Surprise! These Tasty Foods Are Good for Your Heart
It must be “Dangerous Procedure Week” here at Constitutional Health. It seems like each day I’ve come across some new warning about a supposedly-safe surgical procedure or device. News that something that was supposed to help instead hurts, or how some surgery Big Medicine has been doing for thirty years will really kill you quicker than a train. Everywhere I turn this week there’s doom and gloom and danger—and I’ve had enough of it.
So today, instead of telling you about the newest Big Pharma foray into your wallet, or the newest heart-related surgeries you should avoid, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to tell you about 5 foods that are surprisingly good for your heart in spite of their reputation. And I’m not going to stop there. Because I need a break from doom and gloom and I’ll bet you do too, I’m going to give you the recipe for a tasty summer meal guaranteed to put a smile on your face even as it makes your heart happy.
Surprising food #1: Beef
Red meat has gotten a bad rap for years, and not just for its saturated fat content. But like so much dietary advice of the last few decades, research is proving that the red meat ban was a tempest in a teapot. In fact, recent research suggests that lean beef may actually reduce LDL cholesterol.
Surprising food #2: Potatoes
Potatoes are often dismissed as unhealthy because they’re high-carb. But unlike many other high-carb foods like bread and pasta, they’re not empty carbs. While you probably don’t need to eat potatoes at every meal, they are extremely nutritious and they’re high in some of the very things that are good for your heart:
They have more vitamin C than oranges—about 45% of the RDA. They have more potassium—620 mg—than bananas (or spinach). They’re also high in vitamin B6, and contain small amounts of many trace minerals.
Surprising food #3: Tomatoes
Back in 2013 and ’14, the news was buzzing with stories about a supplement called lycopene, which not only lowered the risk of heart disease but actually reversed hardening of the arteries. The story disappeared, but the science still stands and the supplement is still on the market. And one of the best food sources of lycopene is the humble tomato.
Surprising food #4: Beer
Red wine gets all the headlines, but beer is also good for your heart. In fact, it appears that small amounts of any alcohol cut your risk of heart disease—the key is moderation. One or two drinks per day for men or a single drink for women is the magic number. When you exceed that, the benefit disappears.
Surprising food #5: Watermelon
Like lettuce, most people think that watermelon has little nutrition to offer. In reality, it packs a pretty hefty nutritional punch. Like tomatoes, it’s high in lycopene. It’s also a good source of vitamins A and C, and potassium.
When you bring all these foods together, you have the makings of a light but filling, heart-healthy and low-carb summer supper. What these foods suggest to me is low-carb steak “tacos” with pico de gallo, roasted rosemary potatoes, and fresh watermelon for dessert. Here’s how to cook it all:
Low-Carb Steak “Tacos” (makes 6-8)
These are technically not tacos, since we do away with the nutritionally bankrupt, GMO, herbicide-laced corn or wheat tortilla and replace it with lettuce. (This also cuts out 25 grams of carbs and 146 calories.) But don’t worry. You won’t miss the tortilla. Filled with juicy strips of marinated steak, pico de gallo, and ripe avocado, they’re just as satisfying as their less-nutritious cousins. Here’s what you’ll need:
Meat and marinade:
(About) 2 pounds of lean steak, preferably grass-fed
1 orange, sliced and with the peel still on
Half a white onion, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 C beer
Salt and pepper to taste
In a glass baking dish big enough to hold the steak, layer half the oranges and onions on the bottom. Rub the steak on both sides with salt, pepper, and the crushed garlic, then lay on top of the oranges and onions. Layer the remainder over the meat, then pour the beer over all and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Let stand for at least an hour at room temperature, or several hours if refrigerated.
When you’re ready to cook, remove the meat from the marinade and discard it. Grill (or broil) the steak to your desired level of doneness, then let it rest for a few minutes before slicing. Slice it into the thinnest strips possible, cutting across the grain of the meat. Put the slices in a bowl and set aside till you’re ready to assemble your tacos.
Pico de gallo:
2-3 medium tomatoes, finely diced
1/3 C finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 C white onion, diced very small
1 T lime juice (freshly squeezed is best) or more to taste
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced, including the seeds
1/2 t salt
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate. You can add additional salt or lime juice if needed, but I suggest letting it stand for an hour before you taste-test. Pico de gallo is best made several hours before you plan to use it, so that the flavors can meld.
1 head Romaine lettuce or 1-2 heads of loose-leaf lettuce (preferably organic)
2 ripe avocados
If your lettuce is not organic, make sure it is well-washed in cold water to remove pesticide residue and blotted dry. For each taco, lay out one lettuce leaf (with the tough stem removed if you’re using Romaine) and fill with strips of steak, plenty of pico de gallo, and about ¼ of an avocado, sliced. Fold in half like a taco or roll up like burrito, and enjoy.
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
4 medium potatoes (or one potato for each person you need to serve)
1 t dried rosemary
1 T olive oil
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 while you prepare your potatoes. Choose potatoes with few blemishes and no green tint to the skin. Wash thoroughly and blot dry, then cut each in quarters. Put them in a bowl, drizzle the olive oil over them, and toss to coat them thoroughly.
Lay them out, skin side down, on a baking sheet and sprinkle with rosemary and salt. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes or until they’re easily pierced by a fork and beginning to brown at the edges. Like the steak, these can also be cooked on the grill, though I prefer the oven method because it’s much easier. If you grill them, be sure to turn them often to avoid burning.
And there you have it. A quick, delicious, nutritious summer meal with a good balance of protein, fat, and carbs—and is good for your heart besides. Finish it off with a slice of juicy, heart-healthy watermelon.
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