Some home cooks have a knack for throwing together a bit of this and a bit of that, creating magic in the kitchen. I am not one of those people. Give me a tried and true recipe any day. If you’re like me, and you’re constantly on the hunt for heart-healthy recipes, you might feel a bit overwhelmed when you go searching. Between the Internet and cookbooks, there are millions of them.
That’s actually reasonable, because heart-healthy eating is flexible, with abundant choices, not a precise, austere diet. It’s simply more vegetables, fruit, legumes (beans, etc.), nuts, seeds, fish, whole grains, dairy, and healthy fats than most people regularly eat. (And yes, less sodium, refined grains, sugar, and processed meat, but focus on incorporating cardioprotective foods first and foremost.)
These are some of my go-to sources; recipe collections centred around the nourishing foods we’re looking to emphasize:
- Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada – No surprise I’d start here, with their explicit focus on cardiovascular health and wide range of foods. I often send people to this website to look for fish recipes, as so many struggle with that — at least twice a week is a stretch, in Alberta at least.
- Cookspiration –
This is the Dietitians of Canada online collection, and like Heart & Stroke, this source meets people where they’re at, featuring commonly used ingredients and plenty of pork, beef, and chicken recipes (in addition to vegetarian and fish).
There are also categories like “wheat free” or “peanut free” if you have allergies or intolerances. It’s beautifully photographed and features useful navigation options like “kid approved” or “get prepared” alongside traditional recipe categories. Dietitians get how people think about food.
- lentils.org – Most of the food records I review are sorely lacking in beans, lentils, and other legumes/pulses, so I often send people hunting through this online collection of delicious, affordable, (mostly) heart-healthy lentil recipes developed by chef Michael Smith and others.
- Nourish: Whole Food Recipes Featuring Seeds, Nuts and Beans – This cookbook, written by culinary dietitian Cara Rosenbloom RD and chef Nettie Cronish, is centred around heart-healthy, nutrient-dense plant foods. It’s vegetarian-friendly, but includes some meat, fish, and poultry dishes too. Bonus: The nutrition advice is evidence-based and again, luscious food pics.
All four of these sources include the nutrition information for every recipe, so you can check the sodium or other nutrients that may be of importance to you.
The following are my “honourable mentions.” Some caveats, but my copies are well used.
- Oh She Glows – While you don’t have to eat a vegan diet for heart health, incorporating a few more plant-based meals every week is a great idea for everyone, and writer Angela Liddon has a knack for making them taste amazing. Her two cookbooks and extensive online recipe collection are popular with vegans and flexitarians alike. But don’t take the nutrition advice too seriously. Just experiment and enjoy!
- Julie van Rosendaal – Julie is a favourite Canadian food writer and a prolific recipe blogger. I think I cook and recommend more of her dishes than anyone else’s. While some of the recipes include foods we’re aiming for less of, like bacon or sausage, it’s fine to eat those occasionally. She makes cooking so easy, mouth-watering, and accessible, I couldn’t not include her. In particular I like her cookbook (with Sue Duncan) Spilling the Beans. (There is also a similar beans category on her blog.)
Not so subtle theme: Eat more beans! (And lentils, dried peas, chickpeas…)
If you don’t want to go out and buy a bunch of new cookbooks, online is an option, of course, but also check your library. Calgary Public Library, at least, has over 7500 cookbooks! You can put one on hold and have it delivered to your local branch.
Finally, don’t forget your personal recipe collection. Perhaps you already have a repertoire of recipes based on those heart-healthy foods. If not, start experimenting, and when you find one you like, make sure to save it in a systematic way, so you can find it again. A binder, a folder on your computer. Simple is good.
How about you? What are your favourite places to go hunting for heart-healthy recipes? Share your insights via Facebook.
This is an excerpt from The Sweet Spot Guide to Eating Well After a Heart Attack. Click here for a free copy.