healthy food on table in heart shaped containers

Healthy Hearts, Happy Taste Buds

If you’re looking for ways to take a step for your heart health, start by looking at what you put on your plate. Food that comes from animals generally contains "bad fats" that put you on the path toward heart disease when eaten in excess.

How can you indulge and still get the nutrition your body needs? Easy, it’s time to make some substitutions! Jenna Davidson, MS, RDN, is a clinical dietitian with Community Health Network. She provides some helpful advice for us to have healthy hearts and happy taste buds.

Swap in Salmon

Everyone knows to cut back on red meats, but a lot of people don’t know how much flavor you can find in lean proteins like salmon.

Salmon is a great meal to add to your cooking repertoire. It isn’t just packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, it’s also a versatile staple for lunch and dinner. You can bake it in the oven, pan-sear it or even grill it if the weather calls for it.

“Aim to eat salmon twice a week to reap the benefits of heart-healthy fats,” says Jenna. Try making a simple teriyaki or honey garlic glaze, or cooking it with lemon and capers along with pasta.

You don’t even have to eat meat to get the benefits of a healthy meal like salmon, says Jenna. “Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, flax seeds, canola and soybean oils.” Try adding those ingredients to salads or other meals for a healthy boost for your heart.

Meet the Meatless Burgers

A word about those meatless burgers: go easy on them. It’s true that they’re made from plant-based ingredients that are better for the planet, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily better for your body.

The Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger still contain considerable amounts of unhealthy fats. Each serving is about 30-40% of your recommended daily intake for saturated fat, and they pack roughly the same caloric content as a real burger.

“There are healthier plant-based burger options,” says Jenna. “Black bean burger patties are just as delicious and provide a good source of fiber. Using beans and soy foods for protein instead of animal products may help reduce your risk for heart disease, too.”

On the plus side, plant-based burgers contain zero cholesterol so they’re not all bad. Just keep thinking of them for what they are — burgers — and make them a once-in-a-while meal.

Be Better About Butter

There are plenty of ways to get that buttery goodness without all the bad saturated fat that comes with it.

“Instead of butter or stick margarine, try reduced-fat, liquid or whipped spreads. A little goes a long way. Even with the healthier spreads, it’s a good idea to watch how much you’re using.”

Instead of adding butter to the pan to sauté your dinner, try an oil. Most oils are packed with healthier unsaturated fats and can add extra depth of flavor to your meal. Olive and canola oils are two replacements you might have on hand, but avocado and peanut oils are worth exploring for different meals.

Butter is a crucial part of most baking recipes, but it’s not irreplaceable. Other creamy ingredients can do the trick and make your baked goods a bit healthier. Greek yogurt, applesauce and avocado can be substituted in certain recipes to cut back on saturated fat.

A dietary change can take time, but here’s an easy step you can take in the next 15 minutes. If you have questions or concerns about your heart health, take Community’s heart health risk assessment. Just answer a few questions about your lifestyle and history, and you’ll get a personalized plan for your heart health journey.