Fresh, colorful vegetables: dark green and leafy; red, ripe, and juicy; or bright orange and crunchy. This exquisite rainbow-colored cornucopia is truly the class of foods that keeps our arteries healthy and clean. Head for your green grocer and harness the phenomenal medicinal power of natural plant compounds. Buy them fresh, buy them often, and fill your body with a spectrum of healthy colors, nature's medicine chest.
Studies show that heart disease death rate drops with each added vegetable serving!
That is why phytochemical-rich vegetables, such as spinach, are part of a plan I developed to reverse heart disease, and/or to build good heart health to hopefully avoid heart troubles. The other key food groups are olive oil, figs and other fruits, lentils and other legumes, salmon and other seafood, walnuts and flaxseeds, oatmeal and other whole grains, and red wine. Dark chocolate is a bonus food in this plan. Yeah!
I like to paint the colors of health by classifying and color coding vegetables into six colors, divided depending on their individual high concentration of phytochemicals (plant warriors against free radical destruction).
Here are the six categories:
1. Dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as spinach & broccoli.
2. Red/purple vegetables such as tomatoes, beets and eggplant.
3. Yellow/orange vegetables such as carrots and pumpkin.
4. Green herbs such as basil and rosemary.
5. Allium vegetables such as garlic and shallots.
6. Other vegetables such as artichokes and zucchini.
Vegetables are chock full of myriad polyphenols (the major disease-battling phytochemical), so be sure to tap into the miraculous healing power of plants. Consuming greens and other colorful vegetables throughout the day will boost your heart disease defense system by: Increasing your body's antioxidant level; fighting inflammation; and, helping to prevent and treat diabetes.
One additional advantage of frequent consumption of vegetables is that they are the perfect diet food – loaded with nutrients but very low in calories. Hence, eating your daily vegetable prescription will also help you control your weight, and being overweight is another major risk factor that ups your odds of a heart attack.
Here are a few ideas for getting colorful vegetables into your daily eating plan:
● Routinely eat a dark green salad at lunch and dinner when eating in or out, and remember to dress simply with extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar and/or fresh lemon juice.
● For quick and healthy, try purchasing prewashed, bagged and prechopped vegetables, toss them on a sheet of tin foil, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and roast (425°F for at least 30 minutes). Keep in a container in the refrigerator for easy access.
● Purchase frozen vegetables (with a short ingredients list). Frozen vegetables, picked and frozen immediately after harvest, are a nutritionally sound choice. (In fact, frozen spinach has been shown to retain its carotenoid power longer than fresh because of the lower temperatures at which it is stored.)
● When time doesn't allow for prepping fresh veggies, grab a bottle of jarred veggies, such as corn or roasted red peppers. Just watch out for added sodium, and if the veggies are packed in oil, check to ensure that it's olive oil.
● If the weather's nice, fire up the grill and roast vegetables coated in extra virgin olive oil.
● Infuse fresh herbs into your olive oil or mix into your salad dressing (olive oil vinaigrette) to add extra flavor and antioxidant power.
● You can always get an array of colorful vegetables at a salad bar (some supermarkets even have them). Avoid the mayonnaise or oil-added veggie selections. Pile on the plain colorful vegetables instead and dress with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Remember, no lunch or dinner without that rainbow of vegetables!
You may be surprised at how some dishes truly come alive with the addition of this painter's palette of health. A few of the recipes I include in Prevent a Second Heart Attack that feature greens and other vegetables are Chef Mario Spina's Braised Broccoli Rabe, Chef Julie Korhumel's Linguine with Fresh Garden Vegetables, Dr. Janet's Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins and Dr. Janet's Roasted Red Pepper Strips. All are sure to please the palate – and your heart health.
Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, is a leading diet, nutrition, and fitness expert. She is the author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack and Cholesterol Down. Learn more at her website. www.drjanet.com>>
Dr. Janet's Roasted Red Pepper Strips
Yields 4 servings.
A quick and easy method for roasting red peppers. These are delicious in Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Tuna Romesco, and Whole-grain Pasta with Roasted Eggplant, Olives, and Tomatoes found in Prevent a Second Heart Attack.
4 large red peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch thick strips
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 375°F. Toss red pepper strips with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes, or until peppers are softened and starting to turn dark around the edges. Store refrigerated.
NUTRITION per 1/2 cup serving: Calories: 133; Fat: 11 g (0 g EPA, 0 g DHA, <1 g="" ala);="" saturated="" fat:="" 1="" g;="" cholesterol:="" 0="" mg;="" sodium:="" 294="" mg;="" carbohydrate:="" 10="" g;="" dietary="" fiber:="" 3="" g;="" sugars:="" 7="" g;="" protein:="" 2="">1>
Excerpted with permission from Prevent a Second Heart Attack by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN ©2/2011.