February is Heart Month, which is a perfect reminder to eat healthy and exercise as much as we can. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and being an unhealthy weight are known risk factors for heart disease and strokes. There are many lifestyle changes we can make to beat these odds. One simple change is to pay closer attention to the foods we eat.
Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) is proud to post numerous recipes with detailed nutrient information to help you plan healthier meals. Our recipe categories allow you to choose from options for either regular diets or those that require heart healthier meals which are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and higher in fibre.
Why search for lower sodium recipes, if my blood pressure is normal?
Most Canadians consume more salt than they need. Choosing foods lower in sodium (salt) can help prevent high blood pressure – a significant risk factor for a stroke, heart attack and heart disease. The amount of sodium recommended as the upper tolerable level for health is no more than 2,300 mg per day. Health Canada’s long range goal for Canadians is to reduce that amount to 1,500 mg per day.
Try our lower sodium recipe category (500 mg or less per serving) for flavour-bursting taste without the extra sodium. These recipes contain many popular ingredients that have been reduced in sodium, such as low-sodium chicken broth or soy sauce, and call for natural flavour enhancers like lemon juice, garlic, herbs or onions.
Why search for lower sugar recipes, if I do not need to manage a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease?
Sugar is found naturally in many foods including milk, fruits and vegetables. It is also added to foods to enhance our perception of flavour. Although there is no recommended limit of sugar we should consume daily, Health Canada encourages Canadians to consume less foods that are high in sugar – often found in processed foods, desserts and sweetened beverages. These foods can lead to many, extra calories in our diet, and without expending that energy can creep up on us as unwanted weight gain over time. Extra weight, especially around the midsection, can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Explore our lower sugar category for recipes that contain 10 grams of sugar or less per serving. Many of these dishes get their sweetness from natural sugars found in vegetables, such as beets, carrots or green peas, and from aromatic flavours in rubs, sauces, or marinades containing citrus fruits or herbs like cilantro and ginger.
Why choose lower fat recipes, if my cholesterol level is normal?
Health Canada recommends avoiding foods containing trans fats, and limiting those that are high in saturated fats to help keep blood cholesterol levels in check and subsequently reduce the risk for heart disease. Trans fats are found in many deep-fried or processed foods made with shortening or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. Saturated fats are generally found in fatty meats, higher-fat dairy products, lard, hard margarines and tropical oils, such as coconut.
While it is virtually impossible to remove fat completely from our food, it would actually be unhealthy to do so. Fats play a vital role in helping maintain healthy skin, hair, and body temperature, in promoting the absorption of essential vitamins and nutrients, and serving as a source of energy. Including a small amount of unsaturated fat (30 to 45 mL/day or 2-3 Tbsp) in our diet is a healthy choice. This includes the kind of fat used in oils for cooking, salad dressings, non-hydrogenated margarine and mayonnaise. It also includes the fat found in seeds, nuts such as almonds or cashews, avocados and fatty fish.
By preparing meals at home we can have better control over limiting the “bad fats,” as well as the amount of fat, in our daily diet. Check out our lower fatcategory for recipes with 15 g or less of total fat per serving. Many of these recipes call for skinless cuts of chicken (including dark meat), healthy cooking oils, or food pairings containing unsaturated fats, such as avocados or pecans.
Why is eating higher fibre food good for my heart?
Fibre is a vital part of a healthy diet, but most of us are getting less than half the recommended amount. Fibre is found in plant foods and there are two important kinds. Soluble fibre is a soft fibre found in foods like oatmeal, oat bran, legumes, and citrus fruits, such as oranges or strawberries. This type of fibre, in combination with a lower fat diet, helps lower our blood cholesterol level, control blood glucose levels, and improve our risk of developing heart disease. Insoluble fibre (the roughage or bulk) is found in wheat bran, whole grains and the skins, leaves and seeds of vegetables and fruit. The fibre in these foods promotes regularity and a healthy digestive system.
The Heart & Stroke Foundation recommends men between 19-50 years of age aim to get 38 g of fibre per day, while women in the same age range should aim to get 25 g of fibre per day. Our higher fibre category features recipes that contain 4 grams or more of fibre per serving. Recipes calling for ingredients such as beans, lentils, whole-wheat pastas, brown rice, or fruits and vegetables will yield the highest fibre results.
Leading a heart healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be boring by making you give up some of the most tasty foods available. Try some of these mouth-watering dishes. They intersect all four of our recipe categories to help you boost fibre and limit your intake of fat, sugar & sodium. A bonus!
Chicken Club Twister
Chicken Mulligatawny Soup
Layered Mexican Chicken Salad
Lemony Pesto Chicken tossed with Quinoa Fusilli (also gluten free)
Lime, Baby Bok Choy & Chicken Curry with Brown Rice (also gluten free)
Nacho Chicken & Bean Dip (also gluten free)
Rosemary Chicken Tapas Platter
Got a suggestion for a new recipe category that could be a wise, healthy choice? Write your comments below. We’d love to hear from you.