: Which Oil is best for your Heart?

As I’m sure you’re well aware of by now, February is Heart Health Month. With all of the attention given these days to having the perfect figure, many people lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is not only to have a trim physique but also to have a healthy body, inside and out. Heart health is often a subject that gets ignored by most people when they are only concerned about the amount of calories and/or carbohydrates a certain food has. However, Cardiovascular Disease still takes the lives of 2150 Americans each day. (heart.org) One huge contributor to cholesterol levels are oils. Whether you’re cooking a dish, making your own salad dressing or baking some sweet treats, the type of oil that you use can have a direct impact on your cholesterol levels. So, how do you know which one to choose? Here are the top 3 most common oils and how they can affect your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.

Olive Oil: In recent years, olive oil has gained in popularity, mainly due to its heart healthy properties. Because of its mix of antioxidants, olive oil can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol without changing your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Coconut Oil: Although there is still a lot of research out about the exact health benefits of coconut oil, there are some general conclusions that tend to be the same across the board. As we’ve touched on in previous articles, coconut oil is becoming hugely popular (and controversial) due to its touted benefits. It appears that coconut oil does increase the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in your body. However, it may also increase the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. So, do the pros outweigh the cons?

Vegetable/Canola Oil: Vegetable oil has long been a staple in American pantries. It’s the most commonly used cooking oil. Canola oil has only 7% saturated fat and works to lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol. That’s really a good combination.

Although there are many choices when it comes to cooking oils, it’s always important to remember that different oils will impact your overall cholesterol levels, both good and bad. An increase in total cholesterol isn’t always a bad thing. What’s important to focus on is your ratio of LDL to HDL. If you are facing a serious heart problem like cardiovascular disease or other risk of stroke, it’s important to consult a doctor about how to manage your diet. However, if you’re someone looking to get your whole body in shape, not just your outside appearance, start by paying attention to your heart health.

Are you a dietitian or educator looking to teach your patients about heart health? NCES offers a full line of heart healthy educational tools, including the “Busting the Myths about Fats: Saturated Fat” and “Busting the Myths about Fats: Monounsaturat Fat” tear pads.

heart health

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A Celebratory Meal!

May is a usually a busy month for everyone. But, it is especially busy when it comes to celebrating food! From asparagus to hamburgers and BBQ to strawberries, May is the time to use all of these foods because they are in season, fresh and just fun to make. To get everyone celebrating, we’ve put together a whole meal worth of recipes incorporating all of the foods celebrated during the month of May.

Appetizer: (Salsa Month)

Get some multi-grain tortilla chips and pair them with this delicious ‘Salsa Fresca’.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/3 Onion (diced)
  • Cilantro (chopped)
  • 3 Garlic bulbs
  • 1 Lime (juiced)
  • Salt (to taste)

It’s so simple! Mix all your ingredients in a bowl and Joila, you have a fresh bowl of salsa.

Main Dish: (BBQ, Beef and Hamburger Month)

This grilled summer favorite will be simple and also satisfy your BBQ craving!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Lean Hamburger
  • 1/3 Onion (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce

Mix all of your ingredients together. Patty the burgers and grill. Top these delicious burgers with fresh lettuce, tomato, pickles and condiments. You’re sure to please the whole family!

Side Dish: (Asparagus Month)

Grilled Asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Fresh Asparagus
  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

After you flavor the asparagus with the oil, salt and pepper, grill it. Be sure to turn it so that all sides cook evenly.

Salad: (Salad and Egg Month)

This simple cobb salad is a throwback to the salads you had growing up. Mix it up and enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Bacon (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 8 oz. Romaine Lettuce (about 12 cups packed)
  • 4 cups Roast Chicken (skinned, boned, diced)
  • 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 cup Blue Cheese (crumbled)
  • 2 Ripe Avocados (halved, peeled, pitted, diced)
  • 4 Hard-Boiled Eggs (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 cups Green Onions (chopped)

Make a base with your romaine lettuce. Then, lay all the other toppings across the top for a great presentation. This salad is great with a light ranch or honey mustard. But, can also be enjoyed with any dressing of your choice.

Dessert: (Strawberry Month)

Nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than a bowl of fresh strawberries… unless of course you add Angel Food Cake and Whipped Topping to the mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Angel Food Cake (Prepared or Homemade)
  • 3 cups Fresh Strawberries (cleaned and sliced)
  • 2 cups Fat Free Whipped Topping

In a deep bowl, layer your ingredients. 1st, angel food cake. Then, whipped topping. Place strawberries on top of the whipped topping. Then repeat this layering process as many times as your bowl will allow.

We hope that your entire family will enjoy sharing this early summer meal, celebrating the many flavors of May!