Have you gotten a diagnosis of hypertension or simply want to take better care of your heart health? If you have, you should use these foods to create delicious, heart healthy recipes.
We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.
Not everyone can afford to retain a dietician or clinical nutritionist. And there are so many heart-healthy diets online that can be quite prescriptive and intimidating to start. I get that.
I’ve always found that, as a home cook, it’s more relatable to tweak the recipes that you’re used to cooking with. It can be an easier way to gauge just how strict your eating style needs to be to look after your heart health. So, modifying your recipes is a lot of fun and creative experience for you in the kitchen. Plus, nutritional cooking will improve health overall because the ingredients build and heal health.
So, compile a list of your favorite recipes. Try to include a balance of long and short recipes – main meals, breakfasts, and snacks.
In this article, I give you a list of nutrient-dense foods and ingredients. Use these to modify your existing recipes. Turn them into heart healthy recipes without sacrificing taste appeal. And you won’t compromise satiety either because most of these foods are so high in fiber, they’ll keep you fuller for longer.
You can consume these foods as standalone meals or add them to existing recipes.
When swapping out recipe ingredients, ensure you have a dominant flavor profile or theme. The flavors need to make sense for the dish to be interesting. It can get confusing when you’re swapping out and adding in, so focus on the dominant flavor and you won’t be disappointed with your result.
For instance, if you’re swapping out meat for a plant-based alternative, it needs to dominate the dish while the rest compliments its flavor.
As an example, if you’re swapping out meat with Chickpeas, make the entire dish a chickpea curry with a carrot pickle on the side.
Heart healthy foods list – Less ‘meaty’ recipe alternatives
When it comes to heart-healthy meals, you’re not mistaken for thinking that you may need to cut out or cut down on red meat.
So don’t worry, there are plenty of wonderful and tasty alternatives to it.
You can swap out any red meat with plant-based, lean poultry or fatty fish alternatives such as:
These contain the same amount of protein as red meat. It also contains Vitamin K which is important for regulating the blood clotting process. Potassium is another mineral that’s beneficial for heart health as it facilitates muscle contraction. Blood vessels require adequate contraction and expansion to ensure blood is pumping to the heart at the appropriate rate and pressure.
Salmon or any fatty white fish
These fish contain a high amount of Omega 3, beneficial for heart health as it prevents the build-up of plaque in the artery walls. This substance can block arteries and can cause a heart attack.
Include kidney beans and chickpeas in heart healthy recipes, as they are high in fiber.
High-fiber foods reduce blood pressure and chronic inflammation. Beans and chickpeas are also great for gut health as the high fiber content can help reduce LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol). So you’re targeting both functions at the same time.
All three are high in fiber and great for gut health too; they support lowering blood sugar levels which have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
- Carrots – It is a good source of Potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. This carotenoid-rich vegetable does this by reducing inflammation.
- Kale – It contains Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that activates proteins that play a significant role in blood clotting and heart and bone health1. It’s a source of dietary fiber that aids in weight loss and lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Beetroot – Rich in Potassium, Magnesium, and dietary nitrates, it helps to reduce blood pressure, improve circulation, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
They also lower blood sugar levels and have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
This vegetable is alkaline – also great for skin allergies and very eczema-friendly – and a good option if you suffer from gut health issues or want to reduce the acidity in your diet.
White potatoes are well known to be good for heart health in particular because it’s all the heart-healthy nutrients rolled into one ie. Potassium, Vitamin B6 and C, high fiber. The best and most interesting is that it has zero cholesterol.
As mentioned before, any high-fiber foods lower cholesterol, lowering your risk of developing full-blown heart disease.
I recommend adding superfoods to as many dishes as your can. It’s a key nutritional ingredient in my cooking. ‘Superfood’ is a superficial word that’s been used to describe foods that contain a potent amount of nutrients in a small quantity.
So, you don’t need to consume too much of a superfood to get the maximum amount of nutrient density.
All types of berries are excellent sources of antioxidants, with blueberries being the best out of the lot. Be careful with strawberries as they are considered one of the ‘dirty dozen‘ foods as their crops are the most heavily sprayed (with pesticides).
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are a good source of Omega 3 which is well known for its heart health benefits. Almonds, Macadamia, Pecans, and Hazelnuts – you can see that these are the fattiest of all the nuts – are known to be particularly heart-healthy.
Raw almonds are high in fiber and Vitamin E. Again, the high fiber will be good for lowering cholesterol. There are lots of sweet and savory heart healthy recipes where you can include almonds as either a base or a flavor profile (usually desserts).
Have you tried a vegan almond burger patty instead of a red meat one? If it sounds strange, don’t be put off. It’s delicious! Check out this recipe example.
It’s high in healthy fats and can lower LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) as well as blood sugar levels. It’s a popular nut option in low-carb eating styles.
It’s high in unsaturated fats, but you should consume it in moderation. The great thing about these particular nuts is that they contain zero cholesterol and trans-fats.
High in Omega 3 and phenolic compounds these nuts help reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol. All these qualities are beneficial for lowering blood pressure.
Skinless Chicken breast
Yes, it still falls into the meat category, but it is a leaner option.
I’ve found that eating it shredded in a salad keeps you fuller for longer. You can get a lot more out of a shredded portion – as opposed to a whole breast piece – if you’re budget-conscious.
Make your recipes healthy by reducing your Salt intake
Salt is crucial for optimal health and physical survival, so don’t shy away from it.
We need it for:
- muscle contraction
- to prevent dehydration
- to regulate our nervous system
- to prevent low blood pressure
If you are hypertensive or prone to high blood pressure, you should reduce your salt intake as a rule. You should always target low sodium heart healthy recipes.
The recommended daily intake is no more than 2,300mg per day which is 5g (1 teaspoon)2. The American Heart Association advises that you can cut as far back as 1,000mg per day if you suffer from high blood pressure3. *
Instead of table salt use:
This salt is less processed and has less sodium than regular iodized table salt. It has been known to help control blood pressure because of its high Potassium. It’s also low in iodine, notable if you have a thyroid condition.
Also known as Pink Salt, is one of the most well-known types of rock salt. It has less sodium per teaspoon and is also saltier, meaning you would add less of it to heart healthy recipes. But, it still needs to be used in moderation as with all salt.
My personal favorite and it’s loaded with Vitamin C antioxidants which are beneficial for heart health. You should salt in moderation. But when you feel that the flavor is too weak or the food is underseasoned, add some fresh lemon to balance or bring out the flavor in the food.
Try a new Rice recipe or a heart healthy alternative
Swap out regular white rice for:
Oats – a beloved healthy recipe ingredient
The most popular and well-known of all the grains. Oats are still a popular grain recommended by dieticians and it’s easy to understand why.
It’s so high in fiber making it beneficial to consume if you are hypertensive or prone to blood pressure spikes.
Oats help reduce the risk of disease by lowering blood pressure. This is mainly due to its antioxidant content in avenanthramides4.
Better yet, oats also play a role in lowering cholesterol because it contains Beta-glucan. These are soluble fibers from the walls of some fungi and plant foods. They contain antioxidants that protect cell walls from LDL4 or the bad cholesterol we’re all keen to avoid. So eating oats can affect your cholesterol profile in a good way.
This rice is a whole grain and because of that, it helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. Try Cilantro & lemon juice basmati rice. Make this by adding a teaspoon of turmeric & cinnamon to basmati rice.
This grain is low in carbs and very high in protein. It’s excellent as a pasta, rice, and bread alternative in heart healthy recipes. It makes a fantastic salad base as well as a rice replacement in sushi rolls.
This humble veggie is all the rage as a gluten-free rice alternative, a low-carb mash, and also as a vegan ‘steak’.
The easiest way to prepare cauliflower rice is to chop and pulse in a food processor until a rough rice consistency forms. Then roast in the oven coated with olive oil or sauté on the stovetop.
Otherwise, slice up your cauliflower head into thick slices. Roast or toast these coated in olive oil and sprinkled with savory spices. Serve topped with sautéed veggies, shredded chicken, melted cheese, or cashew cream. For a decadent version, layer with all of them.
Do you hate discarding avocado because it’s gone all brown? Squeezing lemon juice works well but it’s not as effective as keeping it in a sealed holder like this one. This storage container makes your avocados last longer. It’s worth having if you’re meal prepping in advance.
These are delightful and perfect for saving your conventional containers for storing actual cooked meals.
Brown lentils – a cheap heart healthy meal
Combine lentils (or beans) with a grain (rice or oats) and you’ll have a complete protein. Lentils are a low GI food meaning they will not spike blood sugar levels and provide a sustained release of energy.
Red lentils come in varieties such as Masoor dal (brown lentils), Punja dal (pigeon peas), and Methi dal (fenugreek). If you are an allergy sufferer like me, you can swap these out for Mung Dal. Made from split Mung Beans, it is alkaline and salicylate-free.
Red lentils, in particular, are known to be anti-inflammatory so it’s great to include them in your heart healthy diet.
Millet – important for heart rhythm
It raises HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) and lowers triglycerides, so it’s great for heart health. Millet is also a good source of magnesium. Magnesium is known for regulating a healthy heart rhythm (beat). It transports electrolytes to cells, which are responsible for sending nerve signals and muscle contraction relating to heart beat5.
25 Recipes for a Healthy Heart
These low sodium, heart healthy recipes ideas contain at least one or two of the foods mentioned above. It also uses the ingredients in ways recommended in the above sections.
These simple heart-healthy recipes are relatively cheap to make and not complicated to put together. Some of them are even freezer-friendly meals.
- Red Lentil Soup
- Ginger Poached Salmon
- Roast Vegetables with Kale Pepper Pesto
- Red Cabbage & Carrot Slaw Salad
- Carrot Ginger Soup
- Avocado Toast
- Smoothie Bowl
- Overnight Oats
- Banana Peanut Butter Cashew Milk Smoothie
- Chickpea Curry with Quinoa
- Kale Juice
- Homemade Granola
- Red Cabbage, Carrot and shredded chicken salad
- Beetroot Juice
- Cashew Milk
- Kale Avocado Smoothie
- Blueberry Rolled Oats mini crumble
- Lentil Potato Shepherd’s Pie
- Oat, Banana, Almond Breakfast pancakes
- Chickpea Falafel burgers / wraps
- Sweet potato black bean tacos
- Chickpea Salad with green dressing
- Healthy Cauliflower Rice
- Healthy Cauliflower Fried Rice
- Crunchy Ramen Noodle Cabbage Salad
So, have you made picked out which ingredients you’re going to start swapping out with?
Healthy swaps are a great way to learn nutritional cooking because you start applying them to other meal types for other times of the day.
When you modify your recipes for Heart Health, you target other possible health concerns at the same time. The nutrients can be beneficial for the optimal function of other metabolic processes in the body such as what’s happening in the gut microbiome and bowel movement.
This is where the high fiber content of carrots and beets plays a role while also helping with lowering blood pressure.
It’s a good way to target certain health conditions or allergies to food.
As good practice, always consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner when drastically changing your diet or starting supplements.
Do you want to learn nutritional cooking, but don’t know where to start?
If you found this post helpful, leave a comment, I value everyone’s feedback.
*cravenutritionalcooking.com does not give medical advice. Where there is a reference to it, the phrasing is merely used to illustrate a point or give context to food and cooking for nutrition information. It is not related to a specific condition or any specific individual. Always consult your healthcare professional for medical and dietetic advice before embarking on any type of eating plan or ingesting nutritional supplements.
See our Policies page for more details