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Focus: Which foods are good for heart health?

The focus of Week 4 is to eat more beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and other foods that can help support heart health. Studies have shown that diets that contain nutrient-rich foods, such as the Mediterranean Diet, confer protection against heart disease. There are many nutrients found in the World's Healthiest Foods that promote heart health including: soluble fiber, concentrated in beans and legumes, which helps to reduce cholesterol; omega-3 fatty acids, concentrated in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, which lower levels of blood lipids and inflammatory markers related to cardiovascular disease; phytosterols, found in nuts and seeds, which lower LDL levels; and flavonoid and carotenoid phytonutrients, concentrated in fruits and vegetables, which protect against one of the first stages of atherosclerosis development, the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

This week you'll learn more about heart-healthy foods, how to easily prepare beans and legumes, and how to roast nuts and seeds the healthiest way. You'll also learn preparation techniques for foods included in this week's menu, including black beans, garden peas, zucchini, tomatoes, turmeric, cashews, and more.

The Menu for Week 4 includes recipes that feature creative ways of enjoying beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and other heart-healthy foods throughout your meal. It can be enjoyed as lunch or dinner.

Week 4 Menu:
  • Black Bean Chili with Toppings
  • 5-Minute Salad with Healthy Vinaigrette
  • Mediterranean Feast: 3-Minute "Healthy Sauteéd" Peas, Zucchini and Tomatoes
  • Fruit Parfait with Cashew Cream
  • Healthy Lifestyle Tea

Black Bean Chili with Toppings

This recipe is featured on page 613 of The World's Healthiest Foods book.

  1. Dice onion and let it sit at least 5 minutes before cooking.
  2. Press or mince garlic and let it sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking.
  3. Heat 2 TBS vegetable broth over medium heat in stainless steel skillet.
  4. When broth begins to steam, add onions (except for 1 TBS to be reserved for chili topping) and cover for 3 minutes. The onions will release a small amount of liquid. Uncover, add another 2 TBS broth, and continue to stir for 4 minutes, leaving the lid off.
  5. Remove the onions from the heat when they are translucent, which should be after 7 minutes of cooking.
  6. To a medium-size sauce pan, add black beans, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Add onions and stir well. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  7. While chili is cooking, prepare the toppings, which should be served in small bowls or plates and be available on the table with the chili so that everyone can help themselves.
  8. When chili is done, stir in cumin and cilantro.

Preparation Tip: Black beans

Canned beans are really convenient to use when you don't have the time to soak and cook beans; unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference between the nutritional value of canned beans and those you cook yourself. Canning lowers vegetables' nutritional value since they are best lightly cooked for a short period of time, while their canning process requires long cooking times at high temperatures. Alternatively, beans require a long time to cook whether they are canned or you cook them yourself, which is why there is not much of a difference in the nutrients they offer. I prefer to purchase canned beans that are organically grown and that contain little, if any, additional sodium.

Rinse canned black beans well under cold running water. This will help to eliminate some of the beans' oligosaccharides, the complex sugar molecules that can lead to indigestion and flatulence.

Preparation Tip: Healthy Saute

"Healthy Sauté" is a healthy alternative to sautéing that uses broth instead of oil to cook vegetables and other foods. Healthy Sauté lets you easily make vegetables with robust flavors in a matter of minutes, preserving their inherent nutrient richness. Since it doesn't use heated oils, "Healthy Sauté" avoids the formation of carcinogenic compound created when oils are heated to high temperatures.

To "Healthy Sauté," heat broth in a stainless steel skillet. When the broth begins to steam, add vegetables, stir and cover. Sauté for recommended amount of time and then remove the cover and stir the vegetables, continuing to cook uncovered for designated amount of time.


Preparation Tip: Onion

Cut onion in half so that each piece will contain part of the root. Peel the onion. Place peeled onion half on cutting board. If you use your right hand to cut, have the root end to your left and the flat-edge end to the right. Make vertical slices through onion that run perpendicular to the way you cut the onion in half. Have these slices be about 1/8- to 1/4-inches wide, cutting just short of the root so it will be left intact. Next, make horizontal 1/8- to 1/4-inches wide slices through onion, starting at the cut end (the end away from the root) and moving towards the root, but leaving it intact. Finally, cut the onion vertically through the other slices (parallel to the flat-edge end). The onion will fall into pieces. For a step-by-step photograph showing how to cut onions this way, see page 274 of The World's Healthiest Foods book.

Let the onion sit for 5 minutes before incorporating it into recipe to allow the conversion of the maximum amount of onion's sulfur-containing phytonutrients to occur. This will greatly enhance its health-promoting benefits. You'll notice that as you let it sit, its notably eye-watering aroma appears; that because the same compounds responsible for its health benefits are also responsible for its smell and flavor. For more information on the importance of letting onions sit before cooking them or eating them, see page 276 of The World's Healthiest Foods book.

Preparation Tip: Garlic

Separate the individual cloves by placing bulb on cutting board and gently, but firmly, applying pressure with the palm of your hand at an angle. This will cause the layers of skin that hold the bulb together to separate. Alternatively, you can insert a knife between the individual cloves to separate them from the rest of the bulb.

To peel the skin off of the clove, place the side of a chef's knife on it and give it a quick whack with the palm of your hand. This will loosen the skin so you can easily remove it.

Slice the garlic into 1/16-inch pieces. Then cut across the slices of garlic using a rocking motion with your knife, chopping it into the desired size. For minced garlic, chop fine.

Let garlic sit for 5-10 minutes before incorporating it into recipe to allow the conversion of the maximum amount of garlic's sulfur-containing phytonutrients to occur. This will greatly enhance its health-promoting benefits. You'll notice that as you let it sit, its notably pungent aroma appears; that's because the same compounds responsible for its health benefits are also responsible for its famous smell and flavor. For more information on the importance of letting garlic sit before cooking it or eating it, see page 261 of The World's Healthiest Foods book.


5-Minute Green Salad
with Healthy Vinaigrette

This recipe is featured on page 531 of The World's Healthiest Foods book.
  1. Combine extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice (or balsamic vinegar if you prefer), sea salt and pepper in a bowl. For a more well integrated dressing, whisk in the olive oil a little at a time.
  2. Wash salad greens and then toss them with dressing just before serving
10 Variations for Healthy Vinaigrette Dressing
  1. French: add 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
  2. Asian: add a few drops of tamari (soy sauce)
  3. Ginger: add 1/2 tsp of grated ginger
  4. Parsley: add 1 TBS parsley
  5. Chives: add 1 TBS chives
  6. Garlic: add 1 clove pressed garlic
  7. Basil: add 6 leaves of fresh chopped basil
  8. Italian Herb: add 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary and 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  9. Anchovy/Capers: add 5 anchovy fillets and 1 tsp capers
  10. Creamy: add 2 TBS low-fat plain yogurt

Preparation Tip: Salad greens

Head lettuce (such as romaine, butter lettuce, green or red leaf lettuce)

Remove and discard the outer leaves. Slice off the roots as well as the tips of the remaining leaves since they tend to be bitter. Chop the remaining lettuce, rinse well, and then either pat dry or use a salad spinner if you have one available to remove the excess water.

Loose salad greens (such as arugula, watercress, mizuna, or prepackaged salad mixes)

To wash loose salad greens, first trim their roots, separate the leaves and them place them in a large bowl of tepid water, swishing them around with your hands to dislodge any dirt. Remove the leaves from the water, refill the bowl with clean water, and repeat this process until no dirt remains in the water (usually about two to three times will do the trick).

For more on preparing delicious salads, see page 140 of The World's Healthiest Foods book.

Preparation Tip: Lemon juice

Rinse lemon before cutting. It's best to juice a lemon when it's at room temperature since it produces more juice when it is not cold. Roll the lemon under the palm of your hand on a flat surface to extract more juice. Cut the lemon in half, removing the visible seeds from the fruit. You can juice the lemon using a juicer or reamer, or squeezing it by hand.

Mediterranean Feast: 3-Minute
"Healthy Sauteed" Green Peas,
Zucchini and Tomatoes

This recipe is featured on page 277 of The World's Healthiest Foods book.
  1. Press or chop garlic and let sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking.
  2. Heat 3 TBS broth over medium heat in a stainless steel skillet.
  3. While broth is heating, chop tomato and slice zucchini into 1/4-inch slices.
  4. When broth begins to steam, add garden peas, tomato, and zucchini and sauté covered for 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a bowl. For more flavor, toss vegetables with the dressing ingredients while it is still hot. (Mediterranean Dressing does not need to be made separately.)

Preparation Tip: "Healthy Sauté"

"Healthy Sauté" is a healthy alternative to sautéing that uses broth instead of oil to cook vegetables and other foods. Healthy Sauté lets you easily make vegetables with robust flavors in a matter of minutes, preserving their inherent nutrient richness. Since it doesn't use heated oils, "Healthy Sauté" avoids the formation of carcinogenic compound created when oils are heated to high temperatures.

To "Healthy Sauté," heat broth in a stainless steel skillet. When the broth begins to steam, add vegetables, stir and cover. Sauté for recommended amount of time and then remove the cover and stir the vegetables, continuing to cook uncovered for designated amount of time.

Preparation Tip: Zucchini

Rinse the zucchini under cold running water before cutting. It is best to not peel the zucchini since the skin contains powerful carotenoid antioxidants, including lutein, which have many health-promoting benefits. Purchasing organically grown zucchini allows you to enjoy the skin without concern about pesticide residues.

Cutting zucchini into slices of equal thickness will help them to cook more evenly. Since slicing them thin will help them to cook more quickly, I suggest cutting them into 1/4-inch slices.

To dice zucchini slice zucchini lengthwise 1/4-inch thick. Stack slices and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Cut across slices at 1/4-inch intervals for 1/4-inch cubes.


Preparation Tip: Tomatoes

Rinse the tomato under cold running water before cutting. To remove the pulp and seeds from the tomato, first remove the stem with a knife. Cut tomato in half horizontally so that the stem side is on one half. Gently squeeze each tomato half to remove seeds and excess juice. Cut each half into four pieces and then cut across these wedges to chop the tomato. While raw tomatoes contain a great concentration of nutrients, heating the tomatoes, as you will do in the Healthy Sauté method, helps to increase the availability of its lycopene carotenoid, which has been found to have heart health benefits.

Preparation Tip: Garden peas

While you can use fresh garden peas, they are not readily available in most places throughout the year. Therefore, frozen shelled garden peas are a good substitute. Since they are blanched before freezing, they take only a few minutes to prepare.

Fruit Parfait with Cashew Cream

This recipe is featured on page 550 of The World's Healthiest Foods book.
  1. Blend cashews, water, maple syrup, almond extract, and sea salt in blender on high speed until smooth (2-3 minutes).
  2. Add additional water in small amounts to create desired consistency of cashew cream.
  3. In 2 wine glasses, place layers of fruit and cashew cream. Top with chopped cashews.

Preparation Tip: Fruit

If you use fruit like apples or pears, wash them well under cold running water before cutting. Once you have cut the fruit, the enzymes in the flesh will oxidize, causing it to turn brown. To prevent this browning, prepare a bowl of water large enough to hold the quantity of fruit you will be cutting. For every 2 cups of water, add 2 TBS lemon juice. Add fruit to the lemon/water solution as you cut it. When you are done slicing, use a colander to strain the fruit. If you use fruit like berries or grapes, wash them gently using the light pressure of the sink sprayer if possible. To prevent them from becoming waterlogged, wash them right before eating or using in a recipe. Do not remove the caps of strawberries until after you have washed them.

Preparation Tip: Cashews

Whole shelled cashews can be chopped by hand or can be placed in a food processor to chop. If using a food processor, it is best to pulse on and off a few times instead of running the blade constantly as this will help ensure that you end up with chopped cashews rather than cashew butter.

Preparation Tip: "No Bake Recipes"

I have discovered that fruits retain their maximum nutrients and their best taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe. That is because their nutrients—including vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes—are unable to withstand the temperature (350°F/175°C) used in baking. So that you can get the most enjoyment and benefit from fruit, I created quick and easy recipes, such as this Fruit Parfait with Cashew Cream, which require no baking. I call these recipes "No Bake Recipes."

Healthy Lifestyle Tea

For more information about Healthy Lifestyle Tea, see page 31 of The World's Healthiest Foods book.

  1. Add 1 tsp lemon juice to 1 cup of brewed tea.
    Optional: if you're sensitive to caffeine, you can drink decaffeinated green tea instead.
    Serves 2

Preparation Tip: Green tea

Green tea has numerous health benefits. Research has shown that three cups of green tea a day can reduce body weight and waist circumference by 5% in three months. Not only does it inhibit the breakdown of fats, it also increases your metabolism. Concentrated in antioxidant catechin phytonutrients such as epigallocatechingallate (EGCG), green tea also helps to inhibit the oxidation of LDLcholesterol, which when oxidized is one of the contributing causes of atherosclerosis. Therefore, green tea can play an important role in a diet that promotes cardiovascular health. Additionally, research has shown a connection between catchin intake and decreased risk of many types of cancers.

When preparing green tea, use four grams of loose tea leaves for each eight ounces of water. Although heartily boiling water is used to brew black and oolong teas, green tea needs much lower temperatures (160-170°F; 79-85°C). Some types of green tea only need to steep for 30 to 60 seconds although varieties such as Nilgiri and Dragonwell will take longer.

Preparation Tip: Lemon juice

Rinse lemon before cutting. It's best to juice a lemon when it's at room temperature since it produces more juice when it is not cold. Roll the lemon under the palm of your hand on a flat surface to extract more juice. Cut the lemon in half, removing the visible seeds from the fruit.You can juice the lemon using a juicer or reamer, or squeezing it by hand.

SHOPPING LIST FOR WEEK 4 MENU

This shopping list will prepare Week 4's menu for two people. If your group consists of four people, you should buy double the amount of ingredients listed. If your group consists of six people, you should buy triple the amount of ingredients listed. If your group consists of eight people you should multiply by four times the amount of ingredients listed.


Healthy Eating Topics of Interest

Foods with Heart-Health Benefits

A diet high in cholesterol and saturated fats and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fiber is associated with heart disease. Populations that eat traditional diets high in vegetables, fiber, and whole grains (such as those that follow the Mediterranean Diet) tend to have much lower rates of heart disease and vascular disease than populations that eat high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats from animal products. Following are some of the World's Healthiest Foods shown to be beneficial for heart health and a brief description of their benefits.

FOOD BENEFITS
Beans/legumes, fiber Rich in cholesterol-lowering nutrients such as soluble fiber; Intake of beans has been associated with enhanced heart health
Almonds Found to reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels; Rich in vitamin E
Walnuts Found to reduce total and LDL cholesterol and increase elasticity of arteries; Rich in heart-healthy ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and the antioxidant, ellagic acid
Flaxseeds Found to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels
Fish rich in omega-3 including salmon, tuna, sardines, and cod Fish and omega-3 intake reduce triglyceridesfatty acids including intake associated with reduced risk of heart attack and stroke
Organically grown fruits and vegetables Rich in nutrients that promote heart health including vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, and antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids
Garlic and onions Contain compounds that have been shown to lower cholesterol levels; Lower blood pressure in case of hypertension
Tomatoes Great source of lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant whose dietary intake is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease
Cranberries Rich in polyphenolic antioxidants; Cranberry intake has been associated with improved blood vessel function
Oats Contain beta-glucan, which reduces cholesterol, and avenathramides, antioxidants that prevent LDL damage
Extra virgin olive oil Its antioxidants protect against LDL oxidation
Green tea Intake associated with reduced risk of heart disease; studies show it can reduce triglyceride and LDL levels
Turmeric Anti-inflammatory properties; Helps prevent LDL oxidation

For more information on preparing foods that support heart health, please see:

The World's Healthiest Foods book: Page 813-15

The World's Healthiest Foods website: Atherosclerosis, Elevated Cholesterol, and Hypertension


Preparing Beans/Legumes

Canned beans/legumes

Canned beans are really convenient to use when you don't have the time to soak and cook beans and unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference between the nutritional value of canned beans and those you cook yourself. Canning lowers vegetables nutritional value since they are best lightly cooked for a short period of time, while their canning process requires long cooking times at high temperatures. Alternatively, beans require a long time to cook whether they are canned or you cook them yourself, which is why there is not much of a different in the nutrients they offer. I prefer to purchase canned beans that are organically grown and that contain little, if any, additional sodium.

Rinse canned black beans well under cold running water. This will help to eliminate some of the beans' oligosaccharides, the complex sugar molecules that can lead to indigestion and flatulence.

Home Cooked beans/legumes

If you choose to cook your own beans, before washing beans, spread them out on a light colored plate or cooking surface to check for, and remove, small stones, debris, or damaged beans. After this process, place the beans in a strainer, rinsing them thoroughly under cool running water.

To shorten their cooking time and make them easier to digest, beans should be presoaked since presoaking has been found to reduce the raffinose-type oligosaccharides, sugars associated with causing flatulence. (It is only necessary to presoak beans, other legumes such as split peas and lentils do not need to be presoaked.) Add 4 cups of water to 1 cup of beans and soak for 8 hours to overnight. Drain and rinse before cooking.

To cook beans/legumes on the stovetop, add them to a pot of fresh water or broth using the ratio of 1 part bean/legumes to 3 parts water. Bring the beans/legumes to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, partially covering the pot. Cooking times are shown in the chart that follows. If any foam develops, you can skim it off during the simmering process.

Do not add any seasonings that are salty or acidic during the cooking process; wait until after the beans/legumes have been cooked since adding them earlier will make them tough and greatly increase the cooking time. See chart on the following page for cooking times for different varieties of beans/legumes.

For more information on preparing beans/legumes, please see:

The World's Healthiest Foods book: Page 590-91, 612-14

The World's Healthiest Foods website: Black beans

Legume Cooking Chart
Quantity: 1 cup Simmering Time
Black beans 1-1½ hours
Garbanzo beans 1-1½ hours
Kidney beans 1-1½ hours
Lentils 20-30 minutes
Lima beans 40-50 minutes
Navy beans 1-1½ hours
Pinto beans 1-1½ hours
Soybeans 1-1½ hours
Split peas 30-35 minutes

Light Roasting Nuts and Seeds

Raw nuts or those that have been lightly roasted at home are healthier than most commercially available roasted nuts and seeds. That's because, even if they are dry roasted, most commercially available nuts and seeds are heated to a high temperature (over 350°F/177°C), which damages their delicate oils, resulting in the formation of free radicals. The problem with the free radicals is that that cause lipid peroxidation - the oxidizing of fats in your bloodstream that trigger tiny injuries in artery walls - the first step in the build-up of plaque and atherosclerosis.

If you want to enjoy nuts and seeds with a lightly roasted flavor, I suggest low temperature roasting. Here's how you can create delicious and healthy roasted nuts and seeds in a manner of minutes.

Preheat oven to 160-170°F or 75°C. Place a thin layer of nuts or seeds (about 2 cups) on a cookie sheet. Cook for 15-20 minutes. To enhance the "roasted" flavor, try putting a little liquid aminos or tamari (soy sauce) in a spray bottle and misting the nuts or seeds before cooking.

For more information on light roasting nuts and seeds, please see The World's Healthiest Foods book: Page 508


Overview - Week 1 - Week 2 - Week 3 - Week 4