Cooking more at home? Diverse food cultures can expand heart-healthy menu

For many in the United States, dinner means a large portion of meat and two sides, usually a starch and a vegetable. Think steak, potatoes and peas, or chicken, carrots and rice.

“That’s a very American and northern European idea—a meal which stems from a large amount of meat being available, and also wealth,” said Amy Bentley, a professor of food studies at New York University.

But trying different dishes from diverse cultures can open up a new menu of heart-healthy food options and go-to meal ideas. And now, with more people making their own meals as they stay home to limit the spread of the coronavirus, what better time than World Day of Cultural Diversity to try something different for dinner?

Meat is just an accent on the dish in many other parts of the world, said Bentley, author of “Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health and the Industrialization of the American Diet.” Vegetables, including legumes like black beans or chickpeas, make up a medium portion of the plate. A starch like rice or polenta usually makes up the largest portion. Spices add flavor.

Think an Indian curry or Chinese stir-fried chicken and vegetables.

If you’re cooking the dish for the first time, Bentley recommends making a smaller amount or going light on spicier ingredients to get used to the flavors.

Keep moderation in mind when sizing up portions, too, said Ronaldo Linares, a New Jersey-based chef and restaurant consultant who teaches cooking classes. Linares, who comes from a Cuban-Colombian background, wrote the cookbook, “Sabores de Cuba,” a recipe collection of classic Cuban dishes with a healthy, diabetes-friendly twist.

Eating one big meal has the potential to cause fluctuations in blood sugar, Linares said. Research shows fluctuations in blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol could put people at higher risk for heart attack or stroke.

Using fresh ingredients and avoiding processed foods can add interesting flavors, he added. “If you are sticking to the guidelines of traditional cooking, it’s going to be naturally healthy.”

Instead of store-bought salsa, Bentley suggested making homemade salsa with chopped-up tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapenos and a pinch of salt. If a recipe calls for butter, Linares suggested substituting avocado oil or olive oil, which are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Both Linares and Bentley noted that for some families, a lack of access to affordable, fresh ingredients can hamper the ability to eat diverse or healthier foods. Food choices also can be influenced by the exposure to ads for sugary drinks and fast food, regardless of one’s racial or ethnic background.

Just 1 in 10 adults meet the daily recommendation of having at least 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables as part of a healthy eating pattern, according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Ultimately, we need a better food environment,” Bentley said. “It’s too much to expect the individual to be solely responsible because so much of this is about the food that’s available in the culture as well as socioeconomic issues.”

Some general nutritional guidelines can fit into meals within any cultural preference, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They include making half your plate fruits and vegetables, and adding calcium-rich foods to each meal.

“It’s better to talk about healthy approaches to eating through actual food rather than nutrients,” Bentley said, “and not get hung up on portions and the minute mechanics that only adds to people’s stress.”

The American Heart Association suggests a healthy dietary pattern to reduce heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Plant-based and Mediterranean diets are singled out in AHA dietary guidelines.

Linares picked Peruvian cuisine when asked to highlight another food culture for people looking to try heart-healthy but flavorful alternatives. His sample meal starts with ceviche, a seafood dish.

“So, let’s say a ceviche of cooked octopus. It’s super tender, they char it, serve it cold, toss it in some lime juice and some herbs,” he said. “Then you have a sweet potato puree and add some aromatics and seasoning. Add some corn, some pickled onions and you put it together in this beautiful bowl.

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Heart attack: Worst food group which significantly raises your risk

Heart attacks occur when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked. A lack of blood to the heart may seriously damage the heart muscle and can prove deadly. When it comes to one’s diet, aiming for five portions of fruits and vegetables will help to keep the heart healthy. When it comes to a food which does the opposite, there is one that should be avoided as much as possible.

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When a heart attack occurs, it can disrupt a person’s normal heart rhythm, potentially stopping it altogether.

When the heart stops getting a supply of blood during a heart attack, some of the tissue can die.

This can weaken the heart and later cause life-threatening conditions such as heart failure.

Heart attacks can affect the heart valve and cause leaks.

Keeping healthy and active are some of the best methods to reduce having a heart attack and spotting early signs is also crucial.

When it comes to being healthy and reducing your risk of serious conditions, eating bacon should be avoided.

More than half of bacon’s calories come from saturated fat.

Saturated fat raises the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and boost the chance of a heart attack or stroke.

Bacon also contains high amounts of salt which bumps up the blood pressure and makes the heart work harder.

High amounts of sodium can lead to stroke, heart disease and heart failure.

Bacon’s added preservatives are linked to these issues as well.

A study of almost 30,000 people followed for up to three decades found those who regularly consumed processed meat such as bacon were more prone to premature death.

In particular, having red or processed meat every seven days was linked to a three percent to seven percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Senior author of the study, Norrina Allen, professor of preventative medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago said: “It is a small difference, but it’s worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat like pepperoni and deli meats.

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Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork, veal and venison.

Processed is bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami and corned beef.

The study published in JAMA Internal Medicine included self-reported diets over the previous year or month of 29,682 men and women with an average age of 53.

Lead author Dr Victor Zhong said: “Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important strategy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at a population level.”

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute said: “The major risk factors for a heart attack include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, an unhealthy diet, lack of routine physical activity, high blood sugar due to insulin resistance or diabetes.

“Some of these risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar tend to occur together.

“When they do, it’s called metabolic syndrome. In general, a person who has metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome.”

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Princess Charlotte Delivers Food Ahead of Her 5th Birthday: See the Pics

Growing on up! In honor of Princess Charlotte’s 5th birthday, Duchess Kate and Prince William unveiled new photos of their daughter — and they were all shot by the young girl’s mother!

“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to share four new photographs of Princess Charlotte ahead of her fifth birthday tomorrow,” a statement from Kensington Royal’s official Instagram page read on Friday, May 1. “The images were taken by The Duchess as the family helped to pack up and deliver food packages for isolated pensioners in the local area.”

Kate, 38, and William, 37, welcomed their only daughter at St Mary’s Hospital in London on May 2, 2015. She’s the younger sister to Prince George, 6, and the second eldest sibling of Prince Louis, 2.

Earlier this year, the Duchess of Cambridge opened up about her experience with raising her three young ones. In doing so, she admitted that she, too, experiences mom guilt from time to time.

“Yes absolutely — and anyone who doesn’t as a mother is actually lying! Yep—all the time, yep,” she said during a rare interview on “Happy Mum Happy Baby” podcast in February. “And you know even this morning, coming to the nursery visit here — George and Charlotte were like ‘Mommy, how could you possibly not be dropping us off at school this morning?’”

Kate continued, “But no, it’s a constant challenge. You hear it time and time again from moms, even moms who aren’t necessarily working and aren’t pulled in the directions of having to juggle work life and family life… and always sort of questioning your own decisions and your own judgements and things like that, and I think that starts from the moment you have a baby!”

As of late, Kate and William have had to adjust to homeschooling their two eldest children during the coronavirus quarantine. During an interview with BBC on April 16, William stated that homeschooling has been “fun,” while Kate touched on their kids’ “stamina.”

“I don’t know how they get it done honestly,” she explained at the time. “You sort of pitch a tent, take the tent down again, cook, bake [and] you get to the end of the day. They’ve had a lovely time, but it’s amazing how much they can cram into a day, that’s for sure.”

A source told Us that Kate has kept her three children entertained from home by gardening and baking together. “Kate bakes and decorates cakes with the kids [on] the weekend,” the insider revealed, noting that “the kitchen is always a complete mess by the end of it, but it’s all part of the fun.”

Scroll down to see the adorable new shots of Princess Charlotte!

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