Nourish the Heart
Foods that Promote Cardiac Healing
by teven Masley, M.D., FAHA, FACN, CNS
The right food choices don’t just prevent heart disease and help shrink artery plaque, they also nourish and heal the heart. For a healthy ticker, enjoy these five food groups every day.
Fiber is the roughage in vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts, and it is loaded with age-busting nutrients. Eating fiber suppresses appetite, promotes weight loss, improves blood sugar and cholesterol levels, decreases inflammation and feeds a healthy gut microbiome.
The challenge is to get more fiber every day. Too often, people consume fiber from processed grains and flour, and the sugar load that comes with grain fiber has many adverse impacts on heart health. The best option is to enjoy daily fiber from the following sources: three cups of colorful vegetables; two pieces of fruit, such as one cup of berries and one apple; two handfuls of nuts and seeds; and one-half to one cup of beans.
Clinical studies show that enjoying fats from seafood, extra-virgin olive oil and nuts decreases the risk of a heart attack and stroke without causing weight gain. Healthy fats improve cholesterol levels, assist with blood sugar control, are critical for the brain, improve hormone balance and reduce inflammation.
Fats enhance the texture of food, adding that smooth, creamy mouth feel to a meal that makes eating a pleasure. Enjoy healthy fats from avocados, seeds and dark chocolate daily.
Clean (Not Mean) Protein
Raising animals in large-scale conventional operations with cruel living conditions is not just mean, it also produces less nutritious meat that can be loaded with hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Choose clean protein instead, which does not contain added hormones, pesticides and other toxins. Good sources of protein are organic dairy products and eggs, wild seafood and animal protein that has been grass-fed or organically fed while living on open pasture. Beans are also a great protein-packed choice that improves blood sugar and cholesterol profiles. They are the most powerful anti-aging food ever tested.
Start with at least four cups of water per day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s flat or sparkling, so long as it’s pure. Pure water can be purchased or made at home or at work with a reverse osmosis filter system.
Except for people that are caffeine sensitive, one to two servings of caffeinated beverages can be enjoyed daily. In moderation, those tea and coffee pigments are good for us.
Don’t forget a fiber- and protein-rich smoothie to stay satisfied and revved up all morning. A balanced and delicious recipe includes one serving of protein powder, frozen organic cherries or blueberries, almond milk and chia seeds.
Take advantage of the option to enjoy wine with dinner—just be sure to limit wine intake to no more than two servings daily.
Avoid any beverage with added sugar or commercial sweeteners. Don’t be fooled into drinking juice; without the fiber, fruit juice is much closer to drinking soda than to eating fruit.
Not only do probiotics help gut function—a healthy gut microbiome decreases inflammation and supports weight control. The latest research reveals that the microbes
in the gut have a dramatic impact on the risk for heart disease, as well. Because healthy microbes feed on fiber, eating fiber is good for the gut microbiome, too.
The right gut microbes offer numerous benefits. They lower harmful cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure to normal levels, assist with weight loss, decrease inflammation and decrease production of trimethylamine N-oxide (also known as TMAO), a marker for heart disease. Support the gut microbiome by eating probiotic food sources daily, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickled veggies and miso.
Dr. Steven Masley is a physician, nutritionist, trained chef, clinical professor at the University of South Florida and creator of health programs for public television. He is the author of The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up. Learn more at DrMasley.com.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
½ pound fresh spinach, washed and drained, stems removed, chopped
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 large cage-free, organically fed eggs
2 Tbsp organic, whole fat milk (or sour cream)
½ cup organic Comté (or Gruyère) cheese, grated
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Place spinach in a saucepan with ½ cup of water. Cover with a lid and allow to steam on high heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain; squeeze out excess water. Set aside.
Heat a sauté pan to medium heat; add olive oil, then onion; stir occasionally. After 1 minute, add mushrooms and continue heating for about 3 to 4 minutes until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms have softened. Add garlic and Italian herbs and heat 1 minute, then remove from heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Stir in the Comté or Gruyère cheese, steamed spinach and sautéed onions with mushrooms.
Grease a pie dish with extra virgin olive oil, then pour the egg and vegetable mixture into the pie dish. Sprinkle Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the top.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it has the texture of custard—trembling and barely set. For a golden crust, turn on the broiler for the last couple minutes of baking, but don’t over-bake, or it will get tough. Check it 5 minutes before it’s supposed to be done.
This recipe and photo were excerpted from The Mediterranean Method. ©2019 Steven Masley, M.D. Used with permission of Harmony Books. All rights reserved.
Yield: 4 servings
1 medium eggplant (remove ends and any damaged skin), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp oregano, dried
½ tsp fines herbes (or Italian herb seasonning), dried
3 small zucchini, chopped into ½-inch cubes (about 2½ cups)
2 small yellow squash, chopped into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp white wine
3 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 2½ cups)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp fresh rosemary, diced
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
⅛ tsp paprika or cayenne powder (or to taste)
1 lb firm tofu, cubed, or 15 oz cooked cannellini beans (optional)
Fresh herbs for garnish (parsley, basil, and/or thyme)
This fragrant side dish from southern France is packed with nutrients. It goes well with chicken or fish, and especially a soufflé. To convert this from a side dish to a complete meal, add 1 pound of cubed tofu or 15 ounces of cooked cannellini beans. Can be served hot or cold and usually tastes better when served the next day.
Steam eggplant on the stove top for 6 minutes or microwave in a glass container for 4 minutes. Cook until tender.
Heat a pan on medium heat and add olive oil; add the onion, salt, black pepper, oregano and fines herbes. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until onions are soft and translucent. Add zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and wine; stir. Cover and heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables soften, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs; cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 4 to 10 minutes, until squash softens and the flavors blend.
For a touch of heat, add paprika or cayenne pepper. Garnish with fresh herbs.
Excerpted from The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up. Copyright © 2021 Dr. Steven Masley, Used with permission from Little, Brown Spark, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
(Italian Seafood Stew)
Yield: 4 servings
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ tsp sea salt
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp dried Italian herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil)
¼ tsp ground black pepper
3 large carrots, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped into ½-inch pieces (or 3 celery stalks)
1 cup red wine
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce
2 cups low sodium vegetable or fish broth
1 pound mussels and/or clams in the shell, scrubbed clean
1 pound fresh whitefish, cut into 1-inch pieces (tilapia, cod, snapper, catfish)
½ pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined 8 large sea scallops
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Heat a large stew pot over medium-high heat. Add oil, onions, salt, mushrooms, herbs and black pepper; stir for 2 minutes. Add carrots and fennel; cook another 2 minutes. Add wine to deglaze for 30 seconds while stirring. Add bell pepper, tomato sauce and broth; simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, unless the seafood is super fresh, soak fish, shrimp and scallops in orange juice or milk for 10 minutes. Rinse and drain when ready to add them to the pot.
Bring another pan with a steamer tray to a boil; add the mussels and/or clams; cook until they open, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain, saving 1 cup of the liquid for later use.
Increase the temperature under the large stew pot to medium-high and add the fish, shrimp and scallops. Heat 4 to 5 minutes until shrimp are pink and fish is cooked. Add the drained mussels and clams plus 1 cup of the reserved clam/mussel liquid; simmer another minute.
Ladle stew into bowls and garnish with parsley. This stew is fabulous accompanied with a tossed green salad on the side or as a second course. Be sure to set the table with additional large bowls for discarded shells.
Recipe excerpted from The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up by Steven Masley, M.D. Copyright © 2021 by Steven Masley, M.D. Used with permission of Little, Brown Spark, New York, NY. All rights reserved.